Blog: Three keys to transforming the performance review

Are performance reviews doing the trick, or are they an antiquated practice that needs an overhaul? HR professional Benjamin Patient shares his views.

Blog: Three keys to transforming the performance review

Let's talk about an antiquated practice that many companies and individuals have held on to since the Second World War: the annual performance review.
Whether you are an employee or supervisor, you are most likely familiar with the annual review process.  I can say from my personal experience that both supervisors and employees experience challenges when it comes to annual reviews. 
Quarterly financial reports are posted for stockholders to keep them informed on the company's recent performance in a relevant and timely way.  Why not perform quarterly evaluations of employees?  More frequent discussions about performance can improve employee motivation and engagement, resulting in a more productive and successful workforce. I recommend incorporating a few concepts to a quarterly performance review.
1. The employee
An important, and often forgotten, piece of the review is the employee.  So, include them in the process.   Many supervisors have a clear understanding of business goals.  Why not ask your employees for their goals, and help guide their goals to align with business goals?   This serves the purpose of attending to the employees’ motivational needs, and increases the possibility of improved performance and engagement.  
2. Collaborative goal-setting
With an employee, set 3 main goals that the employee will accomplish.  It is important to guide the employee in setting these goals, because they should be challenging, specific, measurable, and have a time frame.  Main goals need to be set to align with company goals and values. Each of the main goals should have key objectives that will be accomplished, and should carry a specified weight of the overall score, dependent upon the importance and challenge of the goal.  The supervisor can utilize a percentage for work that is above and beyond, or not identified by the goals.  
3.  Purposeful design
The design of an effective quarterly review program is critical to achieving the desired results.  It is essential to eliminate as much ambiguity as possible.  For example, I once received a review that stated something to the effect of "you have demonstrated good communication with your peers and supervisor," then on the notes for improvement stated "continue keeping open communication with your peers, and supervisor," and I was given an evaluation score of "Average." This basically gave me no direction, and no reason why I didn't get a better review score. 
I suggest eliminating adjectives as a rating score from performance reviews, and using a numerical score of 0-100, with 100 being the best.  Where both the supervisor, and employee rate the employee's performance against goals.  When the time comes to evaluate achievement, keep the focus on achievement.  Make it a conversation with the employee about what success they have made on their goals, where they experienced challenges, what was unexpected and what score they feel they have achieved.  Each supervisor should evaluate, and assign a rating for the employee’s performance.  This gives the supervisor the opportunity to learn how the employee is evaluating their own performance, and how much, or little, the employees’ perspective is aligned with that of the supervisor.  After evaluating accomplishments and challenges, the supervisor and employee can together plan goals for the next quarter.
The great thing about implementing a quarterly performance review is that you get the opportunity to know your employees better.  Through this, employees can get the individual attention and development they need, and any concerns or issues can be addressed.  It's a win-win.  
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