Performance review mistakes are easy to make. In fact, even the most seasoned managers can trip up. With a little preparation and forethought, you can avoid common missteps and make the most out of the meeting for you and your employees alike.
1. Be a strong communicator. Remember that YOU are responsible for your employees. This includes reviewing performance, awarding pay increases and supporting their advancement in the company. As a manager, you should be providing feedback and constructive criticism of your employees' performance throughout the year, so that at review time, there are no great surprises.
2. Minimize the stress of the situation. Pick a time where you can conduct an in-depth conversation without interruption. Ideally, you should plan on up to two hours for the meeting. It may seem like a long time, but you may need it all. Have the meeting in a private, quiet place that promotes discussion and cooperation such as a private office or small conference room.
3. Take time to prepare… and document your efforts with the appropriate paperwork. We offer a complete library of forms and documentation to guide, steer and record outcomes, all available online. We also feature an interactive ‘Performance Review Builder’ in the ‘HR Apps and Tools’ section that will help you create a comprehensive performance review in a snap. You should also consider having the employee complete our ‘Self-Evaluation Form,' which is an excellent springboard for dialogue. Now is also the time to make sure that your review and system for measurement of performance comply with all state and federal laws. You have to treat employees equitably and avoid any statements or actions that can be construed as discriminatory. If you have questions regarding your performance review program and discrimination issues, contact an employment law attorney who knows your state laws.
4. In the meeting itself, be direct, factual and detail oriented… remember, a performance review can serve as documentation for an eventual termination. Even when delivering a positive review, you must take care to specify any problems or concerns…these details can be critical if there is ever a claim of wrongful termination.
As you begin the meeting, give the employee an overview of areas you want to discuss. Emphasize that this is a dialogue where the employee will make an important contribution. Offer specific examples of what your employee did well to support the company. Encourage him or her to discuss any problems on the job, and follow up with assistance in areas that need improvement. Any suggestions or plans of action should focus on job-related performance and responsibilities, with you committing to provide or assist with training or other resources.
5. Choose your language carefully. You need to focus on issues and results that are job-specific. Avoid using negative words like “sloppy” or “messy” and phrases such as “I understand,” which can be misinterpreted to sound like you accept poor performance. Also, be careful with comments such as “I can see you really have great long-term potential with the company.” Statements like this can result in an implied employment contract, and come back to haunt you in a lawsuit if the employee is terminated. Our online HR library offers a guide to successful performance review language, which is available under “Performance Review Preparation."
If, during the review, discussion turns to an employee’s personal problems—such as the disclosure of an addiction, for example--do NOT attempt to address this yourself. However good your intentions, discussions of this nature could be a legal minefield, as there may be laws in place that govern these types of situations in your state. Consult an employment law attorney for further guidance.
Remember, reviews are more than just a measure of how well an employee does his or her job. They are an opportunity to open channels of communication and increase worker loyalty and engagement… which will ultimately build productivity and your bottom line.