NEW: Michael Phillips

Your employees’ performance is not something that can be improved with a yearly face-to-face. Engagement is an ongoing dialogue. Here are 5 tips…

Performance review myth

Michael Phillips

One intriguing trend that has filtered down from the HR departments of large organisations to small and medium sized enterprises is the use of formal “performance review programs” for employees.

The main concept is that you meet semi-annually or annually with your employees to review their performance from the previous six to 12 months. The employee will put down their achievements, opportunities to develop, and long-term plans, and their manager will analyse this and hopefully give them the incentive to put in another good year.

Well, excuse me for being cynical, but how anyone can assume to build relationships with their employees and harness their potential through a laborious, repetitive and impersonal process of analysing what their achievements have been for the past six to 12 months is mind-boggling.

In my experience with one of the “big four” accounting firms, the performance review process was a chore for the staff member, a source of pain for the manager, and more often than not involved an increasing content in the filing cabinet as reams of paper were ticked, discussed and analysed before being tucked into a folder until next year.

All the while, the employee left the meetings feeling dazed and confused and the managers wiping their brow wondering how they got away with only increasing the salary by 1% and writing the exact same feedback on each of the 15 employee feedback forms they completed.

Anyway, enough of why formal performance reviews are a farce, what about solutions for “a better way”.

For starters, in small to medium sized enterprises, we have the luxury of being able to develop and implement our own policies and procedures, specific to our particular business needs. We don’t need to follow a global program that is so broad, it’s relevance is lost when you get to the store manager in the warehouse who is wondering what a 360 degree review is and what relevance it has to despatching stock.

As such, the top five tips are as follows:

  • Informal is fine: No need to put someone under the spotlight and grill them in meeting room. Most of the time, a quite chat over a coffee or beer after work will get you far more real and relevant responses than the structured responses you get from planning a “formal” meeting for the previous 12 months.
  • KISS – keep it simple, stupid: All the employee really wants to know is “did I do a good job? Will I get a promotion/more money/new office?? What are my opportunities in this business?”
  • Listen and act on promises: Listen to what the employee has to say, write it down if you really need to, and if you make promises, act on them.
  • Make them shorter but more frequent: That’s right, you don’t need two hours of gibberish; just get to the point and be open and honest and try to meet with your employees as often as you can. This is the way to build trust and form a solid working relationship.
  • Motivate: These are critical times to employees (especially younger ones). This is the time to stimulate their drive and get them excited about the future. Share the plans for the business with them, make them feel like an important part of it and give them responsibility.



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