The Ulimate Guide to Conducting Productive Performance Reviews

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The Ulimate Guide to Conducting Productive Performance Reviews by The Payroll Company

The objective of performance reviews is twofold: first, to provide an accurate and actionable evaluation of the individual’s performance, and second, to improve that person’s skills in a manner that is consistent with the responsibilities of the position. Feedback has intrinsic and extrinsic value for those who receive it. Research conducted in a variety of sectors demonstrates…more.

There is a widespread feeling of discontent over performance reviews. People think they are a waste of time, a demotivating factor, inaccurate, biased, and unfair. According to a McKinsey poll, most CEOs believe the performance review system in their organizations does not effectively identify top performers. On the other hand, more than half of employees believe their supervisors do not conduct accurate performance reviews. The findings of a Gallup poll are less optimistic: Only one worker out of every five employees agreed that the performance practices of their organization inspired them.

These perspectives give rise to a dynamic that reinforces itself. Managers’ reviews are perfunctory and consist of up or down salary announcements rather than input. Employees are therefore led to believe that the “appraisal” did not take place or was unjust, and they approach the subsequent evaluation with this mindset. Busy managers confronted with quarterly targets try to escape the unpleasantness by conducting even more superficial drive-by assessments. This starts a negative spiral that promotes a culture of underperformance in the workplace.

Reevaluating the Performance Evaluations

Reevaluating performance should not be interpreted as a license to abdicate this necessary management duty. To that end, what exactly is the function of a performance review process and its primary constituent parts?

The objective of reviews is twofold: first, to provide an accurate and actionable assessment of a person’s performance; second, to facilitate the growth of a person’s skills in a manner that is congruent with their work responsibilities. Feedback has intrinsic and extrinsic value for those who receive it. Research conducted in various domains demonstrates that individuals can become great performers by first determining the areas in which they need to improve and then practicing those abilities while receiving feedback on their performance.

For the person providing feedback, the process is the most critical factor in motivating people to engage in the appropriate behaviors, determining the order of importance for opportunities, and elucidating which responsibilities are the individual’s responsibility rather than the manager’s or the organization’s. It is also essential to the exercise of good leadership. When you progress through the ranks of any organization, your success is increasingly dependent on the efforts of your subordinates. This fact has repercussions for the actions that managers are required to take before, during, and after an evaluation.

What Needs to Be Done Before the Exam

In their continuing work with their workers, managers are responsible for first making explicit the criteria, including ethical standards, by which performance will be measured. These standards should include what is essential and how much workers expect. Even though this may appear to be a no-brainer, it is not always done. This could be because new managers are uncertain or uninformed about how unit goals align with strategy; experienced managers may have lost touch with changes in the market or strategy; or, over time, turnover in management results in mixed signals about performance.

Second, performance reviews are about the work people do for a livelihood, their salary, and their assigned tasks. Having a conversation about such weighty subjects requires some time. You have to create time in your schedule to avoid doing rushed reviews, which might leave people with the impression that they are not respected or confused. Suppose managers want to be helpful regarding the influence that employees’ behaviors on the job have on others within or outside the organization. In that case, they need to take the time to pay attention to the behaviors of their employees well in advance of the day on which the honest review will take place. People naturally attribute credit for positive outcomes to themselves while attributing the causes of adverse events to other individuals or things. You want people to be focused on the critical causal links rather than just acting out this natural tendency.

Third, to be effective, reviews need to include a judgment about the factors that led to an individual’s performance. For instance, are problems with the performance the result of shortcomings in the individual’s motivation or ability? Some people may put in a lot of effort, but they may be lacking in some capabilities: Are there ways in which training and coaching could improve their capabilities? Others might have the capabilities, but they aren’t motivated to use them: Is it possible that changing processes or incentives could boost motivation? Others, however, can appear to lack neither the motivation nor the required abilities: Is this the best employment for that individual to pursue? Could a performance improvement plan or a different role that uses their strengths be of assistance? Or do you think it’s time to find someone else to fill this role?

Finally, stars typically have both a strong drive and the skill to succeed: What can be done to recognize, encourage, and build upon the behaviors exhibited by the stars?

Making evaluations like these concerning human beings is not a simple task. However, they are obligatory and imply alternative courses of action. It will be tough to be productive for both parties during the review if they are not there.

What Should Be Communicated During the Evaluation

The following are five steps that can help guide a dialogue about performance reviews:

Communicate the excellent intent you have

A review is a feedback given to a receiver to boost that recipient’s effectiveness. If you aren’t genuinely having this talk about performance—for instance, if you believe that issues of motivation and ability exceed the potential contribution—then you’re not having a performance conversation. You can ignore the stages that are listed below. You need to talk with that person in which you address the possibility of moving that person out of that employment.

Consider, on the other hand, evaluating an up-and-coming worker with whom you have spent time. You may clarify your point by saying, “You’ve done a wonderful job settling into the role and orienting yourself to our company.” Your current challenge is to move to roles requiring more independence over the next year. When issues develop, you can access less detailed work direction or intervention. Therefore, it will be up to you to take care of a more significant portion of the responsibilities on your own, and I will assess how well you do during our upcoming review.

This worker could answer by saying, “I understand, but can you sponsor me for training in areas where I’ll be more independent? Also, can you define the judgments and decisions where you want to continue being involved as opposed to those where I now have more say-so?” Both sides are currently working on behaviors that have been mutually agreed upon rather than simply focusing on buzzwords such as “be more strategic” or “show leadership skills.”

Describe in as much detail as you can what you have seen

Your assessment of the other person’s strengths and shortcomings should be as detailed and explicit as possible to increase the likelihood that they will comprehend it. Describe any significant or illustrative instances that can be used to demonstrate the influence on performance. A disproportionate amount of performance feedback takes the type of “do good and avoid evil.” Although it may appear innocuous, providing extremely general feedback might create emotions of defensiveness rather than openness to making changes in behavior. This is because providing such feedback requires broad judgments and encourages counterpunching rather than conversation.

For instance, if someone were to tell you, “Your presentation was awful,” all that they are doing is expressing their opinion and encouraging you to “become better.” It is easier to receive negative comments and take corrective action when you say, “Your presentation didn’t include information on demographics, total life-cycle costs, and payment terms.” This is because both the manager and the employee can now concentrate on aspects of the presentation that can be improved.

Describe the results of the conduct or action in question

Many workers are oblivious to their behaviors’ influence on the results. That’s why we have managers to oversee everything. However, management requires discussing the cause-and-effect linkages between actions and results. For instance, it’s one thing to tell a salesperson, “You didn’t connect with the buyer,” but quite another to mean it. To suggest anything like, “You interrupted individuals throughout the meeting, and as a result, that buyer was less open to listening to your ideas,” is entirely different.

Keep in mind that people’s personalities won’t change after they’ve had their performance evaluated. Pay attention to the actions that a person can influence. This also helps reduce the impact of cloning bias, prevalent in many organizations: Is there an issue with that person’s performance, or do they achieve their performance utilizing a method their manager would not utilize to do the task? Always be sure that you understand the distinction.

Request a response from the other person

For reviews to be valuable, there must be a two-way transfer of information between the employee and the manager. The majority of people are interested in receiving feedback regarding their performance. However, businesses are not immune to the Rashomon effect; in these settings, two people can witness an identical incident or conclusion and interpret it differently.

It is vital to engage in dialogue not just because it is courteous and often a feature of productive organizational cultures but also because it challenges assumptions and thinking. This is why dialogue is so crucial. Do you think my interpretation of how you interact with your coworkers makes sense? The following is a list of the data and other input I used to conclude: Where have I gone wrong? Is it a problem with the available resources, or is it something else? The following is a list of our unit’s top priorities: Are you following along, and do you agree with me? If not, what is the reason?

The use of dialogue also brings up other important goals of an evaluation, such as the possibility that the manager’s actions, policies, or management style may be a component of the performance problem and opportunity.

To What End? What’s Next?

A review is not complete until it includes a conversation about the subsequent steps, during which both parties should assume appropriate responsibility for the various adjustment alternatives. However, the manager bears the burden of responsibility for this decision to close. Which of your assets can you capitalize so that you can do more? Exist any assignments that can boost learning, allow for more deliberate practice, or include other components that are relevant to fundamental tasks? Can HR help? After the review, what kind of timetable will be implemented, and what kinds of benchmarks will be used?

What to Do Following the Evaluation

What occurs following the performance evaluation is often what has the most significant impact on the conversations about performance. Nothing happens too frequently: the review is a one-off annual event, which has minimal impact on anything. However, research on behavioral change and the constant improvement necessary for innovation underlines how important it is to define goals and provide ongoing feedback about how well those goals are being met.

Put follow-ups at regular intervals on the agenda

The utilization of technology is helping to bring these prices down. For instance, a study of programs intended to encourage individuals to increase the amount of money they save found that follow-up text messages, which inform the individual of their savings rates compared to others, are approximately 80% as effective as in-person meetings. According to the findings of other research conducted in fields as diverse as health care, voting, energy consumption, and drinking habits, these reminders significantly impact behavior and dramatically improve outcomes.

These tools allow managers to deliver feedback on a more consistent basis. The crucial step is to transform following up into an iterative process from which both individuals and the company can generate value.

Look for patterns

In addition, regular follow-up allows managers to search for patterns and establish a positive cycle of evaluation and investment by possibly reallocating resources (such as money, time, and people) better to align themselves with the organization’s strategic imperatives.

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