Many businesses have eliminated the annual performance review and moved to a more organic ongoing process. However, if your company adheres to the traditional process because of legal concerns, you should make sure that the methods used to manage employees’ performance and review their potential are effective and producing the long term results they are looking for. But as a leader, how do you know if you’re managing at your best? Every performance management system needs to take into account the company culture in which it is used, and so assessing your individual team’s needs in order to find out what they need to keep them on track is highly necessary.  So what things should you look out for to see if your system needs an update? Three questions can help you start to assess your process.

1. Are your employees surprised by the contents of their annual review?
According to the Management Education Group, “If your employees receive their annual performance evaluation and are surprised by what they learn, it’s usually an indication that you did not give timely feedback throughout the year.” If you are not actively coaching them to improve in areas where they fall short, then they will be surprised and not believe they were provided the opportunity to improve. This creates disengagement and disillusionment.

Instead, give them the opportunity to prove their ability to learn and develop, so that annual performance evaluations are celebrations of their improvements throughout the year, rather than unexpected criticisms. After all, if you’re going to wait a year to tell your employees how they need to improve, aren’t they doing badly enough to not be an asset to your team in the first place?

2. Are your employees rated on meaningful scales?
“Meets expectations.” “Exceeds expectations.” “Dependability.” “Interpersonal relations.” Are these terms that sound familiar? Are they a part of your performance management process? If so, it may be time for a change. What do these terms mean, after all? More importantly, do these terms have different meanings for you and for the employee being rated?

All of these have room for interpretation and misunderstanding, and what might be an acceptable or positive judgment to you could be seriously discouraging for an employee. Instead of considering everyone who does their job well to “meet expectations” and make exceeding those expectations impossible, or saying everyone exceeds expectations and making such praise meaningless, use specific measurements. Instead, define specifically what your ratings mean, and use concrete examples of job expectations to discern whether an employee is progressing forwards, or falling behind.

3. Are you as accountable as they are?
Accountability is not something that can be demanded from employees while managers are perceived to adhere to no standards at all. If you, as a leader, see yourself as not subject to evaluation responsibilities, whether that is evaluating your employees or being evaluated yourself, it demonstrates to everyone else that feedback is not really that important. Attach priority status to performance management by attaching your own priorities to it.

Answering these questions will help keep you on the path of an effective performance management process by boosting morale and keeping your employees driven by bettering their performance.

Where can you improve your performance management system?