Performance reviews allow you to praise employees, correct what they're doing wrong and discuss their growth and future at the company.
No matter how frequently (or infrequently) they occur, performance evaluations are nerve-wracking for both employees and their managers. A worker may not be thrilled about being scrutinized by the boss. Meanwhile, managers face a lot of pressure to present both the positives and negatives of their employees' work and behavior in a respectful, professional manner. When managers need to review serious problems, evaluations can be especially stressful.
As a manager, giving your staff constructive feedback is a crucial part of ensuring that your organization operates smoothly. Performance reviews give you the opportunity to praise employees for what they've done well, correct what they're doing wrong and discuss your vision for their growth and future at the company. But too often, bosses struggle to effectively communicate their thoughts in a way that doesn't overwhelm the employee during the review.
BusinessNewsDaily spoke with human resources administrators, managers and executives, and based on their responses, we've compiled a list of the best tips for writing and conducting an effective performance review. [What is Performance Management?]
Make it comprehensive
An effective performance review covers all the bases concerning an employee's work. It shouldn't be all positive or all negative; a healthy balance of both is necessary to help your staff members evolve in their roles.
"A formal evaluation needs to have a few key components," said Don McIver, COO of 5W Public Relations. "The feedback should be relevant and specific, with examples for both the good and bad points. Employee strengths should be acknowledged, and corrective action needed in weak performance areas should be identified."
In addition to highlighting strengths and weaknesses, a review should establish performance goals for the upcoming year, and discuss the employee's role as part of a collaborative team. Bill Peppler, managing partner of staffing firm Kavaliro, also advised providing employees with a formal objective of the evaluation beforehand.
"A good manager will explain the purpose of the review, what they will go over and how frequently performance reviews are given," Peppler said. "This manages employee expectations and helps everyone involved be more fully prepared for the meeting."
Recap regular, informal feedback
Employees' annual or biannual evaluations should not be the only time they receive feedback about their performance. While there's no need to call a meeting for every individual issue that comes up, there shouldn't be any surprises when workers read their reviews from the boss.
"Employee feedback should not wait for an annual review, but [should] be given throughout the year as performance issues, good or bad, arise," McIver told BusinessNewsDaily. "A formal evaluation is ideally a recap of things that have been addressed during the year."
When there is a problem with an employee's habits or actions, address it as soon as possible after the incident occurs to avoid bringing that tension into the evaluation. If an employee's behavior (positive or negative) doesn't warrant immediate feedback, make a note of it and use it as a reference point during a formal or informal performance discussion.
Give honest, constructive criticism
It's never easy to tell an employee what he or she needs to improve, but giving constructive criticism about your workers' performance is an important part of the review process. Be as clear and direct as possible about any shortcomings and mistakes, but also take the time to provide solutions to those problems.
"Fully explain what the issue is, and then expand on options for improvement," Peppler suggested. "If you see a problem in an employee's work, then he or she should have a solution to how it can be fixed. Also, let employees know where this improvement can take them, such as a promotion to a management role."
If suggested improvements are related to reaching a professional goal, be sure to let employees know what you plan to do as a manager to help them achieve that goal.
Encourage discussion about the review
Most managers agree that it's frustrating when an employee has nothing to say in response to his or her performance evaluation. You don't want your staff to fight you on every point, but you also don't want to be met with silence if you have suggestions. Push your employees to give you feedback on the issues you raised. The written review should be a brief but direct overview of discussion points, making for a more nuanced face-to-face conversation; this calls for employee feedback.
If the conversation starts to get heated and you want to avoid saying something that you might regret, you can try diffusing the tension with humor. You can then continue a more serious discussion later via email or in another meeting, after the employee has had a chance to cool down.
End on a positive note
Always end performance reviews on a positive note. Regardless of what else was discussed during the evaluation, encouraging your employees and letting them know you appreciate what they do for the company will give an added boost to a primarily good review, or lift their spirits after a somewhat negative evaluation. Positive phraseology and reinforcement can go a long way in giving workers the confidence and drive they need to perform their jobs even better.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.