How to conduct an impactful performance review

Performance reviews have a bad reputation. Employees dread them because they’re downers. Supervisors approach them with ambivalence because they don’t think that they accomplish much. Even so, the company’s rules stipulate that the reviews should happen at specified intervals. Imagine what would happen if you conducted impactful performance reviews!

Understanding the Importance of Performance Management

Before you sit down to write your next performance review, it’s time for a mind change. The review isn’t something the organization adds to your schedule. Rather, it’s a part of performance management, which is an essential aspect of employee management.

Each employee is more than the check marks on a page. They are people with unique abilities, goals, and strengths. That’s why you hired them in the first place. At some point, you determined that a particular employee was an excellent fit for your credit union.

As a supervisor or manager, it’s your job to mobilize the employees you oversee. Remind them of their strengths. Bring their abilities into play. Help them achieve their goals and develop benchmarks for reaching them. However, doing so means that you might need to change your approach.

Right now, you might feel like you’re checking off items on a list. You’re more judge than coach. Then, you deliver the evaluation, tie a raise to it, and call it a day. Not surprisingly, the process is as unfulfilling as it is productive. Now, imagine if you shifted your mindset and turned a performance review into a coaching session.

Becoming the Coach Your Employees Need

A good coach has a growth mindset. This means that you work throughout the performance period to develop your team. Performance isn’t just something that comes up every three, six, or 12 months. Instead, you talk about it regularly in coaching sessions. During these sessions, you work with individual team members on developing their strengths.

Each employee should know, at all times, where they stand. How are they doing with respect to the expectations that you and the company have? By having weekly or monthly coaching sessions, you work with employees on developing their strengths.

  • Motivation. It motivates employees that their supervisors notice hard work. When you can pinpoint situations in which they met or exceeded expectations, you drive team members to work harder.
  • Benchmarks. If there are areas where the employee is not yet meeting expectations, you can coach to improve behaviors. In the process, you might set criteria. Remember that sometimes the enormity of a task overwhelms an employee. Therefore, break it down into workable chunks.
  • Goals. Setting goals is always an essential aspect of coaching. In some cases, you might need to adjust the goals that you set previously. In other cases, you may move the goalposts a little farther. Talking about meeting goals helps employees gauge their performance and puts them at ease. They don’t feel like they’re working hard but accomplishing little. 

Making the Performance Review a Culmination of Ongoing Coaching Sessions

Against this backdrop, a performance review is nothing to dread. Employees look forward to it because it’s a positive experience. Supervisors understand it to be a jumping-off point for another round of coaching opportunities.

Of course, even here, there are right ways and wrong ways to deliver the review. Because there is often a raise tied to the review, most companies require the use of standardized forms. These forms offer little room for you to coach.

Therefore, it pays to go into the review prepared.

  • Documentation. Nothing speaks louder than facts and figures. Sales reports, for example, as well as results from prior coaching sessions show results.
  • Goal reports. If this is a subsequent review, there were some goals that you set previously for this employee. Put together reports on how well the worker met these goals. Are there some goals that still need some work?
  • HR input. If the employee had mandatory meetings with the human resources department for attendance issues or other concerns, bring in these reports as well.

On the day of the official performance review, clear your schedule for that time slot. Meet with the employee in person and discuss the data in front of you. Because there have been coaching sessions throughout the year, there should be no surprises for either of you. Because you can tick off the boxes that the corporate office sets forth, you can attach a dollar value to this evaluation.

Avoiding Common Mistakes that Rob a Performance Review of Its Impact

Just as there is a list of steps to take for making a performance review impactful, there is a list of situations to avoid. For example, don’t deliver a performance review by phone or – worse – by text message. Reviews should be done in person without interruptions.

Most importantly, don’t make the performance review the only time that you address problems with the employee’s work. This is something that should have been brought up during coaching sessions. Granted, there’s the possibility that a worker didn’t improve performance. If this is the case, it’s essential to be honest and open about the problem.

If you must deliver the bad news of flagging performance, underscore your comments with the documentation that you have on hand. There’s no need to sugarcoat bad news. Instead, work together with the employee to develop a plan for reaching satisfactory performance levels.

If there are HR issues such as attendance, now could be an excellent time to address them, too. Sometimes something as simple as a schedule change of an hour or two could make a significant difference in a worker’s ability to be on time and meet expectations.

That said, remember that even a poor performer has good qualities. Don’t focus the entire performance review on only the problems. Find at least one or two positives that you can encourage the employee to continue. Doing so will give the worker the motivation necessary to work harder on the areas where more growth is needed.

Constructive Coaching after a Performance Review

Because money and even position are frequently tied to a review, it tends to look backward. This is a shame because it embraces a fixed growth mindset. However, you don’t have to deliver the review and end the meeting right there. Instead, provide the feedback that corporate requires you to give at regularly scheduled intervals.

From there, you can shift into coaching mode and look forward. Set new goals based on the outcome of the review. If targets have been reached, consider now a good time to identify new ones. If some goals are almost achieved, discuss benchmarks for getting to full compliance within the next few months.

In short, lay the groundwork for another three, six, or 12 months of coaching sessions that pave the way for the next performance review.

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group.  She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses ... Web: Details