12 Ways to Improve Performance Reviews That Actually Change

06/23/2015 10:17 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016


Performance reviews raise anxiety for both the manager and employee. Here's a bit of good news--it doesn't have to be that gut-wrenching. With careful preparation and planning, performance reviews can be productive, morale boosting, and rewarding.

To ensure that the performance review is as effective as possible, it is vital for managers to acknowledge that the exercise is not just an unwieldy HR requirement, but rather a valuable tool to track productivity and measure employee satisfaction.

Here are twelve hr solutions to turn your next performance review into a game-changer:

  1. Offer HR support to supervisors.

    Before conducting performance reviews, it is paramount to ensure that your supervisors are adequately coached on how to deal with difficult employee issues. In addition, providing HR support teaches supervisors how to engage in meaningful conversations with employees about their progress, while creating a trusting relationship.

  2. Begin with a strong performance plan.

A clear and concise performance plan reduces the amount of time required to draft a review. When creating your performance plan, include clear performance measures and cascade business goals into individual deliverables.

  • Link company objectives with employee goals.

  • Make sure employee goals and objectives bond to the goals of the organization. Clear objectives improve communication, as well as the organizational structure.

  • Keep a performance log for each employee.

  • The most proficient way to get ready for a review is by taking notes using a performance log for each employee. A performance log includes notes of both appropriate and inappropriate behaviors of that particular employee. Do not create assumptions or refer to protected characteristics like race or age, instead stick to facts.

  • Use a uniform evaluation cycle.

  • Conducting performance reviews of all employees simultaneously helps supervisors dedicate ample time to write good evaluations and ensure consistency among all employees. Additionally, a uniform evaluation cycle allows management to review individual contributions to organizational goals.

  • Make employee reviews fair and objective.

  • Organizations improve equality and impartiality in performance appraisals by assessing employee performance based on standard decisive factor, aptitude, and metrics that are consistent across other employees in similar job functions.

  • Be aware of employees' concerns.

  • Occasionally, employees are justifiably nervous about reviews--particularly when they don't know what they will be evaluated on. To improve performance reviews, notify employees in advance of the expectations that they will be evaluated on to avoid surprises and ease their anxiety.

  • Avoid performance "surprises."

  • Establishing frequent employee progress meetings is essential in vastly distributed groups with less frequent informal communication. Hold open discussions and schedule regular meetings throughout the year to discuss development and issues.

  • Improve performance with targeted development.

  • By supporting employees in growing their careers, and recommending particular learning activities linked to the organization's performance and development goals, organizations can positively influence employee performance and self-esteem, reduce attrition and safeguard their knowledge capital.

  • Create the right atmosphere on review day.

  • Your specific goal is to help make the employee feel at ease. Choose a neutral environment such as a small conference room. Sit next to the employee not across the desk. This supports a discussion, not a confrontation.

  • Build a culture that values feedback.

  • Employees value feedback. When giving feedback, offer concrete and objective examples backed by facts from your performance log notes. Remember to stay away from personal critiques and avoid exaggerations that do not reflect realistic frequency.

  • Monitor and evaluate reviews.

  • Provide specific metrics to measure the areas identified as below acceptable standards so the employee knows exactly what to do to raise their level of performance. Review those metrics regularly to ensure the employee is on track. After the completion of the exercise, seek feedback from other managers and Human Resources related to the appraisal. Objective review by others helps identify any areas of possible bias or favoritism.

    Performance reviews are an important aspect of management. While it takes time to implement all of the above, giving them priority, purpose, and effective planning, goes a long way in maximizing the productivity of your most essential resource: your employees.

    Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.

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