With few exceptions, lifetime loyalty to a single business is a thing of the past. Today’s workforce needs a developmental career path — one which helps them build toward a well-rounded future and shows they are genuinely valued by their employer.
And if they don’t get it, they’ll leave.
If you survey employees today, many will say the results of their annual performance reviews come as a shock. A reasonable percentage will even start looking for new work following an evaluation they perceive as unfair.
So what can you do? How do you adapt your performance reviews to this modern workforce? You need to get the best performance out of each employee while still appreciating them as a person. While traditional evaluations aren’t great at this, transforming your process is much easier than you might think.
Below, we’ll start with three solid pieces of advice to help you review your performance review process.
#1: Begin regular, scheduled check-ins
Many employees are hit hardest by the fact that their managers just don’t know them or understand their overall contribution to a team. Nobody wants to be just a number.
The answer is a regular check-in with the members of your team.
Surprise surprise, building an effective performance review begins at the start of the year, not the end. At least twice a month you should be sitting down with staff, one-to-one, and working on their professional and personal development. If you can do actual coaching sessions to help them overcome specific challenges, even better!
So why do it?
The contact time is minimal, but it shows your team that you care about both their personal and professional development. In terms of the annual review, regular check-ins help you appreciate the contribution your team members are always making.
Perhaps most importantly, your team will have a specific date and time where they can explore issues without fear of reprisal. Rather than investigating an action in nine months’ time, you can help address it today.
#2: Make it a conversation
Many managers get bogged down in the process of performance reviews: schedule meeting, book room, fill in form, talk to colleagues, quick discussion, submit form. Sometimes they forget it’s a real person on the other side of the desk.
By focusing too heavily on the process, managers can forget about the outcome.
Annual performance reviews should be about delivering honest, constructive feedback which helps the team member with the following year’s work. Nothing during this conversation should be a surprise. Thanks to your regular check-ins, you will have already touched on the main development points and goals, if informally.
The evaluation is the time to expand on those major development areas and consider the employee’s long-term goals and and desired position within the company. You can make this process much easier by framing it as a simple conversation. Both parties should have a voice and the discussion should look at everything from both perspectives.
So why do it?
Engaging in a two-way conversation stops employees being on the defensive (a major problem with traditional evaluations) and keeps things honest and personal. There’s no tension in an open conversation. When encouraged to speak their mind on any of the points discussed, the employee feels more comfortable challenging their manager and being challenged in turn.
#3: Aim for ‘radical candor’
When delivering feedback and analyzing performance, it’s very hard to find that ‘sweet spot’ somewhere in the middle of being human, being honest, being realistic, and doing what’s best for the company and the employee.
All feedback should be fair and constructive, but some managers are too generous because they don’t want to be perceived as callous. Conversely, while evaluations are a time to challenge the employee on their professional development and contribution, some managers go too far and appear cold or uncaring.
It’s a minefield.
The concept of Radical Candor means “the ability to Challenge Directly and show you Care Personally at the same time”. It’s that correlation of professional development and personal growth. Today, your employees need both.
Challenge Directly means not mincing your words when it comes to problems and shortcomings. While no one likes to hear them, it’s crucial to challenge your employees so that they can improve professionally. But Care Personally means showing empathy, offering advice, and explaining everything in human terms.
So why do it?
You don’t need to use the ‘Radical Candor’ format, of course; it’s the principle that matters. Performance reviews have a negative reputation because too frequently we slip up: we challenge without caring, rattling off a list of hurtful inconsistencies or issues with the person’s work.
Finding this sweet spot means you can address the biggest issues, praise your employees’ main strengths, and do it all in a positive and non-threatening way.
In short, it means getting the best out of everyone.
Ready for more? Check out Part II, coming soon!