Performance reviews: a meaningful process or a waste of time? By Alecia Thompson
As we come to the end of the calendar year, many businesses have started to wind down and are in the middle of recovering from the much-awaited Christmas party and planning for their annual shutdowns over the Christmas and New Year period. Proactive businesses will have now turned their focus to planning for 2017 and looking for ways to improve on this year’s performance. However, what many businesses fail to turn their minds to is reviewing the performance of their employees, whether it be because it is an uncomfortable and sometimes awkward process and is thought to be a waste of time or simply because other issues take priority at such a busy time of the year and businesses write off the value that performance reviews can add to the organisation.
Recently, there has been a trend towards businesses announcing that they have ditched performance reviews altogether, citing that they are too structured and formal, give managers an excuse not to properly manage staff during the rest of the year and take too long to prepare for and attend. Whilst this can certainly be true of some performance reviews, a well-planned and organised performance review process can a be a positive experience and can assist not only poor performing employees but also high performers to improve on their performance, offer meaningful information to a business about employee’s concerns and thoughts on the way things are being done and build rapport between a manager and their staff.
Performance reviews can be simple and timely
The time that it takes to carry out performance reviews is often cited by businesses as being one of the key frustrations for both managers and employees. Whilst I have certainly seen some performance review forms that are overly complicated and require managers and their staff to dedicate significant amounts of time and thought to completing them (and these definitely have their place in some organisations), businesses that do not have the time, resources or inclination to carry out such an arduous process should not neglect the performance review process completely.
Some of the most effective performance reviews that I’ve seen require little more than employees and managers to dedicate an hour of time to complete the necessary paperwork and have a meeting to discuss the forms. The forms can be relatively uncomplicated and simply require the employee and the manager to list the employee’s strengths/perceived strengths, areas which require improvement and future goals to work towards during the next six to twelve month period. The forms that have been exchanged beforehand can then be expanded upon and used as discussion points during the meeting, ensuring that discussion is structured and that both parties have prepared in advance to assist in making the discussion meaningful and positive.
Performance reviews can be pleasant and build rapport
Performance reviews do not need to be awkward and uncomfortable, provided that feedback is delivered in the right way. Performance reviews should not be an opportunity for managers to savage an employee about the things they are doing wrong and instead, managers should raise not only areas than an employee needs to improve on (in a constructive and supportive manner), but also praise them on the things they are doing well and how they are assisting the manager and the organisation at large.
Many managers incorrectly assume that advising an employee that they need to improve specific areas of their performance is uncomfortable for employees to hear. Conversely, many high performing employees are actually looking for areas to improve as any self aware employee will be aware that no matter how well they may be performing, there are always areas to improve. Further, good managers should be providing feedback throughout the year and not only during performance reviews and therefore, things that are said during a performance review should not come as a shock to an employee. Performance reviews are also an opportunity for managers to check in with employees as to how they are going and build a positive relationship, which might otherwise be neglected during busy periods.