Published: Dec 05, 2018

Caught cramming the week before performance reviews are due? Feel like you’re struggling to remember everything that happened in the last year? Yearning to provide meaningful feedback, but not able to find the words? Canceling all your meetings so you can find time to focus? For managers that are either new to performance management, do it infrequently or just aren’t comfortable with providing feedback at all…I’d venture to guess those are some of the things weighing on them as a lot of us are in the throes of performance review season.

performance management system

Regardless of the seat you’re in, everyone dreads the annual performance appraisal. In addition to communicating the appropriate timeline, take the opportunity to give your managers a few ideas on how to get started with formulating their review so they’re putting together something meaningful that is a constructive, accurate reflection of the employee’s year. Here are some of my recommendations to get managers off on the right foot.

Start to gather data.

Setting effective performance targets typically starts by cascading goals from the company’s strategic plan for the year. When employees understand how their contributions are making an impact on the overall success of the organization, they tend to be more engaged in their jobs leading to retention, growth and productivity. Managers can get a quick refresher on what the performance targets for the year were by reviewing the goals established in their performance management system. Best practice is to keep these goals at the forefront of conversations throughout the year so there are no surprises in the end, but it’s always good to see what was documented in the tool as a starting point. Performance targets can typically be substantiated by a tangible outcome (i.e. sales targets were met, revenue goals were met, process improvements were put in place), so one of the first things managers should to do prepare is to start to gather data.

Think outside the box.

Not all performance management strategies should be created equal. Just because your employees may not fall within the typical talent pool that we think of when we think of performance management doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of some sort of feedback or performance appraisal. Different employee types (think front-line hourly employees, contingent workers or even gig/freelance talent) may require some creativity since their outputs on the job are a little different, but the feedback is important all the same. Performance indicators could be things like how reliable they were, if they showed up on-time when they were supposed to, if they were driven to do more for the company, how many overtime shifts they signed up for, the number of times they picked up open shifts or responded to shift swap requests, etc.

Don’t wait until the end of the year.

As a manager, performance and development should be a priority throughout the year. Dissimilar to performance goals, development goals sometimes are softer in nature, harder to measure and require time for reflection. Documenting things throughout the year is a simple action that can save a lot of time when performance season comes around. If you’ve noted progression in the moment it becomes easier to put together an articulate review with good, rich examples of performance and development. Your performance management system should give you the ability to document ongoing feedback throughout the year, but if not, an easy hack is to create folders (either in your email program or your desktop) and save examples of work, feedback you’ve given employees or notable outcomes.

Come to your own conclusions.

Peer feedback and self-reviews are essential components of an effective performance management process. Every manager should have the means to gather feedback from the individuals that their employees have interacted with throughout the year and every employee should have the opportunity to advocate for themselves and their successes throughout the year. Food for thought, as peer reviews and self-reviews are being returned, it is hard to not to read what is being provided. Try to hold off on jumping right in! Make sure you are well down a path with your own written review on your employee before you start to dive into what peers are saying. In an ideal world, peers are validating a lot of the same things you are noting in their performance reviews already. You just want to make sure that what others are saying doesn’t influence your own perspective on the review so make sure you get a head start on yours before you read peer feedback and the employees own self-review. You can always go back and tweak.

Regardless of the performance cycle at your company, it’s always good to keep these things top of mind throughout the year with your managers. The more you can do to support them in their effort to give meaningful feedback to employees, the better off your company will be from the perspective of retention, engagement and the overall employee experience. Putting relevant tools and data at the core of your approach enables managers to continuously assess and coach employees which ultimately helps nurture growth and develop top talent.