Five Steps to Improve Employee Reviews

The end of the year is the traditional time for supervisors to sit down with employees to conduct performance reviews. But is anyone getting much out of this tried-and-true technique? Probably not if the manager is merely doing reviews by rote. Consequently, whatever input the employees provide in these sessions is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Better approach: Employee reviews may be more meaningful to both sides if they are handled in an effective manner. Of course, developing a better system for conducting reviews will take a little extra time and effort at first, but the results should be well worth it. And once you put these procedures in place, it should be easy to follow them year after year after year.

The following five steps can improve the process. When appropriate, incorporate these into your year-end reviews.

  1. Make your purposes crystal clear. All too often, employees aren’t exactly sure what the review is supposed to cover. For that reason, they tend to hold back. If pressed on a particular issue, they then become defensive or belligerent, or both. This is not only a waste of time for your employees, it is also a waste of your own time. On the other hand, if you establish an agenda before meeting with your employees, you are likely to accomplish a lot more.
  2. Keep it simple, stupid (K.I.S.S.). Usually, the most effective reviews are the ones that concentrate on a single purpose. The primary goal should be to try to help each employee realize his or her potential. Do not get sidetracked by peripheral issues.
  3. Offer constructive criticism in small doses. Employees will be turned off if you simply confront them with a laundry list of complaints. For example, do not wait until the review to tell an employee that he or she is spending too much time on personal business. Those types of problems should be addressed when they occur.
  4. Encourage an exchange of ideas. The review should not be a one-way street. By giving employees a chance to express their opinions, you are more likely to resolve any problems. Instead of dwelling on what has already occurred, focus on ways to improve the situation.
  5. Get yourself organized. Prior to the review, prepare a list of items you want to go over. Jot down a few notes under each heading. As you proceed, you can check off the items you have discussed to make sure you have covered the most important points on the list.

If all you do is run down an appraisal form, there is little benefit, if any, to be gained. Your employees will quickly recognize the difference between a perfunctory review and one with real meaning. For those who conduct reviews only once a year, make them count.