Someone once said that employee reviews are like fruitcakes: They come around once a year whether you want them to or not. But to alleviate the stress of it all and to help your staff grow, human resource experts say employees should be reviewed twice per year —a midyear meeting as well as an end-of-year review that covers bonuses or raises.
Here are five tips for a review process that will keep you and your employees on the same page:
- Separate mid-year reviews for professional development from those for pay increases at the end of the year.
A midyear meeting separates the discussion of an employee's performance from the one in which compensation is set. It’s not easy to get someone to listen to what they can do to improve or problem solve when they are waiting to hear about their raise or bonus.
A developmental review is an opportunity to problem solve. By leaving results out of the discussion and saving them for an end-of-year compensation conversation, the review becomes more of a dialogue about what an employee can do to improve and what an employer can do to help.
- Come prepared
To credibly review an employee, it’s important to gather as many specific examples of objectively good and bad performance as possible. This shouldn't be done right before a performance appraisal meeting; rather, achievements and slip-ups must be tracked throughout the year. The number of specifics shows the employee that the manager notices their performance.
For the review itself, create an outline of discussion topics and lay down ground rules for a smooth conversation such encouraging two-way communication.
- Be honest
It might sound obvious, but a common mistake employers make when reviewing an employee is inflating positive feedback to avoid confrontation. This doesn't help the employee improve and makes it harder to fire them down the road, should it come to that.
Keep the conversation open-ended and allow employees to respond to your comments. Focus on issues, not people, wherever possible.
- Don’t rely too much on the evaluation form.
Many managers give a performance review simply by running through an appraisal form point by point and assigning "grades" for each. But this approach doesn’t open up a meeting for discussion where the employee can help problem solve.
You can make a meeting with your employee productive by putting the performance appraisal form away, or even leaving it blank until after the meeting's over. Instead, discuss how an employee has performed over the last few months or year, as well as any difficulties they’ve faced on the job—and how they handled them. From there, you can come up with ways the employee can improve and grow, and ideally walk away with a better understanding of why your employee fared the way he or she did.
- Shift the review to the employee
One way to have a successful, open development discussion is to let the employee assess their own work. Questions like: ”How have you done?” “What can I do as your supervisor to build your skills?” and “What will your goals be for the next year, and what are the measurable outcomes of these goals?” should cover it.
According to human resources experts, about 70 percent of employees will do fine with this assignment, and 10 percent may not even respond. However, 20 percent will love it, and walk away very motivated. Generally these are top performers and those you most want to engage in it.
Similarly, you can open up the session to productive discussion if you ask the employee to review a supervisor's performance as well as his or her own.
After a meeting, be sure to follow up, summarize the discussion—and begin observations for the next review right away.