In many organizations, managers are either wrapping up or preparing for annual performance reviews with their employees. Managers at employer-of-choice companies most likely have had performance conversations frequently, be they formal or informal in nature. Whatever performance support system a company has elected to implement, some conversational basics can make for increasingly more effective and engaging sessions.
- Remember this is a conversation. Managers should spend as much time listening to the employee as they do speaking. If your employees aren’t used to contributing to the performance conversation, you can prompt them with questions like: What worked well? What obstacles did you encounter? Did you meet your performance goals? Do you have any development needs? What kind of career path do you have in mind?
- Eliminate employee performance surprises. Clear expectations should be provided annually through a tool such as a scorecard and managed on a regular basis depending on the metrics defined. Deficiencies should be identified and addressed as they arise. Successes should be recognized and rewarded in a timely fashion as well. Having good performance data makes this conversation easier. If you don’t have good, measurable performance indicators, set some up so people can know whether they are on target or not.
- Don’t forget to focus on the future. Past performance deserves review, but be sure you’re set up for future performance to ensure measurable success. Have you established new performance goals that directly align with the company’s mission? Have you reviewed existing goals to be sure they are SMART (Specific, Meaningful, Attainable, Realistic, Timely)? Do you have and employ a system for measuring performance and providing regular actionable feedback?
- Make the evolution of your performance system standard practice. Is this the time to provide rewards? Does your organization connect performance reviews with salary increases? Are there other ways to recognize strong performances? Establish and communicate career path opportunities and develop succession plans. Consider upgrading job responsibilities, title changes, participation on committees, access to training or development activities or other low-cost rewards. Consider whether you can find other opportunities to reward or recognize strong performance in addition to your formal review sessions.
- Verify engagement levels. If your employee didn’t hold up their end of the performance conversation, is it because they have “checked out?” What’s behind their lack of engagement? When top performers stop performing, there is valuable data in there you should catch and act upon in case it could be a larger problem that may affect others. Ask whether the employee has adequate access to information or resources about their job or the company’s initiatives. Ask if they get to do their best work every day and whether anything interferes with that effort.
- Performance reviews are not necessarily a zero-sum game. You aren’t measuring people against other team members, but against your performance targets or defined ranking system. Typically employees performance fits in a bell curve with 10 percent of people at each extreme (top performer to low or non-performers) and the remaining 80% falling in the vast average grouping. You can heighten overall company performance more rapidly by focusing your efforts on providing the 80% field with the appropriate, interconnected resources to become top performers.
Your people are one of your most valuable assets. The human factor plays an essential role in your company’s profitability. Managers cannot only make performance conversations more pleasant by keeping the above items in mind, but increase the effectiveness and improve the outcomes of those conversations as well. Effective management of performance conversations will support performance improvement for employees. The positive outcomes of these measures will reward your entire organization and build a strong performance-based culture.
Nancy Lane, Director of Human Resources, Red Book Solutions