By Grace Donaldson
Most managers hate conducting performance reviews. Operational issues make it difficult to find time to do it. We wait until the last minute and rush through to get it out of the way and stop the incessant reminders. Rushed performance reviews create uncomfortable, negative experiences for both employee and manager. Lastly, most managers are doers, rather than writers and find writing to be the bane of their existence.
Let’s address the three issues of time, experience and writing.
Time. The key to a relatively painless performance review is preparation. Managers who have only one direct report may still take a couple of hours to prepare for the formal performance review. Imagine the preparation time for those with two or more employees to manage?
Consider the following solution. Keep a file or notebook, assigning several pages for each employee. Each time you have a conversation with an employee, regardless of the nature of that conversation, memorialize it, making sure the date is indicated. This could also serve as documentation if your tendency is to neglect the formal documentation process. So there are not questions that the conversations are being recorded, I usually jot down these short notes while we are having these conversations.
Bear in mind, notes are legal documents. It is not the ideal way to record a disciplinary action. For disciplinary discussions, it is highly recommended that you complete a disciplinary form or letter, have the employee acknowledge it and a copy kept in the personnel file in the HR office.
Experts suggest that specific examples be provided when conducting performance reviews (or disciplinary actions). For example, Employee A is frequently tardy. Rather than say, “You are always tardy,” (too general) instead say, “Records indicate we had a conversation regarding your attendance 10 times in the last four months.” Keeping a notebook or some system that allows you to easily keep track of these conversations allows for easier recollection of incidences of failures and successes.
Experience. A performance review need not be a negative experience. It should not be a one-way discussion of the employee’s weaknesses and the manager’s dictation on how the employee can be better. Instead, it should be a two-way conversation, where there is a healthy exchange of ideas or conversation between the manager and employee. You might explain the current company or departmental goals and ask the employee how he can contribute to the achievement of those goals. Also ask how you, the manager, can help the employee achieve his professional goals. This is the perfect opportunity to solicit employee commitment to the company mission.
If there are performance issues that need to be addressed, address the issue, not the person. Then solicit the employee for suggestions on how to improve upon those areas. Using the same attendance example, state, “Records show you were late 10 times in the last four months. Do you understand our policy on attendance?” Give him the opportunity to acknowledge his understanding of the policy or standards. If he does not know the policy/standard, then this is your opportunity to train. If he does know, ask for his solution — the problem then becomes his to resolve and you can commit him to the resolution.
Writers we are not. Some online performance reviews practically write themselves. I highly recommend you purchase one if you can afford it. The time it saves is worth every penny you spend. The good ones will also help you stay legal. For example, your employees are 95% women. When you write “women” in your writeups, the good ones will suggest you use a gender-free terminology, such as “employee.”
If you cannot afford it, then consider using a numerical rating for the trait being evaluated. These numerical ratings can be assigned as follows:
1 = Consistently fails to perform to standards
2 = Fails to perform to standards
3 = Performs to standards
4 = Frequently performs beyond or above standards and/or expectations
5 = Consistently performs beyond or above standards and/or expectations
At the end, take the average of the total score, and you have a numerical score that indicates performance level. These are far from perfect but helpful in explaining your rating. You might even be able to use the results to determine rate increases. But that’s a discussion for another article.
— Grace Donaldson is the general manager of Pacific Human Resource Services. She can be reached at [email protected]