It’s that time of the year! December means performance reviews which typically brings anxiety along with it.
It’s a time when, regardless of performance, people feel afraid of how they might be blindsided by their boss or manager.
If your supervisor (or you as a supervisor or manager) only holds performance conversations with staff one or two times a year, they’re doing everyone a disservice.
I’ve worked with several organizations where we had performance reviews once a year. The scale for each review was from 1-5 (1 was low, 5 was high), and regardless of performance, everyone scored a 4 or a 5. Those who performed poorly had no clue, and those who exceeded expectations had no incentive to perform at or above the same level.
Staff in the organizations rarely (if ever) had conversations with their supervisors/managers about their career and job-related goals. Now, I’m not suggesting it is only the supervisor’s responsibility to ask these questions. Employees certainly share responsibility for not telling their supervisors what they want or need. However, supervisors should set the precedent.
When you don’t have a regularly scheduled one-on-one with your supervisor, it’s hard to believe they actually care about what you want long-term. It’s hard to believe they see you as more than a cog in their big machine of results and deliverables.
So, how do we change the culture of performance reviews?
Suggestions for supervisors
Conduct a stay interview with all of your staff. This includes asking the following questions:
- What goals were you hoping to achieve when you took this job?
- Are you achieving these goals?
- If not, what can we do better to ensure you do?
You may also consider asking “your staff about their favorite projects they’ve worked on, the moments when they’ve felt most energized at work, the times when they’ve found themselves totally immersed in a state of flow, and the passions they have outside their jobs.” (Harvard Business Review) With this information, managers and supervisors can help their employees not only construct roles that are a good fit for the employee and produce results for the organization, but also make the employee feel engaged and valued.
This type of conversation also allows managers to co-construct goals and objectives that allow them to check-in with their staff periodically for progress updates. Suddenly, “performance reviews” get a lot easier because you have goals and objectives built around the employee rather than the position (which is typically vague and not helpful).
Regularly meet with your staff.
How often do you meet with all of your staff? Do you have regularly scheduled meetings? Or, do your meetings consist of more random check-ins, only when problems arise? How often are these meetings? Are these your meetings or theirs?
It may not be feasible for you or your staff to have a regularly scheduled weekly meeting. However, if you don’t meet with each of your direct reports at least once a month, something is wrong. Your direct reports need face time with you, and these need to be their meetings. Let them set the agenda, and give them time to talk to you about whatever may be on their mind. They become accountable and responsible for the content of the meeting. If your staff hasn’t engaged in this type of meeting with you before, give them a general outline or suggested meeting topics (job related accomplishments, obstacles, discussion, etc.) so they don’t feel like they have to come up with something completely on their own. Give them the option to use or not use your suggestions.
Ask for the last 5-15 minutes of the meeting for time that you can use to ask questions or bring up any items that you would like to discuss. Ask them about their goals, what they’ve done since their last meeting with you to move toward those goals, and if anything has changed.
Asking questions about their goals and their progress in their position shows that you care about each employee’s professional and personal development and success.
Put your phone away. Get off your computer. Give them your undivided attention. Giving your full attention shows that you value them, what they have to say, and what they do for you.
Suggestions for employees
Ask your supervisor if you can schedule a regular meeting.
If you want to have a better relationship with your supervisor and/or you want them to know your professional (and maybe personal) goals and objectives, you have to tell them. Don’t expect your supervisor to read your mind and schedule a meeting with you. If you want your supervisor to know you want additional responsibility, to move into a leadership position, or attend a certain conference, etc., TELL THEM.
These meetings don’t have to be weekly, or even bi-weekly. See if you can start small, maybe once a month, or even once a quarter. Write down your goals and bring them to your meeting. Think about how those goals intertwine with the organizations goals. Show your list to and discuss it with your supervisor. You may be surprised with the feedback or suggestions they have for you, and they may even provide you with information you have not yet considered.
Ask your supervisor questions.
Can you read your supervisor’s mind? No. Neither can I.
The Muse has an article about the 8 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Boss. My favorite of these questions include:
- “What can I do to make you more successful today (or this week, month, quarter, or year)?”
- “What’s one thing I could do differently?”
- “How would you like to receive feedback from me?”
When you know what your supervisor wants expects from you, and you confirm this on a regular basis, you can set yourself (and your supervisor) up for success.
Connecting the dots
Performance reviews don’t have to invoke anxiety, fear, and stress. They can be designed to act as check-in tools to see where an employee falls when it comes to accomplishing their own goals as well as the goals of the organization. They aren’t a time to blindside someone, and they shouldn’t be avoided. When a manager regularly checks-in with his or her staff, and everyone is on the same page when it comes to current performance and expectations, everybody wins.
Thank you for reading! If you’re looking for ways to increase your organization’s level of employee engagement and revamp the way your organization or team conducts performance reviews, please review my services here and contact me here.