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Talk to you next year!

The annual performance review process. That time of year that many managers, employees and HR staff dread. Why? Because for many companies it is an arduous process that is administratively cumbersome, time-consuming and is perceived to add little or no value to the work day. For many companies, it has become a mere “check in the box.” It is something that they can say they did to improve employee engagement, morale or employee development. The reality is that in many cases it accomplishes none of these things. So many managers have large spans of control and/or they are managing complex staff and positions, so how can they possibly bang out 20+ performance reviews over the course of a month or two? Those that want to do it right spend weeks gathering data, writing several drafts of the review and then take weeks to schedule and conduct 1:1 meetings with their employees that often take well over 1hr to complete. I have spoken with many managers about this topic over my career and they all agree – they hate delivering performance reviews! But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Yes, I know, many companies have a form that has been dictated to them that they have to use, so how do they work around that? The answer is that you don’t. What you do is coach and deliver feedback all year in little increments. I have always subscribed to the theory that less is more. Everyone knows it isn’t healthy to skip meals and then at the end of the day sit down and eat a massive dinner….right!? So why do we take this approach to performance reviews? We don’t discuss our staff’s performance all year, than at the end of the year, we sit down with them and try to summarize a year’s worth of information in one meeting? I just gained 10 lbs thinking of that approach! So how do we take the sting out the annual review process? The answer lies within a very complex management practice know as “talking to your people.” Really, that is all there is to it. All those wonderful goals and objectives you set with your staff at the beginning of each year, use those as the road map throughout the year.

The key is to establish regular communication/coaching session with your people. Set aside 20 mins every week or two to meet with your staff and make sure their current performance aligns with their goals. Bring out that sheet of paper (or online form) where you set the goals for the year. Discuss them, provide feedback on how well they are or are not doing vs. the goals and measures that were set. Focus on their KPI’s and ensure their competencies are in line with the job expectations. Remember, it is your job to make sure your employee has the knowledge, skills and abilities to do their current job. Discuss ways of improving or maintaining current levels of performance. Use specific examples of acceptable or unacceptable performance – your staff will appreciate the honesty. In order to make life easier for yourself as a manager, maintain an electronic log of the conversations. Simply document the key points of the discussion – the who, what, when, why, how. Establish agreements on what will be worked on before the next coaching session. Focus on specific action items and key deliverables, projects, etc. and then use this to “open” your next coaching discussion with the employee at whatever intervals you decide are appropriate.

The key element of all this is having the regular coaching sessions. You must make having regular dialogue part of your managerial DNA. This way, the cumulative effect of all the documented coaching discussions is that the annual review has essentially been written all year. When it comes time to deliver the review, there are no surprises for the employee (golden rule of performance reviews) and your discussion is simply a re-cap of the year and a discussion about what lies ahead in terms of the focus for next year.
If you follow this simple approach of having regular dialogue with your employees, your annual review process will be much easier on you and your staff. You will find greater value in having regular discussions with your employees vs. waiting all year to have a formal sit down. Believe it or not, your staff will appreciate having the opportunity to speak with you and discuss their performance on a regular basis. Regular dialogue becomes a way of life in your department and with your staff. You will find your staff has higher levels of engagement if they are receiving regular feedback on their performance and career development. Remember, many employee surveys indicate that the main reasons for employee turnover are based on the supervisory relationship (or lack thereof) – more specifically, poor communication/lack of feedback. It doesn’t have to be this way and it is within your control to improve! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback and I wish you the best of luck with your coaching sessions.

PS – Remember, “coaching session” is just another way that HR folks like to say “conversation.”

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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3 Responses

  1. […] my last blog post, I provided commentary on why the annual performance review process/appraisal is so painful for many m…. The advice I gave was to make regular coaching sessions a part of your managerial DNA so that you […]

  2. […] conversations with our managers over the past month or so as our organization ramps up its annual performance appraisal process. I have found that far too many managers have taken on the onerous task of identifying a […]

  3. […] a blog post from Oct of this year, I blogged about how to prepare for the performance review process from the managerial […]

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