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What are company best practices for employee performance reviews?

Ten Steps for Conducting a Performance Review

Step 1: Log Your Employee Notes

Use performance logs to simplify writing employee reviews.

  • It’s best to institute a simple recording system to document employee performance before writing employee reviews.
  • Maintain a log for each employee. Performance logs don’t need to be complicated or sophisticated.

Step 2:  Write the Review

  • Organize and structure your material so that it is linear enough to remain clear and easy for the employee to follow.
  • Focus on performance and avoid the evaluation of attitude. Use concrete job-based examples to support your criticism.
  • Avoid evaluation inflation and rating employees higher than what is deserved.

Step 3: Include Self-Evaluations

  • Employee self-evaluations are optional for employees, but it is encouraged. Most workers grade themselves harder than the supervisor.
  • This creates an opportunity to place you in the role of mentor or coach rather than unilateral decision-maker and disciplinarian.

Step 4:  Maintain a Positive Mindset

  • Manage the message and your mindset. Don’t let the need to deliver a negative message create a negative review.
  • Don’t waste time dwelling if it’s time to move on to another subject.
  • Don’t try to compensate for difficult messages by dancing around the subject. Give it to the other person “straight,” the feedback otherwise can be misunderstood and will likely lose its impact.
  • Your goal in writing the review is to help shape employees’ performance without becoming sidetracked by anger, emotion, or fear of conflict.

Step 5: Use examples

  •  Measure an employee’s “intangible” traits such as general work characteristics: cooperativeness, dependability, and judgment by focusing on concrete examples of instances in which employees displayed positive or negative behavior regarding a particular trait.

Step 6: Offer Honest Feedback

  • Open the meeting on a positive note. Create a “safe zone” for your employee where you can both engage in open and honest discussion.
  • You may not always agree with your employees’ behavior or performance, but it is important that you always value and support who they are as people.

Step 7:  Address Issues

Discuss any problems you’ve observed with the employee’s performance. Use the following framework to discuss each problem.

  • Describe the performance problem.
  • Reinforce performance standards.
  • Develop a plan for improvement.
  • Offer your help.
  • Alternate negative and positive comments.
  • Emphasize your belief in their potential.

Step 8:  Be Specific

During performance reviews, use clear, nonjudgmental language that focuses on results and behavior. Notice the positive and negative aspects of these statements.

  • “Your work has been sloppy lately.” (Negative: too vague)
  • “Your last three reports contained an unacceptable number of mathematical errors.” (Positive: cites specifics)

Step 9:  Set Goals

  • Help employees reach their peak performance.
  • Involve them in setting goals. Never assume you’ve got buy in. Approach them with the thought, “What do you think you can achieve?” Then negotiate your expectations.
  • Keep the goals realistic. Any goal, whether it’s at work, at home, or on the athletic field, needs to be difficult, desirable, and doable. Setting goals too high will only deflate the employee.
  • Avoid micromanaging. Resist the temptation to lay out every detail of how employees should achieve their goals. Trust your employees to reach the clear goals you’ve set for them.

Step 10:  Encourage Continuous Dialogue

  • Two-way conversations that generate interactive dialogue are the most productive. If you find that you are the only one speaking, stop and re-evaluate.
  • A review should not be the only conversation had with employees about how well they are doing their jobs.
  • Continue discussing progress on an ongoing basis so that the employee learns what it is going to take to be successful.

If you need help putting together a structured performance review program in your company, consider the benefits of outsourcing your HR and contact Karen Slein to talk about your specific needs at 617.834.6238.

About Karen Slein

Karen Slein is a human resources professional that provides affordable outsourced HR services, recruiting services, and high impact job coaching programs.