Let's go back to the drawing board for performance management and dismiss the concept that employee reviews have to be an annual, one-time event. In addition to end-of-the-year reviews, giving employees frequent feedback in the form of informal reviews can be beneficial to employees and managers, keeping both parties aware of employee performance throughout the year. Re-engineer the way your employees receive feedback, and don't wait until the end of the year to conduct performance reviews.
Giving feedback is the best way to draw attention to employee performance and provides an opportunity to recognize accomplishments and offer constructive criticism. Remember, if your direct reports are unaware of how you view their performance, everyone will simply continue down the same performance path like an assembly line. Give praise for a project well done, and act as a coach if performance adjustments need to be made. Waiting an entire year for the annual formal performance review is too much lag time between conversations about employee performance.
Starting today, think like an engineer: design, test, and manufacture.
Design a plan for feedback. Yes, formal performance reviews are necessary. Formal reviews are needed to measure employee performance and to determine salary and wage increases. These reviews are a great way to communicate and document the strengths and weaknesses of your employees but require time for documentation, planning, and execution. Informal performance reviews are equally valuable and should also become part of your performance management plan. Because informal performance reviews are just that—informal—they require less time and paperwork and can be conducted multiple times throughout the year. Regular tracking and feedback about employee performance allow for employees to remain aware of manager expectations, enhance accountability, and ensure there are no surprises at the end-of-the-year review. Informal reviews can serve multiple purposes, including providing feedback about a specific situation, clarifying job duties, or celebrating accomplishments.
Test your plan. Give informal reviews a try. Perhaps one of your teams just wrapped up a successful project, and you are pleased with the outcome. While the accomplishment is still fresh, schedule a time to sit down individually with the people who were involved. When conducting informal performance reviews, remember the following three best practices.
Acknowledge employee success, and say thank you.
Address any issues that need to be corrected or improved.
Explain your hope that the employee will be successful in the future because of his or her specific strengths and abilities.
Informal performance reviews are simply conversations. Remember, when employee performance is tracked and discussed throughout the year, it facilitates the formal review process at the end of the year—less paperwork, less time spent on the process, and less anxiety about performance results. When you and your employees start to see reviews as something other than a long, drawn-out process with potential surprises, performance reviews become less overwhelming and less stressful for both parties.
Manufacture a winning performance management strategy. Purposefully incorporate multiple opportunities to provide feedback to your employees throughout the year, not just during the annual formal review. Consider incorporating informal performance reviews once a quarter or after the completion of milestone projects. It's time to shift gears about the way you think about performance management. Performance reviews can be beneficial opportunities that help both managers and employees improve communication between each other.