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Performance reviews shouldn’t be an event

 29 March 2016     Donald Cooper 

In most businesses, performance reviews don’t take place and when they do, they’re dreaded by both parties and generally ineffective. Here’s a simple thought, treat and use performance reviews as a process, not a single annual event.

If your employee’s performance is good, why wait months to tell them? And. if their work is unsatisfactory, why let the non-performance carry on for months before mentioning it in a ‘scheduled’ performance review?

Everyone who has ever tried to train a dog not to poop on the carpet knows drawing this to the dog’s attention six months after the fact is ineffective and confuses the heck out of the dog.

So, discussions about expectations, commitments and performance as well as whether we’re winning or losing, should be ongoing and regular. Sports teams don’t wait till the end of the game to do performance reviews and check the scoreboard. They do it after every play, during half-time and during special ‘time outs’. It should be the same in business.

While working with a coaching client recently on this important subject, we created a list of six specific times when such conversations should take place. Here they are:

1. Discussions about standards of performance and behavior; culture and values need to take place during the job interview and orientation to get employees off to a clear start.

2. Discussion of – and agreement to – clear and specific performance commitments for each manager and supervisor relating to your annual business plan and their part in achieving it, including specific activities and initiatives, clear due dates and rewards, for each.

3. Throughout the year there needs to be frequent and ongoing follow-up and conversation about performance and progress, plus training needs or informal coaching, adjusting of priorities and activities as conditions change, plus acknowledgement, encouragement, ‘thank yous’ and ‘hugs’.

4. A conversation about performance and expectations, past and future is required when discussing wage increases, bonuses or other rewards. This will mostly be a conversation about their outstanding contribution but should also deal with specific areas that need improvement, what that improvement will look like as well as an agreement on by when that will happen.

5. Urgent and specific conversation when an employee has been involved in a serious breach of performance or the businesses code of conduct or ethics.

6. When an employee is being promoted to a new responsibility, have a conversation about specific performance expectations for that job and what additional training and coaching will be required. Many recently promoted employees – promoted because they were wonderful at their previous job – fail at their new job within 18 months because there was no discussion about specific expectations and no effective training, coaching and support was given for their new role. This failure hurts the business and can destroy careers and lives. And, that’s not the employee’s fault.

So, how might these six tips help you to have more regular, specific and helpful conversations about expectations, commitments and performance with each member of your team?

By the way, failure to deal with non-performance is one of the biggest problems in many businesses today. Who are the ‘non-performers’ on your team that need to improve or move on? And. what are you doing to deal with that?

Bonus tip: When speaking with an employee about the need to improve their performance or attitude in some specific way, the magic question to ask is, “By when can we agree that this will be done?” Agree on a clear and specific time by which the required improvement will take place and then follow up to ensure that it has been done.

Failure to acknowledge, reward and promote top performers is also a big problem in many businesses. When good people leave because they feel under-appreciated, you lose a major contributor, it costs you big money to find and train a replacement – and if they go to a competitor, it hurts you doubly.

So, everyone on your team is part of your value or part of your problem. What are you doing to reward and grow your ‘value’ people and to rescue or dismiss your ‘problem’ people? Ongoing ‘performance reviews’, combined with ongoing coaching, mentoring encouragement and recognition are much better than the traditional and ineffective annual performance appraisal ‘events’.

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This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.

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