Preparing to conduct an Annual Performance Review

As we approach the end of the year, many companies are preparing for and conducting annual performance reviews and discussions with employees.  To support good employee relations and healthy employee relationships, here are some good reminders and actions items that will help make your performance review sessions a success this year.

First, good preparation is needed from both the manager and the employee.  Therefore, both parties should have ample notice of the date and time for the session, and have clear expectations about the agenda.  The trend is to spend 25 percent of the time looking back (assessing and rating) on the past year, and the majority of the time on the performance goals and development plans for the upcoming year.  Future focus and the demeanor of a coach will leave the employee empowered with your support, but knowing they are personally accountable for results.

To prepare, a manager may consider the following:

  1. What documents or information should you bring to the conversation? What’s new since the last conversation?
  2. After reviewing the current job/position description—does it accurately reflect the current key responsibilities of the position? If not, plan to update it.
  3. Review last year’s performance review, especially the employee’s goals and objectives for the year.  How did they do?  Were you tracking and encouraging them during the year?  Have they grown and advanced themselves professionally and added new value to the organization?
  4. Refer to your notes and emails that accumulated during the year, feedback from customers or coworkers, etc… to have a full picture of performance and growth.
  5. Has the employee encountered any obstacles since the last review? How did they respond?
  6. What were the employee’s performance goals or development goals for the year? What is the status of these goals and progress?  Do these goals still connect to the company’s goals and objectives, or the department’s goals and objectives?
  7. Has all training objectives been accomplished?
  8. Is the employee following the company values? If so, how?
  9. Looking forward, how can you (the manager) assist the employee in achieving their goals?

Length of time for the review.

  1. Allocate sufficient time to probe past performance and to discuss future goals and development. Usually at least one hour is needed.
  2. Meet in a private space, preferably away from your office and distractions. Avoid interruptions.
  3. Turn off devices and focus 100% on your employee.

Conducting the review

  1. Your meeting is a conversation about performance, not a monologue by the manager. The purpose of the annual performance review form, self-appraisal, performance stats or other material is to help guide the conversation.
  2. Listen and do not dominate the session. A time proven method is to ask more questions and listen – but always maintain control of the session.
  3. When discussing performance, avoid generalities and instead provide as much specific factual data as possible. Provide specific examples of positive and negative feedback, whenever possible. Although examples may bring up the past, emphasize the future as much as possible, and use examples to help identify goals and objectives for the upcoming year.
  4. Provide positive reinforcement, as opposed to criticism, when possible. Work on building morale whenever possible.  For instance, review recent successes since the last review, making sure to identify the specific results achieved.
  5. Review any agreed-upon “next steps” or commitments from the most recent performance planning and review conversation.
  6. Discuss any obstacles encountered since the last review. When, how and why did they arise? What are some possible ways to deal with them?

Performance review objectives

  1. The accomplished manager and performance reviewer will: (1) focus on observable behavior; (2) listen well; (3) coach; (4) maintain an atmosphere of open honest dialogue; and (5) accurately document the review and help develop a roadmap for the upcoming year of performance.
  2. Help employees set SMART goals, professional objectives and a career roadmap
  3. A true manager wants to cultivate the strengths of all employees, and to impress upon your team that you are going to help them attain greater experience and success in the upcoming year.
  4. Take pride in developing people who go on to greater levels of responsibility. Ask yourself “what can I do to help you improve your performance and achieve your professional goals?”
  5. Ensure that your employees are provided with specific performance standards and objectives, to guide them into next year. These goals are tied to your departmental objectives and the company’s overall objectives.  If you are not clear about these objectives, ask your boss.  It’s your job to pass along this type of information to your team.
  6. Challenge your employees to move out of their comfort zone. Provide challenging assignments that will push them to grow.  Help them prepare by providing a safe environment to learn from mistakes and improve their performance of new skills.

Summary:  Annual performance discussions are critical to the growth of your employees and the organization.  Successful coaches encourage, support and offer guidance.  They are patient and genuinely interested in the people they coach.  Restate expectations and clarify the benefits and consequences associated with meeting standards.   Leave the session with a shared understanding, specific goals and a firm plan for moving forward.   In sum, provide details, celebrate achievement and discuss the company’s values.

HR for Business – Consultstu LLC provides fractional HR services to small/mid businesses, and helps those companies comply with HR mandates, minimize HR costs and improve HR efficiency.  We assist our clients with customized HR solutions that provide protection from expensive HR mistakes and strategies for improving employee engagement.  Contact Stuart Charlson at 727-350-0370, or email [email protected]

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