“I’m so excited to conduct annual performance reviews!”…said no manager EVER. Dare to even say the words annual performance review and you will likely hear the groans and complaints from managers and employees alike. So how do we turn the performance management process from a dreaded reality forced on employees by Human Resources to a valued, engaging tool that’s an asset not only to employees but to the organization?
To improve the effectiveness of performance reviews within your organization here are 3 performance management mistakes to avoid.
1. Coupling the salary and performance discussion.
Are your organization’s annual performance reviews directly tied to pay increases? Regardless of your compensation strategy, there are advantages in separating the discussion of performance from raises and salary. As we know, money talks. When salary and performance discussions are joined in one meeting, the employee is likely to be more focused on “hearing” the financial impact of the review rather than on the performance and development feedback. While it should be clear to employees and managers what impact performance has on salary, separating the performance from the pay conversation allows each set of messages to be more clearly delivered and received.
2. Dictating the goals for the employee to achieve.
Who sets goals for the employee to achieve? When managers are held accountable for the success or failure of their team’s goal accomplishment, it is understandable that the manager would want to be heavily involved in setting those goals. However, managers should partner with employees by balancing their involvement as they allow the employee to accept ownership of a majority of the process. The key is to support and guide the employee while giving them enough room to determine the standards by which they will be measured. Sharing the company strategy during a goal setting session can help ensure the employee goals are directly connected to the larger goals of the team and/or organization. Employees want to know how their individual job affects the success of the team and organization. This can also be a great time to discuss not only what will be accomplished, but the acceptable behaviors and support required for the employee to succeed. The employee should set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
S – Specific – State exactly what the employee is to accomplish. (who, what, when, why, which, and where)
M – Measurable – How will the employee demonstrate and evaluate the extent to which the goal has been met?
A – Attainable – The goal should be challenging, yet within the employees ability to achieve the outcome.
R – Relevant – The goal should be relevant to the direction the employee wants their career to go and to the overall alignment with the organization and team goals.
T – Time-bound – Set a target date for achievement. This is the “by when” that guides timely completion of the goal.
After setting goals, the employee should develop a plan. The employee should break down each goal into actionable steps that identify what is required to achieve each goal. Have them realistically assess how many days, weeks, or months each step will take to accomplish. Timelines can be created and key activities scheduled to meet objectives. In addition, contingency plans should be identified so employees can quickly get back on track in the event of “goal derailment”. This is also a great time to identify how frequently the manager will check in with the employee to provide support.
In addition to decoupling the salary and performance discussions, many organizations are separating goal setting conversations as well. Performance discussions are often ‘backward’ facing whereas goal discussions should be a ‘forward’ look at the intended accomplishments of the upcoming year. It can be difficult for an employee to switch gears from reviewing the status of previous goals to thoughtfully determining future pursuits.
3. Failing to follow up and hold employees accountable.
Do you hold your employees accountable? The best laid plans of managers and employees go awry when there is a lack of follow up and accountability. Managers should hold consistent and frequent one on one meetings with their employees. Previous blog posts have emphasized a trend in performance management toward more frequent check ins. In his book 1-on-1 Management, Kelly Riggs, Founder and Chief Sales Officer at Business LockerRoom, Inc. suggests managers meet weekly with each employee and include the following 4 critical elements:
1. Review – discuss key events of the previous week
2. Plan – establish expectations and discuss resources needed
3. Preview – outline significant events for the upcoming week
4. Prioritize – establish critical goals/objectives to be advanced or completed
The stage needs to be set to ensure that honest feedback is provided both ways during these sessions. The employee needs to be free to share their struggles and ask for support. The manager needs to be willing to hold the employee accountable and ask the questions that will uncover the root cause of any issues. According to Riggs, this process keeps the manager completely up to date on the progress of projects and goals and by simply discussing these items, managers hold the employee accountable for progress and completion. For the employee, these conversations provide the opportunity to meet and communicate directly with the boss. Managers are able to gauge employee engagement, head off any challenges quickly, and provide any support needed. Perhaps weekly meetings are not realistic for your managers, but every effort should be made to prioritize planned communication and accountability check in’s with employees.