by Quint Studer
Performance reviews get a bad rap these days. Employees dread them, vacillating between cynical eye-rolls and desperate last-minute bids to suck up to the boss before review time. Managers see them as an obligation to plow through before they can mark one more task off their endless to-do lists. And lately, prominent business journalists have gotten in on the act, not only questioning the relevance of reviews but suggesting that they’re actively harmful to morale and overall organizational results.
Are the naysayers right? Should the performance review be banished to the ash-heap of obsolete business practices?
Absolutely not. Performance reviews themselves aren’t the problem. It’s the way companies handle the review process that’s flawed.
Performance reviews are necessary. And when they’re done properly, people actually like them. I mean, employees want to know how they’re doing. They want to connect with their managers. And reviews give leaders an opportunity to measure performance results, reward great employees, and move not-so-great ones up or out.
That being said, many companies could stand to overhaul their performance review system. Changing your approach will not only make your reviews more effective, it can have a positive impact on company culture.
So what can you do to make your performance reviews really count? Here are a few guidelines:
• Think of them as a process, not an event. Let’s put the traditional performance review in context. It’s “business as usual” all year: Employees go about their work, managers go about theirs, and never the twain shall meet. Then suddenly, once a year, they do meet. That one encounter is expected to yield a productive meeting of the minds, followed by growth and progress on the employee’s part. It rarely works that way. The review is an aberration in the fabric of daily work life, so of course results are lackluster.
Leaders should be laying the groundwork for performance reviews all year long. I think leaders should practice weekly or even daily rounding for outcomes. In the same way that a doctor makes rounds to check on patients, a leader makes rounds to check on employees. The technique allows you and your managers to regularly touch base with employees, make personal connections, recognize success, find out what’s going well, and determine where improvements are needed.
Rounding is not about tossing out a casual “How are you?” and then walking off without waiting for an answer. It means asking specific questions in the right sequence: Do you have the tools and equipment you need to do the job? What is going well? What isn’t going well? Is there anyone who’s been particularly helpful to you that I should recognize? Always listen and write down your answers and then follow up—if you don’t do this last part, it negates all your hard work.
When you build your reviews on a foundation of rounding, they become meaningful. They’re the culmination of lots of mini-meetings. Neither party is surprised by what the other party says …