Doing annual employee reviews is often a manager’s least favorite duty. Meeting face-to-face with every direct report employee and giving them an honest assessment of their job performance during the previous 12 months often leads to a lot of stress, anxiety, and – sometimes – bad feelings on both sides.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are steps you can take to make your next round of annual employee reviews much more comfortable and stress free. Here are five of them.
Step 1 – Make It a Year Round Experience
The hardest and worst employee reviews are those where you have to deliver bad news: The employee either hasn’t been living up to expectations or has failed terribly. Blind-siding somebody with this type of poor job performance review can be devastating to both parties.
Even good reviews can be excruciating for the employee if they aren’t sure what to expect during the annual employee review process. That’s why it’s important that the actual annual review itself be surprise-free.
To give an honest, comprehensive employee performance review, you should be observing and recording the employee’s performance against measurable standards throughout the entire year. Take the sting (or surprise) out of the annual review by sharing with the employee how they are doing as they go. Conducting quarterly – or even monthly – reviews can help the employee correct poor performance or improve better than expected performance even further
While this may seem as if it would require additional time and effort on the part of the management, in fact it will establish open lines of communication with direct reports so they can optimize their performance and get more productivity out of them.
Step 2 – Make It a Dialogue, Not a Monologue
Managers can share the burden of performing a performance review with the employee themselves. Have direct reports conduct self-reviews in preparation for the annual performance review. This helps the manager see where there is a shortfall between how the employee perceives their actual performance and their actual performance on the job.
Then, when it comes time for the annual performance review, the conversation can be a two-way dialogue between the manager about what these shortfalls are, why they exist, and what to do about them moving forward.
Step 3 – Be Respectful
If you think annual performance reviews are hard on managers, imagine how stressful they can be for employees – especially if their annual review is the first and only time they have talked to their direct supervisor about their job performance all year.
Too many managers approach annual performance reviews as an unpleasant chore that has to be gotten out of the way before they can pay attention to the things that really matter. The truth is, for the employee the performance review actually is what really matters most. That’s because their annual review is often tied to their compensation, or even whether or not they are going to be able to keep their job.
Step 4 – Keep It Positive
Even when employees are performing below expectations, there’s always something positive that you can accentuate. While the purpose of the annual performance review isn’t necessarily to give the employee a false idea of how they are perceived by management, it’s important to keep the review positive.
If an employee needs to show improvement, they are going to be less likely to be willing to make the necessary changes if the review takes a “Or Else!” tone. To get the best out of people, it’s important to keep them positive and engaged in the process.
Step 5 – Show Them the Path
Each employee who walks out of their annual performance review – whether they have received a glowing review or a “needs improvement” – should have an understanding of the next steps. Craft a path for your employee to follow so that they know what they need to do to either improve their performance moving forward or to keep doing the great job they are already doing.
Annual performance reviews don’t always have to be something to be dreaded. If you use these five steps, you not only can take the stress out of the process, but also improve the results.