The Benefits of Performance Reviews and How to Carry Them Out
7 January, 2022
Different Company Standards for Performance Reviews
Investment in performance management varies from non-existent in some workplaces to months out of the year in others. Performance management season is the time of year when every manager's stress level sky-rockets and they start dreaming of vacation.
My experiences with the performance management process at different companies varied drastically, often depending on the company's size. However, I would argue that the performance management process should be similar whether a company has five employees or thousands.
There are workplaces where Performance Management just does not happen. Some team members are lucky if their manager spends more than 5 minutes a year giving them feedback on strengths, areas of improvement, or supporting their career goals.
Some places just wing it. The performance review process is in place, but no one can describe its structure. The expectations from the individuals involved are not clear. Therefore, the process does not always accelerate employee growth and impact.
There are places where Performance Management is a well-thought-out process for managers and individual contributors. The process is created to help individuals achieve their potential and grow in the company. However, getting it done is a herculean task and dreaded by everyone involved in the process.
Making Performance Reviews More Successful
People naturally want to grow in almost every aspect of their lives. At work, growth means the ability to deliver more impactful results.
The increase in impact comes when complex, impactful projects (both technically and/or organizationally complex) are delivered. The skills required to deliver such projects are acquired over time with practice, conscious focus, and coaching. Without guidance, feedback, and a plan, very few individuals would be able to acquire the skills to deliver these complex projects.
For the business, an individuals' growth should translate to business growth since these people can deliver more impactful results.
Performance management is a critical tool in a Manager's toolbox which allows managers to ensure individuals on their teams are getting continuous and actionable feedback to meet what is expected at their current level and the next. Well-defined expectations for people on a team provide the manager with a set of tools to help them guide their team's growth and impact.
Set Goals / OKRs:
This should be done at the beginning of each quarter. I recommend setting around three goals.
In regular circumstances, goals should be set by the direct report with the manager's input.
Goals are not set in stone. Things change as we learn more about them, so goals should be fluid but always focused on delivering the results that will create a positive impact.
Collect 360 Feedback:
I sometimes call feedback signals because the word signal indicates continuity. Feedback should be collected throughout the year on a daily/weekly basis. It is powerful for someone to submit feedback when they see that their colleague has done an excellent job in an area that the company values. Avoiding recency bias is another big benefit of collecting feedback continuously instead of only once or twice a year.
Hold Regular Performance Check-ins:
The manager should decide whether to schedule a separate meeting for this check-in or use part of their weekly 1:1s. Either way, the manager and the direct report should know when this check-in will happen so both of them can prepare for it.
These check-ins are for lightweight, ongoing conversations, which will help the manager directly align expectations and correct course if necessary. The check-ins are also for sharing feedback from others and coaching.
Incorporating Ingredients for Success
- A few key ingredients are needed for a performance management process that is effective at growing team members: Goals, Feedback, and Frequent Check-ins. Making performance management a continuous process and not a once-a-year thing is powerful. It is also important to separate performance management from promotion and compensation conversations, which will distract.
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