30 Nov
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Performance Review….NOT Surprise!  How to get the most out of your process

by Devan Graham in Leadership 0 comments

There’s been a lot of talk the last couple of years about Performance Reviews, with some organizations moving away from them all together. However, many still find value in the process and how it drives individual and organizational results. The problem is that at times, the feedback provided in the review meeting is a surprise to the employee as it ‘s the first time they’ve heard any feedback.

A Performance Review is only a REVIEW if we are providing on-going feedback. Feedback provided in the review meeting should not be a surprise to the employee. This is not the meeting to hold an employee accountable. As a leader, it’s your job to provide on-going feedback throughout the year and proactively work with employees to solve performance concerns. When an employee has not met expectations, have the tough conversation. Don’t wait to spring it on them a couple months later during their performance review. It will not be as meaningful and will not have as great of an impact. On the flip side, when the employee has done a really good job, let them know then and there!

When we have on-going feedback conversations the Performance Review and subsequent review meeting are not a surprise to the employee and it becomes less intimidating. When the employee is not going in to the meeting blindsided, we can focus more on how we execute on our process to ensure it’s meaningful, no matter what criteria our organization evaluates on the Performance Review form.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure a meaningful review process for your employees:


  1. Prepare for the Tough Conversations. To reiterate above, this should not be a surprise to the employee as you are having these conversations all along. If you are rating an employee below meeting expectations (Low, Fair, Below Expectations, Not Meeting Expectations, etc.) go in prepared to explain to them why.  Have examples ready to demonstrate where they did not meet expectations and what they can improve upon to meet them going forward. If you have employees do a self-review as part of the process (and I strongly recommend you do), then you also have insight into any areas where you have rated the employee lower than    they rated themselves.  Prepare for those conversations as well. Don’t be afraid to start with these conversations in the meeting.  You don’t have to go in a specific order so start with the tough stuff.  Get it over with (for both you and the employee) and then move on to the positives.


  1. Simplify and Summarize. We often have the tendency to throw too much at an employee during these meetings. If we talk about 25 different things they need to keep doing or improve upon, they’re not likely to remember any of it!  Hopefully you have a simplified form with only a few categories for evaluation. But no matter how many criteria you evaluate employees on, at the end of the meeting summarize for them 1 or 2 things they are doing really well (so they can keep doing it), 1 or 2 things they can work on (improvement or development opportunities) and thank them for their work. If they can walk out of the meeting with those things summarized and reinforced they are much more likely to remember it, and therefore you’re more likely to see improved results.


  1. Don’t Tie the Meeting to Compensation. A performance review meeting and an annual increase / bonus conversation should always be separate. Even if you use your performance review scores to guide compensation decisions, have separate meetings. If you tie them together, employees will focus on the money, and not the feedback.


  1. Get Organized for the Meeting. This is an important meeting and needs to be treated as such.  If you put the effort into preparing for the meeting, employees will notice and appreciate this.  Here are some tips:
    • Book the meeting in advance. Let employees know the purpose of the meeting so they can come in prepared to talk about their performance.
    • Set aside appropriate time in your calendar. Give yourself the 30 minutes or an hour it will take to run through the review. If possible, try not to schedule anything right after in case the meeting goes long.
    • Consider the meeting setting. Ensure it is clutter free and confidential. If possible, try and sit on the same side of the table as the employee to go over the form.
    • Turn off your phone and give the employee your undivided attention during this time.