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Mastering Performance Reviews: Tips and Template for Success

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While performance reviews aren't everyone's favorite process, we can't ignore the value they have when we approach them correctly.

Performance reviews are opportunities for managers and direct reports to have a focused, focused conversation about an employee's performance, their contribution to the company, and opportunities for improvement.

A properly conducted performance appraisal can increase employee engagement and lead to an increase in performance. But be aware that the opposite can also be true!

Drawing on my personal experience conducting performance reviews and helping companies optimize their performance reviews, I will explain how to prepare for and conduct an effective performance review.

How to prepare for a performance review

Preparing for a performance review is not a task that should be taken lightly, and especially not the night before the performance review!

Performance reviews take time. If you rush things, your employees will notice.

Step 1: Reflect on the performance of your team and your employee

The first step in preparing for a performance review is to reflect on the individual's performance and the team's performance.

Think about which events were positive, neutral, or negative. What events were beyond the control of the team or individual? How does the individual contribute to the team? Reflecting on these points is a good place to start.

Another point to consider is your own perception. If you don't work with the person on a daily basis, who does and who could provide you with information about how the team member has been working recently?

Especially in cases where I manage highly independent employees, obtaining feedback from colleagues can be extremely helpful in conducting fair, accurate and valuable performance reviews.

A 360-degree feedback process is often used, but this can be very time-consuming. You can quickly collect feedback from colleagues about your team member's performance using Google or Microsoft Forms.

By thinking about strengths and areas for improvement, you can give your employees clear, actionable feedback using performance review examples. I then use bullet points to name a few things for each employee under the prompt.

Essentially, I write a short version of the performance review, which I then add to my report with examples and recommendations for the future.

After gathering your thoughts and feedback from your colleagues and creating an outline of the review, you can write the report. Writing the text is one of the most important parts of the report.

This phase can even be more important than the actual conversation, especially if you are providing developmental feedback and expect the person to change their behavior as a result of the conversation.

The written report is a document that employees will refer to to review their feedback and is also a formal document that describes performance and performance feedback for an individual employee.

Performance appraisal reports (the written portion) should always include explanations of performance, comparisons to expectations or expected behavior, detailed examples of good or poor performance, and the impact of performance on others.

KPIs and metrics are great measurement tools to use in evaluating performance, identifying opportunities, and setting future performance goals.

For example, if someone works in sales, you can demonstrate the quality of their work and their accountability by noting the extent to which they were able to achieve the goals and metrics set. Just as goals should be measurable, performance should also be measurable.

Narrative example

"Brent continues to struggle with attention to detail, particularly when configuring our learning management system. When Brent overlooks details such as course enrollment, the result is that employees are not assigned to the courses they need to complete. When employees "Not being assigned to the right courses, such as compliance training, means we as a company are out of compliance because we have not effectively facilitated the required compliance training."

In addition to providing concrete and measurable examples, as an evaluator and leader, you should also be prepared to describe how you will help the person improve their skills or adopt the desired behavior.

Yes, performance appraisal reports can be long, but in my experience, longer, more thorough reports are most helpful in helping employees understand their performance and document it over the longer term.

Step 3: Prepare the performance review

Once you have gathered your thoughts and additional feedback, reflected on the employee's performance, and written the report, you can prepare to conduct the performance review.

When preparing for a difficult conversation, make a plan for how you will initiate the discussion and think of some questions the team member will ask at the beginning. Be prepared to address each point with specific examples.

Personally, I like to start with a positive comment, highlighting the good contributions the person made to the team during the evaluation period. I then address the constructive criticism and growth opportunities and say how I would like to support the employee on their journey.

Conducting a performance review

You have completed the reflection and the preparation of the report and are now prepared for the interview.

However, be aware that you don't have to stick to the script 100% if something interesting comes up during the assessment itself.

The team member you're having the conversation with is likely to bring up something interesting that will take your mind off the script. These types of performance review comments are worth their weight in gold, and you should investigate them more closely when they come up.

Giving performance feedback is an art and requires emotional intelligence, empathy and active listening to do it right. Below are some tips on how to conduct an effective performance review interview.

Avoid one-sided conversations

When it comes to conducting a performance review, it's easy to think that it will be a one-sided conversation where you, as the manager, tell your team member how they're doing.

This is exactly the behavior you need to avoid! A performance review should be a two-way conversation.

When an employee talks about their performance, they learn and understand the reflective feedback much better than if you just tell (or read) it to them.

Effective performance management can only be achieved by having a conversation in which you both share your own reflections and seek feedback from the employee or assesses.

By providing constructive feedback and having an open conversation, the appraisal process will yield deeper insights on both sides that will lead to better performance over time.

Honesty is the best policy

One of the worst things you can do in a performance review is to avoid issues. This applies not just on the day of the performance review, but every day, because feedback should be continuous, timely, specific and actionable.

It's easy to have barriers to communication and transparency between managers and employees. This is human nature and often requires conscious effort to overcome.

One of the best ways to express your honesty during a performance review is to think about what you know about the employee and how you think they would like to receive feedback. It's a variation of the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.

Some people may prefer you to be a little more direct, while others may need a little more leniency. We are all different when it comes to this.

If you're still struggling with honesty, consider taking a step back and looking at your communication skills and other soft skills.

No matter what you do, always make sure you end the conversation on a positive, opportunity-oriented note. You want the other person to leave the conversation feeling inspired, valued, and with a clear idea of where they can improve.

Provide detailed feedback

When giving feedback, don't be too vague. You should not speak in broad strokes and only in analogies. You need specific details and examples, especially when highlighting opportunities for improvement.

Maybe there was something the employee did on a project last month that you would like to mention; perhaps he brought a project back on schedule or was involved in causing something to fall behind schedule.

Be specific when explaining an example of a performance and be sure to highlight the impact of the good or not so good performance. By being specific and emphasizing the impact of behaviors, you help the person receiving the information understand how what they did affects other people.

The more specific examples you can provide to support your feedback, the better. I know it can be difficult to find examples when the reviews aren't that common.

Therefore, it is better to conduct performance reviews at shorter intervals, e.g. B. monthly or quarterly, with an appraisal period close to the time the appraisal is given. This allows you to use examples while they are still fresh and the details are still clear.

Take your time and listen actively

When you have the conversation, present your feedback and pay attention to reactions: body language, tone of voice, and word choice.

When you give feedback, especially negative feedback, the employee may go into flight mode and stop listening!

You also need to put yourself in the employee's position and look for interesting points that they might raise during the conversation.

Take the time to go through all the feedback and discuss how you can address the feedback and what you as a manager can do to help the employee grow.

Lead with empathy

Consider the environment and world of the person you are giving feedback to. You never know what's going on in someone's life, and often people don't tell us about the most important things that are going on.

Practice empathy, don't assume you know everything, and be lenient with your co-workers.

Use the resources available

There are a variety of tools that are helpful when conducting performance reviews.
Why don't you make use of it? They make life easier for everyone involved.

Which tool you choose depends on your organization, your work style, and your approach to conducting performance reviews.

One of my favorite features of performance appraisal software is the ability to document the follow-up along with the appraisal itself, so that you or a future manager can look back on the feedback and any notes from the conversation and the agreed-upon follow-up.

As a manager who leads people over an extended period of time, these are also excellent reflection tools to see how far your employees have come in their development.

Get used to giving continuous feedback, both good and bad

When you manage employees, one of your primary responsibilities is to continually provide relevant, detailed feedback - both good and bad. Providing regular feedback is an essential management skill.

When giving feedback, focus on employee behavior, impact and outcomes and consider your role and responsibilities in developing your employees.

Do not maintain negative feedback for a long period of time and do not wait until the next performance cycle to provide feedback, especially negative feedback.

Feedback, criticism or development advice should never come as a surprise in a performance review.

Be able to provide effective feedback that is timely, specific and results-oriented.

Align your feedback with the expectations of the role

All roles and performance reviews require clear expectations to be effective.

Remember that a performance appraisal is intended to compare the individual's performance in the role with the requirements of the role, not with their past performance or the performance of other teammates.

This is often confused, and disaster ensues when performance is compared to something that doesn't match the clear expectations of the role.

If the role you are evaluating does not have a job description with clear responsibilities, goals, and performance metrics, it is time to create one so that future performance reviews can be based on an assessment against clear, written job expectations.

Consider the context and structure of the performance review

If you use scales or ratings, make sure they are consistent with company expectations and norms.

In an organization where other managers give a top rating, avoid being the manager who "never gives fives."

Often, your human resources department will have statistics about the percentage of employees who typically receive each review. Use this information to your advantage to understand how good performance is evaluated in your company.

Often, the highest performing employees are very conscious of performance reviews and may be discouraged if their current performance rating is lower than their previous one, especially if they feel like they have been working harder than normal recently.

Consider how performance reviews affect high-performing people and how those people are motivated. Don't let your superficial evaluation of a high-performing employee's performance lead to an employee retention problem (yes, that's a very common problem).

Check your bias

Consider feedback from multiple sources to reduce bias in your assessments, especially if you don't work particularly closely with individual employees in your day-to-day work.

For example, when I evaluate project managers, I know that what matters is not my opinion as a manager, but the opinion of those the project managers work for.

To obtain this information, I send feedback requests to each project manager's key stakeholders and collect feedback on both the individual project manager's performance and the project management team's perceptions.

Give people a chance to think about your feedback.

Get further clarity and ask questions. Often people need time to process information, and it can be beneficial if they have time to read your review, think about it, and then come to you with questions.

When conducting a performance review, leave the conversation somewhat open-ended to invite further discussion and inquiry, and to signal to your team member that you are there for them and want to help them grow personally and professionally.

Common performance appraisal examples

Now let's look at some performance review phrases you can use.

Start with the categories and prompts you should cover in the performance review.

This list is by no means exhaustive. You can choose and add whatever you want, but to get started, consider the following elements, which can apply to almost any role in a company:

  1. Strengthen
  2. Opportunities for improvement
  3. Troubleshooting
  4. Communication
  5. Teamwork
  6. Responsibility
  7. Quality of work

You can then create specific performance notes for each of these points, highlighting positive or less desirable examples of behavior during the evaluation period.

Positive performance review regarding communication:

"Moriah's communication is clear, timely and comprehensive. She excels at making sure the people who need to know know it. For example, when Moriah led the launch of our new product update, everyone involved was informed and had even the opportunity to ask questions prior to launch. Moriah navigates our fast-paced environment and balances business results with ensuring we do the right thing for our people."

Less positive assessment of communication:

"Sandra is a strong communicator, but she does not consistently communicate key details of projects with stakeholders, meaning some people are left in the dark on important matters. For example, as part of the website redesign project, Sandra and the team decided to: when the new pages were supposed to go live, but Sandra didn't lead the team in informing senior management and the rest of the workforce about the upcoming website change. When it was released, it caught many people by surprise, including our CEO and key sales leaders ."

Positive assessment of the quality of work

"The quality of Moriah's work is exceptional. She sets the gold standard for planning, productivity and organization, so much so that others in the company specifically ask to work with her because they trust the quality of her work and the consistency of her deliverables. She also carries helps educate others by training them in their procedures and creating templates that help others learn similar quality skills."

Less positive assessment of the quality of work

"Sandra is capable of producing quality work, but she only performs at her best when she works directly with me, where I check every step of the way and ensure Sandra is actively involved in completing the task Efforts. For example, Sandra has committed to making a recommendation for changes to our learning system this quarter. When I asked Sandra about progress on this goal, she told me that she had started working on the task in Due a few weeks ago, Sandra began work but required a significant amount of direct interaction with me to complete the task, including some course corrections such as compliance requirements and reporting. If she places more emphasis on time management, understanding the demands of the task and keeping those involved informed, the quality of Sandra's work will improve."

Remember: Be specific. Using specific examples to support your comments in each area will get you better feedback than using vague phrases like "You're a team player." The more you can justify this with examples, KPIs and metrics, the better.

Elevate your performance appraisal process with IceHrm's comprehensive solutions, empowering managers to conduct impactful reviews that foster employee growth and drive organizational excellence.

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