Monthly Feature June 2010

Motivate Your Staff! With regular performance reviews.

How often do you have "time out" with your staff for a one-on-one discussion of important work issues that might not otherwise be addressed? If you are like most business managers or owners, probably nowhere near often enough.

But why bother at all? What benefits do performance reviews or appraisals really have?

According to James Squires, Managing Director of Austin Banks, “Appraisals offer a valuable opportunity to focus on work activities and goals, to identify and correct existing problems and to encourage better future performance. Hence the performance of the whole organization can be improved if they are conducted regularly and consistently”.

So, if it’s a while since you’ve had a one-to-one with your staff, you might want to consider the following tips:

It’s not about the forms! Performance reviews are not about the forms. They are about the discussion and the shared understanding. Too many employers focus on filling in forms, clicking on websites and filing paper but this completely misses the point. Forms are essentially irrelevant - they just summarise the discussion and the outcomes. They are not an outcome in themselves. Focus on the person, the observable behaviours and the future goals and targets. Ditch the paper until the end of the review if that makes it easier to focus on the person. Then write down the action points at the end.

If the employee is surprised by what you say, you have failed. You will find this advice anywhere that offers quality guidance on conducting performance reviews. If you have done your job right since the last review and had regular update and feedback sessions with your employee they should know what you think of their performance. If they are shocked or upset by your feedback you need to address the communication issues that obviously exist. Remember the "no surprises" rule in between appraisals and they will be far more productive.

Link performance appraisals to the overall objectives of the business. Performance appraisals should never be conducted in isolation of the overall business direction. It is important to link each person's goals and objectives back to the business’ overall goals and objectives. Unless each person can clearly see how their job contributes to at least one part of the business success, then they may begin to wonder if their job really needs to exist and if they are adding value to the organisation.

Keep your criticism constructive. If you tell your employee that she is “sloppy”, she is not likely to take it well. But if you suggest that her organizational skills could benefit from some improvement, she’s likely to be more receptive. Remember that details matter - if you give her specific, realistic examples of how she can be better organized, you’ll both enjoy better results. Listen attentively. If an employee needs support to do her job better, hear what she’s saying and look for ways to help. Does she need more training? Can you help her get it? Focus on finding ways to solve problems instead of labouring on the fact that there are problems. And when you talk about areas for improvement, never compare one employee to another. You can compare an employee to his or her own prior performance or to company standards, but if you pit your employees against each other, you’re asking for trouble! 

Set new goals. Many managers overlook this step, or wrap up the meeting with a casual “Keep up the good work.” Don’t fall into that trap. Take some time— during the preparation stage—to write out what you hope employees will accomplish before the next review then discuss this with the employee and agree some deliverables and action points against which future performance can be measured.

All too often the performance review is an ordeal that is loathed, feared, and rescheduled until it can't be put off any longer.  But successful employers have got to grips with such emotional reactions and recognize the performance review for what it is: one of the best tools for creating a motivated workforce! By following some of these guidelines and making sure your reviews are regular and consistent, you could well be on the way to reaping the benefits in your organisation. If you have never conducted a performance review before, don’t despair - there are many good appraisal tools available on the internet to help you get started. A quick Google search should put you on the right track. Good luck!

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