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Performance Reviews: Judgement Day

Stressed employee - performance reviews

angry reviewIt’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.

Stars - ratingI’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?

Teamwork - collaboration - employee engagement
Suggestions for supervisors

Conduct a stay interview with all of your staff. This includes asking the following questions:

  1. What goals were you hoping to achieve when you took this job?
  2. Are you achieving these goals?
  3. If not, what can we do better to ensure you do?

good meetingYou 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.

on phone and techRemember:
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.

meetingThese 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 dots

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.


For Organizations: Employee Development Coaching/Consultation

professional development navigation

Why should you or your organization invest in employee development coaching or consultation from Life Work Balance LLC?

professional development coachingAsk yourself these questions:
✅ Do you want to attract top talent?
✅ Do you want to retain your top talent?
✅ Do you want your employees to feel like you care for and value them?
✅ Do you want your employees to feel engaged at work?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should invest in coaching as a way to provide growth and development opportunities for your employees.

Effective development and coaching facilitates the professional growth of your employees by:
✅ helping them recognize their natural talents
✅ develop those natural talents into strengths
✅ and acknowledge and improve on their weaknesses

Employee development is a huge missed opportunity for organizations.

dead end - missed opportunityOpportunities to learn and grow is considered one of the top 3 factors in retaining young workers, and is important to all generations in the workplace (see this article by Gallup).

According to Gallup, “87% of millennials rate ‘professional or career growth and development opportunities’ as important to them in a job…[and] 69% of non-millennials say the same.”

When organizations lack professional-development opportunities for their employees, many high-potential/high-performing employees will move on to organizations that do foster their growth. This costs organizations money, time, and resources.

The effort it takes to recruit, orient, and train new employees are often better spent developing and encouraging current employees, especially when they are otherwise happy in their work.

MIT says coaching:

creates a genuinely motivating climate for performance, improves the match between an employee’s actual and expected performance, and increases the probability of an employee’s success by providing timely feedback, recognition, clarity and support.

How does Life Work Balance’s employee development coaching work?

exploreCoaching is a unique one-on-one relationship designed to help members of your organization:
✅ overcome challenges
✅ realize their potential
✅ and maximize their success.

Coaching is appropriate for all members of your organization. This includes high-performing employees who are looking for additional professional development opportunities; promising or established employees who have lost motivation; employees who need help improving their time management or communication skills; and employees who are struggling with interpersonal relationships at work.

When your employees work with our coaches, they receive individual, confidential guidance. Our coaches act as a resource and sounding board for employees while also providing unbiased, honest feedback, and ask questions that spark, inspire, and provoke discussions, thought, and self-reflection.

Organizations paying for coaching for an employee may work with a consultant to set the initial coaching objectives or delineate the challenges as they see them, but they will only receive limited information about the coaching engagement. Further information will be shared by the employee at their discretion.

If you feel your organization is ready to invest in employee development coaching, contact us here.

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How to Attract and Retain Millennial and Gen Z Employees


The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey provided several insights and opportunities for business to both attract and retain employees who fall into the Millennial and Gen Z  generations. If you don’t have time to read the 32 page report (PDF), we’ve got you covered!

GraduationHow does Deloitte define Millennial and Generation Z?

A Millennial is someone who was born between January 1983 and December 1994. Gen Zs were born between January 1995 and December 1999.

All of the Millennials who participated Deloitte’s survey had a first degree or higher-level qualification and were employed full-time. All of the Gen Z respondents were either studying for or had obtained a first/higher degree.

What is are the primary takeaways from Deloitte’s survey?

envrionmentMillennial and Gen Z workers want businesses to:

  1.  Generate jobs and provide employment
  2.  Act ethically and work toward improving society and the environment
  3.  Promote innovation by developing new products and services, and generating new ideas
  4.  Focus on inclusion and diversity


moneyWhere do Millennial and Gen Z workers think business priorities fall instead?

  1.  Generating profit
  2.  Driving efficiencies
  3.  Producing/selling goods and services


Most respondents described how they don’t believe businesses and organizations behave ethically.

They believe companies only want to make money and selfishly want to focus on themselves rather than consider society as a whole.

social justice Young workers are realistic and understand profits are needed for a successful business. However, they believe it is possible for organizations to prioritize profits while also prioritizing job generation, innovation, improving society, and promoting inclusion and diversity.

Young workers want business leaders to be proactive about making a positive contribution society and they want businesses to benefit all of their stakeholders. Stakeholders are not limited to board members or shareholders; they also  include the employees, customers, and the communities in which the businesses operate.

Unfortunately, young workers’ experience is of employers and businesses prioritizing the bottom line ($$$) above workers, society, and the environment.

This leaves young workers with little sense of loyalty.

Among Millennials, almost half plan on leaving their job within two years. Only about a quarter plan on staying beyond five years.


Gen Z respondents expressed even less loyalty, with more than 60% saying they would leave within two years if given the choice.

trust and loyaltyGood pay and positive culture will likely attract both Millennials and Gen Z, but
diversity/inclusion and flexibility are important keys to keeping them happy and with your organization.

Loyalty isn’t a given, it must be earned.

Loyalty is more than just a paycheck. Providing young workers with a sense of purpose, exceptional workplace culture, and professional development opportunities are likely to attract and retain the best talent. One of the benefits of attracting and retaining top talent? Organizations have an opportunity to perform better financially.

How can an organization work to improve loyalty among it’s young workers?

  1. Align prioritiesIncrease pay:
    Although this might seem counter intuitive, it actually is consistent with the ideas that employers should “share the wealth” by enhancing workers’ lives and providing good employment. It also is consistent with workers trying to pay off school debts, afford housing, and save for their future.
  2. Make work more than just a pay check:
    Millennial and Generation Z workers need positive reasons to stay with their employers; more than just a pay check. Not only does a company need to show that by staying loyal to the company the employee will be better off financially, the organization also needs to show that the employee will be more developed as an individual professional compared to if they quit.
  3. Align priorities:
    Companies need to ensure their motivations and priorities are aligned with those of the younger workforce. A focus on profits does not promote loyalty. As described above, Millennial and Gen Z workers want organizations to generate jobs and provide employment, act ethically and work toward improving society and the environment, promote innovation by developing new products and services, and generating new ideas, and focus on inclusion and diversity.be flexible
  4. Be flexible:
    When an organization offers flexibility for workers, not tying them to strict hours or locations, loyalty can be improved. Young workers appreciate the flexibility and value the trust of their employer.
  5. Provide professional development opportunities:
    The 4th industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is upon us. Many young workers feel unprepared. Organizations that help their employees adapt and develop to the changing world keep their key players around longer because they show they are invested in their employees. The Deloitte survey authors say, “about 8 in 10 Millennials say that on-the-job training, continuous professional development and formal training led by employers will be important to help them perform their best.”

Connecting the dots photoConnecting the Dots

Young workers in the Millennial generation and Generation Z want business leaders to take a step away from focusing on profits and toward focusing on social concerns that can help solve the world’s problems. Organizations need to be more diverse and inclusive, offer additional flexibility in schedules and work locations, and be nurturing and generous with it’s employees.

Organizations that can achieve the above are more likely to attract and retain the top Millennial and Gen Z talent, which will help set the organization and it’s employees up for long-term success.

Thank you for reading! If you’re looking for ways to increase your organization’s level of employee engagement, especially among your younger workers, please review my services here and contact me here.