Doing Performance Reviews from Scratch

The mere thought of giving a performance review still makes some managers want to run for the hills, but fortunately, a greater focus on constructive feedback and proactive planning have made this annual or semi-annual exercise a lot less painful than it has been in the past.

Instead of feeling obligated to address the employee with a litany of her shortcomings, the twenty-first century manager uses the review as just one meeting in a series of regular get-togethers to chat about progress on previously determined objectives and devise strategies for meeting current challenges.

In this type of review, there are no surprises, because the supervisor and the report have been discussing these issues all along.  If your organization doesn’t already have a performance review methodology in place, here are some simple steps for preparing for and delivering one:

Make Sure It’s Legal

In her book Performance Planning and Appraisal, Patricia King says that performance appraisals must be based on a thorough analysis of the job, standardized for all employees, not biased against any race, color, sex, religion, or nationality, and performed by people who have adequate knowledge of the person or job.

Develop Documentation

If putting together an appraisal form from scratch, you’ll first want to devise a rating scale – perhaps from 1-4 with 1 being “outstanding” and 4 being “needs improvement.  Include established objectives and job responsibilities as well as the measured outcomes.  You can also incorporate a section for assessment of important qualities such as productivity, dependability, and initiative.

The last section should have room for the next year’s development plan, with accompanying objectives and actions, and the report should end with signature lines for both the manager and the employee.

Schedule the Meeting

Ideally, formal performance reviews should be held every six months, but if your employee is new, you may want to have one after the first 90 days.  Tell the report about the review, and instruct her on what she’ll need to do to prepare.

Organize Your Thoughts

Take out last year’s review, if there is one, and note what was achieved.  If the employee regularly interacts with others, think about soliciting their feedback as well.  In jotting down your thoughts, use concrete examples and address behaviors, not personality characteristics.   Expect her to broach the subject of career growth and compensation, and think about what you’ll say when the time comes.

Conduct the Review

Start off by explaining the purpose of the review (i.e. to exchange feedback and to discuss the status of previously determined objectives, outline new goals, and formulate or update the development plan). Let the employee comment on her performance first.  Listen carefully and then respond with a mix of constructive criticism and positive feedback.

If a disagreement comes up, try to remain objective and keep your defensiveness to a minimum.  Write down any agreements made about future goals and action plans while they’re still fresh in your mind.  Leave time at the end of the meeting for the employee to ask questions and air issues, and make sure she understands what will be expected of her over the next year.

Finalize and Sign the Appraisal

Add comments to your portion of the form based on the in-person discussion, and have the employee add her thoughts as well.  Both of you should sign the completed form and commit to revisiting the development plan every few months.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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  • http://blog.vigneron.biz Anthony Vigneron

    Hi Alexandra, 
    Some good practices here. You can also introduce a bit more fun and engagement all year-long with Rypple to focus on social goals and feedback.
    http://bit.ly/socialfeedback (disclosure: I’m just a big fan!)

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    @Anthony, thanks for the suggestion!  I’m actually a fan of Rypple too.

    [Reply]