From XU Magazine, 
Issue 31

5 Ways to Make Performance Reviews Easy AND Effective

No-one looks forward to performance reviews but this approach changes everything

With a smart process and a progressive, goal-based approach, performance reviews can become the performance ‘unlocker’ they were always supposed to be.

Although many of us dread the upcoming performance review, studies repeatedly show that both employees and managers want regular performance reviews (and that not having them is actually worse!).

From our work with thousands of small and medium businesses, our team kept hearing that managers wanted a way to do high-impact performance reviews, but in a way that was fast and easy. These are the principles that we built into our system, and that we suggest all businesses use when it’s time for performance reviews…

1) Use (and Re-Use) Performance Review Templates!

When you design your Performance Management program, look for opportunities to create standard, reusable templates wherever possible.

This can be by using the same Form, the same documentation, the same questionnaire… or a combination of these. Creating a simple template form that you use again and again across many different reviews will make your life much easier. It will also achieve the always-sought consistency across different reviews. When you take a moment to make something into a template, you create a process which means that reviews for each employee are managed more consistently and are also more easily comparable.

2) Gather Your Employee’s Input BEFORE the Review

Every business has their own process when providing feedback on employees’ performance, but we’ve found that the Performance Review meeting is more effective when the employee has already been asked to provide their own input.

Using a templated form, have the staff member complete their input, answer questions, self-reflect on their quality of work and their own development and goals before the review itself. This will help lead the discussion and pave the way for more meaningful feedback.

This approach is very effective as it changes the discussion from ‘what you’ve done wrong and where you need to improve’ to something like ‘how can I help you achieve your goals’. Even less-experienced managers will find that the focus shifts to be more positive and constructive.

3) Include Peer Input

360-Degree Feedback Reviews have received a lot of attention in recent years. By asking for feedback from the employee’s peers and direct reports, you can often get a much more complete view of their contribution and areas for growth. 

When we built our own new performance management system, we wanted to allow complete control over who is asked for input, and what the input questions are. For example, you might just include colleagues, or just direct reports, or some combination. You can also ask open-ended questions for the deepest insights, or keep the requirements super-quick with a scale-based answer approach (we love using the Likert scale for this!). You can also choose for the employee to have access to the feedback, or keep it for a manager to interpret and present back to the employee. 

Whichever way you include peer input though, the result is always a richer, more holistic view than if you only have input from one source.

4) Automate When Possible

There are so many great ideas surrounding how to conduct an effective performance review, but when it comes to efficiency, look for ways to automate to save time!

It is not always possible to automate the entire process from start to finish, but there are small ways that you can streamline steps. Create recurring calendar events and reminders for yourself, so you don’t miss any upcoming review deadlines. Add an email template into your HRIS so that you can use the same template language when sending out emails (HR Partner has an excellent process for this!). Use an online form to gather input from all of the parties included in the review, so there aren’t papers that need to be scanned and signed.

5) Stay Focused on the End Goals

The best performance management approach includes goals that are mutually set by the individual and their manager. Goals should be kept top-of-mind and referred to throughout the year - by both the employee and the manager. 

But the performance review is the ideal time to reflect on the success (or otherwise) of past goals and set new goals for the period ahead. Remember, an engaged employee is also an employee who has clear, developmental milestones that they are working towards!

When thinking about your employee goals, make them long-term, and perhaps even aligned with your company or team Mission and Vision so that all team members share a common objective. This helps employees have a sense of contribution to the greater company goals. It also helps immensely if employees can see their progress towards their goals on a regular basis.

In conclusion

If you’re thinking about starting a new Performance Management process, consider gathering input from your staff on the process as well. Doing this is a great way to increase employee engagement and have your staff feel like their opinions and prior experience is valued. Giving your own employees an opportunity to share their experiences and give input creates an engaging environment and improves buy-in from the start.

If you’re not yet in the habit of conducting regular performance appraisals, you’re doing your employees and your company a huge disservice. They don’t need to be difficult or something to shy away from. Find a way to make performance reviews easy, and implement this in your company. 

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