How to conduct a performance review if you have never done one before. Part 2

How to conduct a performance review if you have never done one before. Part 2

6 Mar 2023

When I had to conduct my first-ever performance review as an employer, I tried my best to delegate this task. I did not understand how to evaluate my staff or tell them what they were doing wrong without hurting their feelings. I did not have any guides at hand then, but you do!

In the first part of the article about the performance review, I told you the basic principles and rules for performing it. I will now tell you how to use all this in practice and assess an employee face-to-face from a managerial position.

How to prepare a performance review: a step-by-step guide

Suppose everything is clear with compiling an assessment and the criteria. How do you evaluate an employee face to face? Simply by going through it step by step:

  • Gather data. I hope you can remember how important it is to choose the right criteria for evaluating each position. Do not use data gathered before the implementation of the performance review. Let your staff know they will undergo review procedures every couple of months, six months, or annually. Be upfront, but do not reveal all your cards. For example, if you require a review to cut the most unproductive staff in your company, keep that to yourself. Instead, tell your employees how they can improve their performance or delegate this kind of conversation to their line managers.
  • Prepare the review. I will go into more detail about the process of creating content for the review in the next section.
  • Add the review to your staff’s calendars. It is better to conduct this in person. Still, you can use a video conference application with both cameras turned on. The review is achieved through the participation of two people: a manager (less frequently the HR manager) and an employee. There should not be anyone else in the meeting room or on the call. Allow 30 to 60 minutes for a review. Allocate a time convenient to your employee. Consider who in your team is a night owl and who is the lark.
  • Conduct the review. First, emphasise the pros of the employee’s performance, then the cons. Then towards the end, move on to prospects, what needs improvement, etc. Finally, do not forget to ask employees questions about their issues and what they would like to change and improve. The review is about the interaction between the company and the person, not about lecturing your employees or turning them into robots.
  • Create a follow-up based on the results of the review. Create an assessment document with information about the employee’s work, skills, results, and the percentage of KPIs achieved. Also add data on communication skills, quality of work, punctuality, and reliability as a professional, as well as the problems that the person has encountered over the past few months. Managers and HR specialists most often keep the follow-up document to themselves. However, sometimes it is given to the employee as a prompt card.

How do you conduct a performance review without making any mistakes?

I am afraid that is impossible. There will always be difficulties and things you do not fully understand, especially if you are doing a review for the first time. However, the following three rules will help you better deal with the assessment.

Firstly, do not limit yourself by using standard questions about the pros and cons of an employee. What else is worth talking about?

  • Their career prospects: ask the person what they would like to achieve, what position they are currently dreaming of, and how they can accomplish this within your company.
  • Their problems interacting with other team members: discover if they have any issues in this area and if there are, investigate and advise the individual. Again, of course, do this privately and not through the team building HR.
  • Discover if the employee’s vision matches the goals and values ​​of the company: find out if their perception of the world has changed, how they relate to the company’s values and goals, and whether they consider these goals to match their own. Of course, the employee should not be the main ideologue of the business. Their plans can differ from the intentions of the company. Still, you should be aware if the department’s and the employee’s goals are completely different.
  • Recognition: perhaps the employee lacks recognition from colleagues or management and feels worthless and unimportant. Imagine you are not a manager, but a psychotherapist. You do not need to discover issues like childhood trauma from a person. Instead, you need to figure out how to give them recognition, thereby improving their attitude towards the company.
  • Feedback: if you have feedback from colleagues or clients who have worked with your employee, discuss the feedback without dropping names. When the input is negative, discuss what can be improved in the person’s work. Of course, you should not reveal that the information was obtained from feedback. Why? Because this type of feedback can upset the employee, and you do not know whether they have experience dealing with negative feedback from colleagues or not. Even if they assure you that they have experienced this.

Secondly, focus on the benefits for the future. Your task is to help the employee improve. Do not humiliate them by telling them how inefficient they are and generally do everything wrong. Instead, evaluate the person not only on their work cases, but also on their skills, and the steps they have taken to improve their work. They could have made mistakes and figured out how to fix them. So, look towards the future more than the past! At least during a conversation with an employee. Suppose the person has made multiple mistakes in their work and is not the most effective staff member. If this is the case, it may make sense to consider options for their replacement. Consult with HR specialists, and do not make any rash decisions.

Thirdly, make sure that everything in the review is transparent and understandable. Explain where you got the information from when discussing different points. It should be clear to the employee why you are drawing certain conclusions and why you are asking about them. You don’t need to name your sources of information, although you should have them ready. Never limit yourself with general phrases like “Well, everything is pretty okay.” Finally, be objective; do not give a shining review if you personally like the person. You are a representative of the business. The business does not care how good the employee is as a father and what a cool and attentive conversationalist they are.

Check that the review gives a “helping hand” and that your line of conversation indicates what the employee should improve and how the company can support these improvements. Anything unclear should either be replaced with more defined language or removed.

What else can I advise managers to prepare for in their first performance review?

Conduct reviews several times a year. Believe me, you should talk frequently with your employees about problems and solutions, and the quality of their work. So, discuss staff performance at least once a quarter. Do not call this conversation by the dreaded word “review” but rather something like a “discussion of work opportunities.” Think of any words that are suited to your corporate culture. Although, bear in mind: if you are doing these reviews once a month or more, you can scare off employees with your micromanaging, that is, attempting to keep track of everything at once. So, I do not recommend it!

Appreciate all employees. At the beginning of my managerial career, I often wanted to focus my attention on those whose performance was worse than others. Well, the most effective colleagues already work so well, don’t they? But turns out this is not the case. So, evaluate all employees without exception. It will make the strong ones even stronger.

Never perform a personal review in writing. Electronic assessments are only suitable for peer reviews and not for managerial reviews. Even if you have never seen your employees in person and work remotely. Make a call, preferably by video. A message does not convey human emotions, and an audio call does not allow you to see the other person’s face or make proper connections with them. A written review will signal to the employee: “I’m not appreciated here. They do not even call me. I better try to find another job.” You don’t want the professionals important to the company to drift away, do you?

Finally, use professional services. Special companies are engaged in personnel assessment and reviews. Use their help if you can afford it or if you realise that it will be more expensive to evaluate competencies and performance with in-house professionals than giving the task to a contractor. Also, do not give up on programmes that help automate data collection: at some point, HR will get bored with creating employee profiles and uploading information themselves.

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