Did you know that there are a lot of companies out there that don’t have performance reviews? I have discovered this when talking to both clients and prospects in both small and mid-sized companies. So what are their excuses?

  • Lack of time
  • Inadequate training
  • Poor Results

Just about everyone I have spoken to on this subject agrees that most performance reviews are painful at best. They are generally done once a year with some companies doing reviews quarterly. And even when done more often, they are still ineffective. Because they don’t produce the results leaders want, then they slowly slip off the radar and become a low priority because of their low return on investment. 

So if in fact you agree that your employees are your most valuable assets, then why have you succumbed to these performance review barriers? My belief is that many leaders think of performance reviews in the historical way: a once a year sit down review where employees disagree with many of your observations of them during the past year and are waiting for the “show me the money” moment. This scenario does not create an environment where employees are really listening and learning. 

Performance reviews in fact should be an ongoing process. The managers who believe in and deliver performance reviews do so as part of a more robust performance management process. They have a core belief that their team members are their most valuable assets and thus they spend a lot of time with them both individually and in team meetings. Here are some of the steps they take:

1. Recognizing good performance when it occurs 

Timely recognition reinforces the behaviors and results you are looking for in your team. And most leaders don’t do a good job of this.  When they do recognize good performance, they aren’t specific about what made the performance so good.

An example: You just sat in on a team meeting and a team member suggested an idea on how to improve the customer service process with some new technology. Many leaders would respond with “great idea, let’s explore this more”. A much better response would be, “ great idea, that process can not only improve service to our customers but may help decrease some of our costs over the long run. Tell me how you came up with this idea.”

The better response is more specific and allows the person to share with the team how she developed the idea.

2. Looking for just in time learning opportunities

Learning or coaching opportunities come up all the time, yet often leaders dismiss them as not important enough to address until the situation starts repeating itself and the behavior has become a real problem. It is never too early to address a behavior that you have observed with an employee.

3. Meeting with employees on a consistent basis

Many managers will have a regular weekly or biweekly meeting with employees. Their intentions are good yet they miss the opportunity to take a “feedforward” approach to the meeting. Often this time is spent on reviewing current tasks and projects with the focus of completing whatever is on their list.  Yet, this is a great time to give them some performance coaching, a mini performance review.

These three techniques, when implemented on a consistent basis, can greatly improve the performance review process.  Whether it be once a year or quarterly, the review itself will have no surprises because as a leader you have been providing observations and feedback to your employees “just in time”. The review will merely be a confirmation of what is already known and set the foundation for future performance.