5 Ways to get real Change from your Performance Reviews

Performance ReviewDecember. End Year or annual Performance Reviews are going on right now or coming up very soon. Being an executive, how do you handle it?

Nothing more than a yearly obligation and a time-consuming activity?
Struggling to manage your time these days because of them?
Just something imposed by the Human Resources department?
Having troubles avoiding every good performer asking for a raise?

Or do you get the most out of it? Is it a valuable conversation with an impact on the future results and culture of your department and company?

“If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got” (Albert Einstein)

Below you will find 5 ways to raise effectiveness and enhance the positive impact of your Performance Reviews. If these are obvious to you, let it be a reminder you are on the right track. If not, I hope to inspire you to make a change right now.

1. Performance Management is a process, not a snapshot

Managing Performance is much more than a yearly evaluation. It is about optimising employee performances in your company. The ultimate goal is to have satisfied and motivated employees with better business results. Do you agree? When optimising performances, whether it is in production, services or people, we need to take the time to Plan, Do, Check and Act (Deming, 1940). When all you do is Checking at the end it simply won’t work. Performance should be under attention throughout the whole year. Set clear goals, plan for change, adjust and follow up. By spreading your Performance Management over different points of time throughout the year, you and your employees will be able to (self-) evaluate mid-term and, when needed, adjust behaviour and improve performances much faster. Need I mention the overall positive impact when this happens not only at the end of the year?

2. Use objective criteria to evaluate

When Performance Management is set up for optimising performances, it is important to measure those criteria that are in a direct relation to the desired end results. Check results based on what you expect from your employee. Him or her accomplishing this is what contributes to being a successful organization in the end. So instead of focussing on work activities, competencies or responsibilities, we should focus on the outcomes. Did the employee yes or no accomplish these? This is a much easier and objective way to evaluate performance. You succeeded, or you didn’t. An objective criterion to evaluate performance asks about the expected outcome of an action, not the action itself. Let’s say you want to evaluate your sales power. When the objective is acquiring 6 new customers a month, evaluating is easy. You won the customers or you didn’t. Same for achieving a specific turnover target. Without this you need evaluating for example client orientation. Much more complex, and much more subjective, isn’t it?

3. Link to the organizational goals

When investing all this time in conversing with your teams, the Performance Review is the ideal opportunity to align all forces. Linking your objective success measures to your departmental and even companywide goals, you are not only investing in a satisfied and motivated workforce, but also advancing together with all noses in the right direction. People know and understand what is important and how they contribute to the organization being successful. They feel valued and they know they contribute to the future of their employer. When underperforming, consequences are clear and unmistakable. This way everybody knows and understands why it is important to accelerate their performances. Having a common goal moves the focus from the individual performance to being successful as a company.

4. It’s not about the raise

End Year Reviews are frequently (if not always) associated with a possible pay rise. Preparing yourself in how to deal with this recurring question can be very interesting. Even if the answer is still no, the way of handling the refusal can make a huge difference in the motivation of your raise asker. But as we all know, motivation and retention of employees is not linked to salary only. Although money can be a big motivator, there are other things such as autonomy, mastery, having a purpose. Needless to say your Performance Review is the perfect occasion to look at all of these motivators. Does your employee feel like being challenged? Is he or she really mandated? Is there room for some job-crafting? Does he or she feel like successfully contributing to the greater good? This again illustrates the added value and importance of linking your individual Performance Reviews to company wide goals and plans.

5. Get rid of low performers

The most dangerous consequence of seeing Performance Reviews as a necessary evil that costs a lot but provides little, is that no action is taken based on the outcome of the reviews. When employees sense it’s nothing more than a formality. When reviews are done only because HR attaches importance and the manager can’t say no. You miss the chance of optimising performances and in the end accelerating business results. Not to mention the negative impact this may have on the rest of your teams. When employees are underperforming, you must act on it. Development planning includes defining a development goal, the learning activity, support from the manager, training, Coaching, material support, but also determining the own commitment of your employee. So you Plan – Do – Check – Act. And without commitment, there is only one way out. Dare to dismiss.

I hope you see how the upcoming Performance Review gives you a window of opportunity to talk things through with your employees. And it’s not only about him or her. Even when the outcome is that action is needed because they underperform, you can still motivate them by attaching importance to the contribution of every single employee.

As an executive, are you struggling to handle this review process? Looking for a way to be more effective through your teams? Finding it difficult to transfer negative or corrective messages? Juggling to set the right people management priorities or even your own time-management? Personal executive Coaching can help you overcome these and other leadership issues. What do you think? How do you handle the End Year Reviews yourself? And how does your company? Don’t refrain to share your thoughts below. Whether you do this in English, French or Dutch, any feedback is appreciated.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of BigFish4.me. After studying a Master in Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences, she ogled into the magical world of Recruitment, Selection and HR Services. Working for the world leader in HR, she has always been in an advisory role in relation to the larger goals of several multinational organizations. In 2013 she started her own company in International executive Coaching. Doing what she is good at, challenging others as well as herself.

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