Five Tips To Improve Employee Performance Reviews

Last week, Mike wrote about Small Business and Startups: End-of-Year Mishegoss, 2011 Version. In that post, he briefly mentioned that the end of the calendar year is a good time to conduct employee reviews.

I’m not a fan of end-of-year employee reviews. If you waited until the end of the year to give feedback to your employees, you failed. But, when done properly, year-end employee reviews can serve an important purpose.

Here are five tips to help you improve your employee performance reviews.

1. Never wait until the end of the year – provide constructive feedback regularly. You should be providing regular constructive feedback to your team – and each employee you supervise throughout the year – on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I am not suggesting you set up regular meetings for such reviews. Make your reviews and constructive feedback informal, low key, and regular. The measure I use for myself: does each person on my team know how I feel about their work during the prior week? If I can’t answer that question, I failed.

If an employee isn’t contributing, fire them after giving them an opportunity to improve. Don’t wait until the end-of-year reviews – you’ll only make yourself and your team miserable.

2. Take time to prepare for each review and require each employee to prepare. If you’re going to invest your own time and your employee’s time for an end-of-year review, make sure you both prepare. Take the time to identify three to four strengths and three to four areas for improvement. Make sure you’ve identified concrete examples for each so that you can go into more detail when appropriate.

Also make sure your employees know in advance that you’ll ask them to talk about strengths and areas for improvement. No employee is perfect. No person is perfect. We all can improve – and it’s your job to help your employees identify areas for improvement.

3. Be brutally honest. I’ve seen too many people afraid to speak their mind at review time. That’s not surprising – we’re typically not even honest with ourselves – how can we be honest with others. But when it comes to reviews, candor is critical – and should work both ways.

But be careful not to make the review only about mistakes. You want each employee to walk away more motivated and excited about their job – talking only about mistakes and problem areas will not accomplish that goal.

4. Stay human. Fight the temptation to spend the time reviewing graphs filled with data or reading from a form. Review time is a time to talk. If you want people on your team to feel like human beings, treat them as human beings.

5. Listen more than you talk. Far too many people think review time is a time to talk. It’s not. Review time is a time to listen. The conversation should always be two-way. Invite your employees to talk about their accomplishments and struggles. Invite them to talk about their work and personal goals for the coming year. Ask them if they’re happy with the work they’re doing and the people around them (you’d be surprised how many people are afraid to ask this question). Ask them how you can do better.

What other tips can you add that can help improve employee performance reviews?