Good performance reviews work. What’s more, they can help organisations of all sizes achieve results.
You might have read articles recently celebrating the “death of the performance review”. In my observation, these articles relate to performance review processes favoured by many large organisations who have encumbered them with bureaucracy and rigidity.
Inflexible rules and deadlines, forced distribution curves, and crazy paperwork requirements have piled-up to result in the corporate murder of the performance review. The recent batch of articles demonstrate a subtle step away from the scene of the crime and claim “death by natural causes” for the poor, old performance review.
But I’ll say it again: good performance reviews work. Done well, they are an effective way to track your employees' progress, provide vital feedback, support their development, and align each person's performance with your company goals, which helps the business achieve results.
Speaking from much experience (good and bad), here are some ways for getting the most from performance reviews while avoiding common mistakes.
1. Deliver to the right audience
Positions that have a genuine opportunity to deliver over-and-above results for betterment of the organisation and the individual should have a review.
Positions characterised by routine work patters, that rarely change, do not need formal performance reviews; performance management in these roles happens daily.
2. Focus on the conversation not the forms
Good performance reviews are conversations not forms. While documentation provides a basic way to articulate expectations, track performance, and measure results, it should never replace actual dialogue with your people.
3. Get the review cycle right
This might be different for different roles with the organisation. While most organisations will want to align the full review to an annual cycle, you should schedule regular check-ins throughout the year. Remember to make sure the check-ins happen at meaningful times.
4. Keep it simple
Long and complicate forms with massively complex matrices and measures detract from the real conversation and encourage a focus on filling out forms. To simplify, try this structure:
- What you need to do to be successful.
- No more than 5.
- Only that are over-and-above the core role, nothing about “turning up on time”.
- These are “hard” measures, easy to articulate and measure.
- What skills you need to achieve the objectives.
- These are the softer measures that can sometimes be harder to rate.
- Linking them to the objectives makes them easier to measure.
- Development activities you and the employee will complete.
- The activities will help improve skills, which will help achieve the objectives.
- And help with career development.
5. Use software
Anybody who uses a paper-based performance review system today has lost their way. It’s the equivalent of writing a cheque to buy your groceries… even Nana doesn’t do it anymore. The many, many benefits of using performance review software over paper are too great to list… surely this argument is already won?
Follow these steps and you’ll notice how your performance reviews start to encourage ongoing and active conversations around performance. They will help you all deliver great results, rewarding good people and dealing with problems.