Giving performance reviews is more complicated than just saying "nice job" or "this needs improvement." If you want to inspire your employees to keep up with their work or do better, you'll need to dive deeper than the traditional review process.
In a 2016 study, employee engagement company TINYpulse polled over 1,000 professionals to find out what they thought about their reviews. The results showed that employees are generally dissatisfied with traditional performance reviews: 37 percent said they think the process is outdated, and 42 percent said they think managers leave important elements out of their review due to bias. Nearly a quarter of respondents even said they feared their performance review.
So how can you provide better performance reviews and connect more efficiently with your employees? Here's how to revamp your review process. [Need help writing performance reviews? Our tips can help.]
1. Embrace technology.
There are many apps that give employees and managers a chance to communicate daily assignments, track progress, provide feedback and incorporate other business aspects so that each member of the team is on track and on the same page.
2. Institute performance-related pay increases.
Sixty-four percent of the people polled by TINYpulse wanted pay increases tied to their performance reviews. Consider quarterly bonuses or increases to positively reinforce good work, as well as the employee's confidence that you value him or her as both an individual and a contributor.
3. Make reviews more frequent.
TINYpulse found that employees are in favor of more frequent reviews, so consider conducting evaluations at key milestones, such as at the end of a major project, or quarterly. Additionally, Amy Casciotti, vice president of human resources at TechSmith, said that reviews should not be a surprise, but rather a summary of continuous feedback.
4. Set milestones within the reviewing process.
Jacqueline Breslin, director of human capital services at TriNet, recommends having specific periods and deadlines for writing reviews, submitting reviews to up-line leaders for consideration, and delivering them to employees.
Collecting informal feedback
When giving informal feedback, managers should avoid general comments and instead cite specific examples.
"Those details prevent critiques from sounding vague or giving the impression that the reviewer has not been paying attention to the employee's performance, both actions that can cause employees to feel resentful," said Breslin.
The TINYpulse survey found that more than a quarter of respondents would like to have co-workers involved in the review process. To provide ongoing feedback from multiple sources, collect and share a "crowdsourced" review from other staff members, said Eric Mosley, CEO and co-founder of employee recognition and rewards solution Globoforce.
"It harnesses the wisdom of the crowds to give accurate and specific feedback on individual performance, and it will harness the power of data analysis to connect performance to profits," said Mosley. "More than anything, it continuously drives company behavior toward a deliberate, strategic culture."
To avoid conflict, Breslin advises to keep feedback from co-workers anonymous.
Implementing written evaluations
If positive comments aren't phrased well, they can sound trite and insincere, and suggestions might sound too critical. The words you choose matter. Casciotti said to "be as clear, direct and as specific as possible" so your employees understand exactly what you're telling them and what you want from them.
Richard Grote, author of "How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals" (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), said that instead of using terms such as "good" or "excellent" in a review, employers should opt for more measurement-oriented language. In an interview with Hcareers.com, Grote noted that action words – such as "excels," "exhibits," "demonstrates," "grasps," "generates," "manages," "possesses," "communicates," "monitors," "directs" and "achieves" – are more meaningful.
Ken Lloyd, author of "Performance Appraisals & Phrases for Dummies" (For Dummies, 2009), offered a range of words and phrases managers could use for each type of employee responsibility:
- Quality and quantity of work: accuracy, thoroughness, productivity and goal attainment
- Communication and interpersonal skills: teamwork, cooperation, listening, persuasion and empathy
- Planning, administration and organization: goal setting, prioritizing and profit orientation
- Leadership: accessibility, responsiveness, decisiveness, collaboration and delegating
- Job knowledge and expertise: knowledge base, training, mentoring, modeling and researching
- Attitude: dedication, loyalty, reliability, flexibility, initiative, energy and volunteering
- Ethics: diversity, sustainability, honesty, integrity, fairness and professionalism
- Creative thinking: innovation, receptiveness, problem solving and originality
- Self-development and growth: learning, education, advancement, skill building and career planning
Performance review samples and templates
Examples and templates of performance evaluations can be found on the following websites:
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks, Nicole Fallon and Marci Martin.