Performance Review Tips for Managers
December 11, 2023
Annual reviews are a generally challenging task for managers. With today’s acceleration in technology and the resulting changes to organizational structures, the traditional model of annual performance evaluations feels about as relevant as a rotary phone. CEOs and top leadership understand this shift. In fact, only about 6% of CEOs consider their review process to be useful. That begs the question: Why do managers continue to perform reviews if they aren’t effective?
Changing that narrative goes beyond route check-ins. It demands intentional, ongoing conversations surrounding growth and development. This change in focus empowers individuals and allows them to make meaningful contributions to the organization’s success.
Embrace Employee Feedback
Instead of viewing employees as passive recipients of the review, request their active participation and transform the process into a two-way street. Ask about their preferred format, frequency, and desired areas of focus. In addition, ask them to come prepared with their goals for the future and processes that may be helpful. The opportunity for feedback encourages the review to also act as a manager evaluation, presenting opportunities to learn and grow both as a leader and as an employee. This collaborative approach allows managers to build trust within the team and steer the entire process toward their relevant needs and aspirations.
Ditch the Formality
While an annual review is an important metric for career development, waiting to discuss performance until that meeting is both unnecessary and counterproductive. Weave informal coaching conversations into your weekly or monthly rhythm. A quick chat after a successful project or a focused feedback session following a presentation can be far more impactful than a formal, yearly document. Regular feedback in brief, informal sessions fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement and keeps performance development top-of-mind.
Be Prepared, Not Panicked
Missing out on accomplishments from early in the review period is a common pitfall. To avoid this, create a record of performance-related events as they occur. This allows manager evaluations to include specific examples of strengths, accomplishments, and opportunities for improvement. Comprehensive preparation for a review demonstrates your commitment to the individual’s professional development and leads to conversations of real substance.
Master the Art of Active Listening: Uncover Hidden Gems
A performance review should not be a lecture. Become an active listener, offering your full attention and encouraging open dialogue. Ask probing questions, clarify your understanding and assumptions, and be fully present to their perspective. This not only builds trust but also helps you uncover hidden potential and tailor your feedback accordingly.
Set SMART Goals
Vague recommendations like “improve communication” or “develop leadership skills” are both unhelpful and frustrating for employees. Craft SMART goals with (not for) your staff, ensuring they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. “Develop leadership skills” becomes “complete this leadership development course by this specific date.” This provides a clear roadmap for both parties and allows easy tracking of tangible progress.
Build for Tomorrow
Do not let the review end with a simple pat on the back or a list of tasks. Dedicate time to discussing future aspirations and career progression for each individual. Help your employees map out their long-term goals and identify the steps needed to achieve them. Most individuals will have an interest in opportunities for advancement. Explore your organization’s roadmap for career progression and what milestones they need to reach for the next step. Not only does this clarify their opportunities within the company, but it also demonstrates your investment in their future, motivating them to continue exceeding expectations.
Performance reviews do not have to be dreaded formalities. By embracing these forward-thinking strategies, CEOs and top leadership can turn them into dynamic catalysts for growth, engagement, and ultimately, organizational success.
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