How to conduct a performance review if you have never done one before. Part 1

How to conduct a performance review if you have never done one before. Part 1

6 Mar 2023

A performance review evaluates employees, allowing you to assess their professional skills, motivation, and relationships within the team. Despite extremely controversial attitudes to this practice worldwide, it is something I periodically practice to help my employees look at their careers from a different angle and see career opportunities that they might not have noticed before. Performance reviews must not be used to shame employees for their mistakes or shortcomings! Instead, it is used to get your team up to speed and, simultaneously, strengthen your relationship with them. That is why reviews are conducted regularly, every three or six months, so the manager and employee can track their progress. However, what if you have never done a performance review or even heard of one before?

What your future performance review should look like

Firstly, you will never be able to conduct a performance review all by yourself, even if you try extremely hard. This is because it includes not only your assessment of the employee from a manager’s point of view, but also the employee’s subjective evaluation of themselves and the evaluation of the employee by their colleagues. This is a set of opinions, which, when compared, should reveal to the employee where they are overestimating themselves and where, on the contrary, they are being too hard on themselves.

At the same time, remember that each employee’s performance review criteria should differ depending on their duties, profile, and tasks. For example, it makes no sense to evaluate a sales manager and a project manager using the same criteria, right? For evaluation, you will have to introduce a scale with points, for example, from 1 point to 5 or 10. If this is your first performance review, you can keep it simple by breaking it down into “poor”, “normal”, “good”, and “excellent.”

The review will include:

  • A self-review — an employee’s self-analysis regarding their skills and achievements, how they benefit the company, what contribution they have made, etc.
  • The evaluation made by colleagues and management — the review considers how others see the employee’s work.
  • Drawing up an individual development plan for the next period is an optional step, but it will help you maximise the performance review’s effect because the employee will understand exactly how to improve to receive better evaluations. Therefore, it is best to draw up a development plan like this with the employee themselves.

Criteria and areas of assessment

You will have to list 20-30 questions revealing proficiency in a particular skill. Suppose you develop a simple version of the assessment, including a scale. In that case, gathering the skills necessary for a specific position is enough to assess their proficiency level. For example, planning skills are a must-have for any project manager. Suppose their colleagues gave them 3 points for planning skill. In that case, it could mean that the project manager is not complying with the deadlines, is not delegating tasks, or simply does not have time management skills.

During a performance review, be sure to check out the following:

Hard skills. Think of this as a roadmap of sorts, using which employees can develop, and evaluate where they currently stand regarding professional growth. You can do this by checking the basic professional skills that an employee must have at a certain point. Then, put them together in a list and find out which skills the employee lacks to advance further and which ones, by contrast, can open up horizontal progress for them.

Soft skills. I will never tire of repeating that in today’s world, it is crucial not only what you know but how you use this knowledge. For example, a sales manager who lacks negotiation and persuasion skills is useless. How can they communicate with people? However, the same negotiation skills are unimportant to a programmer or assembly line worker. So do the same as with hard skills — write down soft skills required for a particular employee and rate them on a scale. You can add skills that are not yet needed from an employee but will be useful for them in the future.

Personal contribution and work results. Here I mean measurable KPIs that can be conveyed in numbers or at least in the quality of work. For example, the number of closed deals for a sales manager and the number of bugs fixed by a programmer. The important thing is to ensure that the KPIs you list are fair and not dependent on external factors.

Motivation. This is extremely subjective, although it will help you and the employee understand the bigger picture. Perhaps, the motivation for them is in the company’s development, while from the outside it may seem to the manager that they are only interested in financial remuneration. By identifying what motivates an employee, you can offer them more effective encouragement for professional growth.

Feel free to add your own criteria if the specifics of a particular occupation require it. For example, for a creative professional, you can add a level of “observation”, a visual experience where a person has so many examples and cases behind them that they can be called an expert.

How do you create a performance review so you and your employees can easily pass it? Personally, I use standard surveys in Google Forms to collect results — it is easier to guarantee employee confidentiality there. This is extremely important; otherwise, employees cannot give each other an objective assessment. Also, to encourage their honesty, it makes sense to review the entire team at the same time. This way, no one will feel under pressure because everyone has weaknesses in one way or another.

And by the way, you can also invite the employee’s customers to participate in the performance review. However, this only applies in cases where the customer and the employee have interacted over a prolonged period, for example, as part of a joint project. Then you can ask not only about the quality of the employee’s services, but also whether they were happy to work with them, whether there have been any conflicts, etc.

How to discuss the results with your employee

Evaluating the qualities and skills of an employee is only half the battle. Then you will need to discuss the results with them! Previously, when I was just starting to manage other people, I felt awkward during discussions about what an employee thought about themselves, what I thought about them, and what their colleagues thought. Although then I realised it was for the employee’s benefit because it is not done to criticise them but rather to help them with their development.

For your review meeting to go smoothly, I advise you to proceed as follows:

  1. First, allow the employee to study the results of the review. For convenience, display them in a spreadsheet. And, of course, in no case should you write down who gave this or that evaluation!
  2. Then, discuss together the areas that need attention.
  3. Focus the employee’s attention on the areas where they got the best results, namely, positive feedback. The review process should be a positive experience for employees, so that they do not dread the next one.
  4. After discussing the advantages and achievements of the employee, you can move on to the disadvantages. Try to produce a plan together on how you can improve these areas.
  5. Formulate action steps, that is, a clear and detailed action plan helping the employee move towards solving any problem. Do not leave them alone with the results — it is not enough that they know their mistakes. They need to be clear about exactly how they can fix them. For example, give them a link to one of the Lectera courses to help them improve the right skills, or recommend a particular training book.

If the professional review becomes a regular practice in your company, you will very quickly notice how your employees change and grow. And at the same time, your business will also start to change and grow!

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