Anxiety. Agony. Denial. Regret. Stress. What do all of these have in common? They are all things people experience when they hear that it is annual performance review time, especially if you are a people leader. And even more so if you have more than one direct report. In most organizations, performance appraisals are one of the standard methods for identifying those who are contributing to the success of the business and those who may need to make themselves available for employment elsewhere. As valuable as the tool and process is, why is there so much angst? I think it is because leaders fail to plan. I am not sure why, because just like Mom’s birthday is on the same date every year, employee reviews are due about the same time each year.
To alleviate the fear and loathing that arises during performance review time, incorporate these activities into your mode of operating.
Set a Plan: We do ourselves and employees a disservice when we fail to plan. This critical step in the performance review process takes place at the onset of the review year, not two weeks (or a day) before the review is due. Meet with your employee to discuss company goals and their individual responsibilities, what they can do to contribute to the success of the company. Use this conversation to identify performance objectives and expectations that will make up the plan for the year. Agree upon what success looks like.
Plan your work for today and everyday, then work your plan. -Margaret Thatcher
Identify Actions: With annual objectives set, you should then determine what tasks, projects, or actions can be taken to achieve performance expectations and accomplish objectives. To stay on track, incorporate timelines and deadlines for projects and related actions.
Monitor and Assess Performance: Here is where many of us may fall short. While we take the opportunity to plan, often times we forget to follow up or check in. Ongoing coaching and support is a key factor to enabling your employee to be successful. Meet with your employee regularly, with the specific intention of getting updates on projects, assignments, and providing them with ongoing feedback as to whether they are on or off track.
Make Adjustments: Business forecasts change, objectives get altered. Customers are acquired or lost, projects are completed or your team members adopt new skills. In these instances you need to be able to adjust the plan for performance to align with the changes.
Review: By the time you get to the annual review, it should be just that – a review. This conversation is a recap of the ongoing discussions you have had about performance objectives, completed projects, customer feedback, lessons learned and achievements. Annual assessment should be a review of the performance for the entire year.
How do you know if all of this planning you have done has worked? When the annual review is scheduled to take place, you are not scrambling to compile information at the eleventh hour, you haven’t broken out in hives at the thought of completing the review, you are not compelled to reach for the bottle of Pepto Bismol. The result is a well-prepared, stress-free performance review discussion.