Regular performance reviews (a.k.a. staff appraisals) are essential in any organisation. They provide a dedicated space for business owners and line managers to discuss performance with team members one to one, help to identify performance-related issues early and provide insights that mean training and interventions focus on what is needed for the future.
There are no hard and fast rules about how performance reviews should be run, but following some basic guidelines can help deliver positive outcomes for all involved.
1. Make them regular
But how regular is regular? Online, you’ll find advice ranging from as often as once a week to as little as once a year. In reality, there’s no right answer – weekly will be logistically impractical for some businesses, while annually allows far too much time for even micro issues to escalate into real problems. The more frequent you can make them, the better, but in the end, it will come down to what works best for you and your team.
Remember though; reviews don’t need to be formal or take up lots of time. The more often you hold them, the less time you’re likely to need. For example, a 15-minute weekly or 30-minute monthly catch up should be sufficient. But whatever frequency you settle on, keep to a regular schedule. This way, everyone will have clarity about the process and will know what to expect and when.
2. Align feedback with your business goals
The key purpose of reviews is to check each team member is performing effectively – and that their contribution to your business goals is optimised. But a review discussion can be wide-ranging, and it’s easy to find yourself distracted by tangential issues. So keep the objective of the process front of mind throughout and focus your feedback to align with what will deliver your business goals.
3. Give clear, honest feedback
Inevitably, the review process will involve discussing difficult issues occasionally. While these exchanges might be awkward, you should not shrink from giving and receiving frank, honest feedback. Being anything less than candid will only lead to confused messaging and leave scope for a problem to escalate. Every successful relationship is founded on honesty, and a relationship between a business owner or line manager and an employee is no exception.
4. Tailor feedback to the individual
The review process is like tuning an engine for the best performance, but your team are not inanimate mechanical components. Each is an individual with a personality and character shaped by their background and life experience. Therefore, it’s essential to tailor the way you engage, using dialogue to suit the recipient.
Make time to plan each review, both in terms of content and approach. Consider what you want to say and how you want the employee to feel. Take into account what motivates and drives them and how they respond to praise and constructive criticism.
And finally, what do you know about their personal circumstances? Perhaps there’s a new baby at home, or maybe they’re a carer. All this knowledge is relevant and will help to inform your conversation so you achieve the outcome you need.
5. Accentuate the positive
At the end of the review, it’s crucial you leave your employee feeling valued and motivated.
It’s a question of positioning. A good manager will identify what didn’t work and find ways to recognise and praise what they want to see more of. If there’s an aspect of performance where you want to see an improvement – rather than spending too much time analysing an individual’s shortcomings or weaknesses (and risk being drawn into a ‘blame game’), focus instead on what you want them to do to improve. Tell them about the strengths you see in them, how they can use these to enhance their performance. Let them know you have complete confidence, explain how you will support them, and leave them feeling good about themselves.
6. Be clear about how goals are to be achieved
On its own, a goal is just a statement of intent – it requires a plan of action to make it happen. Rather than simply stating a goal, it’s important you clarify how you see it being achieved. When you agree a goal in a review, discuss and break down the activities required to get there. In doing so, you’ll create a clear and aligned focus and vastly improve the likelihood that the goal will be reached.
7. Check understanding at each stage
Prepping for a review requires thinking carefully about what you want to say and the key messages you want to convey. But it’s easy to believe you’ve made yourself clear when in fact, this isn’t the case at all.
Many things can get in the way of clear communication. If you skirt around an issue rather than getting to the point, the employee may be confused. And being too direct can have the same effect if you don’t allow time for information to be processed and questions to be asked. It may be that the employee is so focused on what they want to say that they don’t hear you clearly, or they could be nervous or anxious. Of course, this works the other way around as well. It could be you that’s listening but not hearing. Whatever the reason, if one party is not hearing and understanding clearly, the result will be mismatched expectations and disappointment when an anticipated result isn’t forthcoming.
Ensure you actively engage your listening brain during the review process and make space after each key point is made – on either side – to reiterate, review and reflect.
When we deliver training around this at Organic P&O Solutions, we encourage asking the question, ‘What did you hear?’. The response can often be surprising and very useful in making sure a point has been received and understood in the way it was intended.
8. Allow time for change
Don’t expect change to be instant. Breaking old habits and embedding new ones happens organically, with the help of time and repetition. Exactly how long change may take will depend on a wide range of variables. Look online, and you’ll find that 21 – 28 days is widely stated as the time it takes for a person to accept and implement a new habit. The reality is far more nuanced and what is certain is that it takes much longer for a new habit to become a permanent change in behaviour. For example, the moment it stops happening, whatever the timescale, if it has stopped happening, it’s not a habit anymore!
In brief then, you need to be patient because change is a process, not an event. As a manager, it’s essential to understand this and recognise and acknowledge incremental changes throughout the cycle.
Get More Out of Your Team!
At Organic P&O Solutions, we help business owners and managers implement more effective performance reviews to get the best out of their people.
Call us today to discuss how we can improve your performance process through a bespoke one to one or group training and development programme tailored to meet your needs!