September 22, 2020

Performance-Descriptions

“One in four employees dreads their performance reviews more than anything in their entire working lives,” says Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, authors of “Thanks for the Feedback.”

This post on performance reviews and collaboration was updated in September of 2020.

Though sometimes tedious for both parties, performance reviews are beneficial for the employer and employee to discuss employee successes, areas of improvement and future goals to reach within the company.

TIP: Go back farther. When discussing their overall view of their performance, ask for specifics, and probe for them to go further back. Annual performance reviews suffer from something called “recency bias,” and it doesn't only impact the reviewer. An employee's answer about their proudest moment would be very different in February than it is today. Help them remember all they’ve done over the time since their last performance review.

Edie L. Goldberg, Ph.D. says, “Many harried managers will admit that they can barely remember last week let alone a whole year’s worth of an individual’s performance.” The performance review process need not be a hassle. Here are ways to improve the process to make it less of a drag for everyone involved.

Performance Review Collab Tip #1: Help me, help you

Some employers prefer to have one-sided reviews where they do all the talking. Paul Falcone, HR expert, says the best reviews are the ones that involve employees contributing to their own review. Entrepreneur says two-sidedness in a review can help the manager and employee seek new and higher professional goals. Remember, employee/company relationships are mutually beneficial. To achieve this, Falcone suggests the supervisor prompts employees with a handful of optional questions including:

  • How have you done?
  • What can I do better as a supervisor?
  • What are your goals for the following year with measurable outcomes?

70% of the employees will be glad their input was considered, 20% will “go wild” with the option and 10% are likely to leave the questions to the supervisor. By turning the tables and giving the employees an option to self-reflect, this gives them authority to think about their own annual performance and keep the review open for discussion rather than being told what to do.

TIP: Focus on the behavior, not the person.  When managers deliver feedback focused on improvement, it needs to be seen as actionable and supported by facts. Feedback should always be about the behavior, not the employee or their intentions. For instance, an effective approach for managers to address an employee’s behavior can go as follows: “I’ve noticed that you’ve arrived late to our weekly meetings four times this month.” A non-effective way of addressing employee behavior would be stating, “You have been very inconsiderate.” For feedback to have real value, it needs to be supported by concrete evidence and not just opinion.

Though some managers allow employees to self-reflect, at the time of the meeting, leaving employees feeling pressured to think on the spot of all the things that could be improved or praised. Inc.com praises employee involvement because it shines a light on your most engaged, top performers.

Performance Review Collab Tip #2: When is enough, enough?

While annual performance reviews have been the most popular in the past, they’re slowly becoming ancient. In fact, additional management advice between reviews is encouraged by Omega HR Solutions. Omega also says performance reviews can be done as often or not depending on the available budget for raises and time spent in individual meetings.

Though performance reviews often coincide with pay raises and benefit reviews, Atlassian, an Australian-based software company, put a new spin on annual performance reviews by knocking annual out of the equation and not offering a pay raise each time. Atlassian says this approach helps employees improve their skills throughout the year and avoids leaving workers feeling demoralized and stepped on by supervisors conducting the reviews. Consistency is key for positive work environments and effective task completion.   

Performance Review Collab Tip #3: Start with them.

If you’ve had your employees fill out a self-evaluation, you already have some information with which to work. Ask for clarification on anything they’ve written down or noticed. Explore their experience before launching into your managerial and peer review notes. 

Your employee may not be accustomed to framing their need or desire for performance feedback, so offer helpful employee prompts. Employees do less than four of these per year (if their company offers anything beyond annual reviews.) With that in mind, it’s no wonder they might get tongue-tied when asking for performance feedback. Here are some phrases (courtesy of Robin Blandford, CEO of D4H.org) you can offer your employees during self-evaluation or even as a fill-in-the-blank exercise during the interview. You don’t need to use all these performance review phrases examples, but they’re a great way to determine needs that are below the surface.


I'd like to tell you about...............
Here's a status report on...............
I need more authority on...............
This is what I'll do on...............
A new goal or project I'd like to tackle is...............
I'd like your help in acknowledging............... for the success they had on ....
I'm concerned about............... and need you as a sounding board so I can decide what to do.
What do you think of ............... I'd like to discuss it before I go further.
I'm stuck and need some encouragement to move ahead with................
I'd like your vote of confidence on my idea to...............
Why do I want to ................ ?

Additional help

Every company has their own way of taking care of performance reviews. SuccessFactors provides a list of the most important tasks to cover within a review for the most effective results:

  • Align each employee’s daily tasks with the company’s morals and strategies
  • Display credibility when explaining performance expectations by documenting good and poor performance leading up to the meeting: this also eliminates dispute
  • Take note of individual performances from employee to employee in order to offer proper benefits and pay raises
  • Provide individuals with ample learning and promotional opportunities for employee growth
 
Don't Forget: Coach your managers (and remind yourself) that performance reviews, while exhausting and all-encompassing to you, are important and kind of a big deal to your employees. They want to feel valued and focused on. Schedule your reviews so you can refresh your coffee, take a walk, and have some downtime in between.  
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Meredith Wholley
Meredith Wholley
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As a Marketing and Event Manager, Meredith coordinates best-practice content and brand-awareness events for ClearCompany. With her career in HR tech, Meredith works closely with HR practitioners and is passionate about providing them with the tools and information they need to succeed.

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