When you hear the term ‘performance review,’ what is your immediate reaction: relish or dread? Is it something that needs to be endured or an exciting opportunity to learn, grow and develop? What if there was a way that you could completely flip the performance experience?
Being curious as I am (and experiencing much pain as both a manager and an employee of the performance process) I thought there must be a better way, where everyone is left seeing opportunity and accomplishment.
Obviously, my commitment to Redii.com speaks to my views on great workplaces — everyone deserves to have a great day at work, be recognised and be proud of what they do. It is the whole reason that we developed the platform, but then along comes to the big bad performance review and all the great work we do with our clients can be undone.
Seriously, it just does not have to be like this.
What if the annual performance review could be transformed into an opportunity to foster better communication and collaboration with your direct reports? You may simply be getting their performance reviews all wrong.
In an age where immediacy has currency and opportunities to transition between roles, companies and careers are more common than ever, managers and HR practitioners who provide more opportunities to give both formal and informal feedback throughout the working year will thrive. After all, you’d expect a financial update at every monthly board meeting, so why would you wait a year to exchange feedback and get an update on your most precious asset — your people?
I’m not alone in my thoughts on this; Simon Dowling talks extensively on the same topic. He knows the powerful impact good communication can have on teams, and knows that performance reviews, feedback, reward and recognition all go hand in hand to nurture high-performance teams and develop a workplace culture that enables teams to thrive.
If you’re guilty of any of the following, you might have to rethink your approach:
You’re communicating in yearly performance reviews, but not throughout the year.
I do think that annual performance reviews have a place within organisations, but need to be used in specific ways, and not at the cost of regular communication throughout the working year. “There’s usually a need to formally evaluate performance to help determine things like salary reviews and promotion opportunities. But here’s the thing: annual reviews should be nothing more than a summary of things already discussed regularly throughout the year. The number one rule for formal review is no surprises,” Simon explains.
Discussing team performance on a regular basis should be a priority for both management and employees as continuous dialogue promotes trust building. “It all comes down to fostering a relationship of regular and continuous feedback conversations. At the very least this means a rhythm of short catch-ups to talk about how things are going (fortnightly is a good guide). By sticking to this rhythm, you ensure you discuss performance with your team (even if there’s only good stuff) not just when things have gone off the boil. It takes time and trust to build up a shared sense that conversations about performance are safe,” adds Simon.
Your approach to performance reviews is outdated.
If your organisation is running performance reviews the same way it’s done so for many years, there’s a big chance the review system isn’t effective and doesn’t address the needs of the modern professional.
I personally don’t like to speak about ‘gen x’ or ‘millennials’ and categorise groups of people by their age. I think there is a trend toward any individual wanting to be in command of his or her own destiny and they are likely to be more vocal about it than ever before.
This is why constantly reviewing and updating your review system is crucial. Performance benchmarks that were important ten years ago may not be so important now and key performance indicators should be reassessed regularly to reflect the current marketplace.
You’re not incorporating reward and recognition into your review system.
Many managers fall into the trap of believing an annual performance review’s purpose is to judge an employee and let them know where they are failing. This negative view often creates performance review anxiety for both managers and employees, as they end up dreading the review, knowing they are going to receive negative feedback. Of course, this then leads to lower engagement and even lower morale, especially for employees with tendencies towards perfectionism. Instead, managers should look for opportunities to empower employees to play to their strengths, develop their talents and be rewarded for their contributions.
Managers need to find ways to offer team members constant coaching, mentoring and development opportunities. But managers shouldn’t assume they have to carry that load themselves. Take the time to understand what fuels each of your team members (because they’ll all be different) and then look for opportunities to pair strong staff up with mentors, to enrol staff in training programs, or perhaps to give them a chance to apply their skills on non-work projects.
Despite the value that training and mentoring offers, a simple moment of genuine recognition between two people can be the strongest driver for performance and job satisfaction. “The most powerful kind of recognition is a word of heartfelt appreciation for the stuff people do that no one else notices — what I like to call the ‘invisible effort’. Most of us crave this very human kind of recognition… and this kind of recognition sits at the heart of the strongest workplace relationships,” says Simon.
No matter what your thoughts, whether you are the employee or employer, performance reviews are not a set and forget activity; they can be powerful and productive, leaving all involved purposeful. And if you couple it with insights from your recognition platform, it becomes a positive experience for all… Have a look at Redii.com to see what it could do to support you in this journey.
This article first appeared as part of my LinkedIn collection