Transforming the Performance Review Process from Marginalizing to Motivating

November 18, 2009 -- Sal Silvester

Ah the holidays. A time to enjoy family and friends, perhaps some time off from work, and even a chance to reflect on the year's past and what's to come.

For many, it's also a reminder that performance appraisals are right around the corner. Now hold on! Don't go running away. I know all about the misperceptions of performance appraisals. I hear about them all the time from employees.  Usually they result from the stupid things that managers do during the process (i.e., surprising an employee with feedback that he/she never received during the year and then making her sign a document saying she "accepts" the feedback).

If you are in a supervisory role, the performance review process is your opportunity to either marginalize or motivate your employees. It's all in the way you handle the process. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Here are a few ideas to help you make the performance review process a motivating experience for your employees.

  1. Start early. Performance goals should be in place on day 1 of the performance year. For that to happen, you must start now. A common mistake I see many managers making is not getting through their performance reviews until months into the performance year. That doesn't help your employees change or improve their behaviors, and you are more likely to have "recenecy bias" in your feedback.
  2. Get your employees started early. The performance review is not a one-way communication process from the manager to employee. Involve the employee by sharing the organizational and departmental goals ahead of time and asking them to come to the performance review prepared with individual performance goals. Let them create the goals. You may have to coach and influence so that they goals are in alignment with the direction of the organiation, but if an employee knows that their input matters and that you value their contributions, they will be much more committed to their goals.
  3. Align the performance goals. Performance goals should be clearly aligned with organizational goals and departmental goals (that implies that organizational strategy for the upcoming year is clear before this proces starts. If not, you are setting your people up for failure). If people are working on things that do not directly correspond to the goals of the department and the organization, they are working on the wrong things.
  4. Use the SMART format. GE's former CEO Jack Welch once said that what gets measured gets done. The SMART format forces you to write one-sentence goal statements that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-oriented.
  5. Create action plans for each goal. Goals can be overwhelming, especially when they have a 12+ month time horizon. Have your people create 2-5 action items for each goal so that they can be broken down into more manageable chunks. Each action item should have a target completion date.
  6. Think about YOUR feedback plan for the year. As a leader, you need to provide consistent feedback to your employees throughout the performance year. This includes both positive and constructive feedback. My belief is that you should be meeting with each of your direct reports once per month (at a minimum) for 15 minutes to review progress toward goals and to offer your support. What will your feedback plan look like throughtout the year?

It is not hard to motivate employees. It's also not that hard to marginalize them either. These are just a few ideas to help you improve the performance management process in your organization and help your people reach higher levels of success. With these simply strategies you can transform the performance review process from a marginalizing to motivating experience for your employees. Stay tuned for Part 2: Providing
Performance Feedback in our next newsletter, and if you would like a more indepth review, join us for our webinar on December 15, 2009 from 11:30am - 12:30 mountain time.

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