Performance review time is here, and with it, much of uncertainty in the air. Naturally so, because performance review discussion is an important career milestone for employees and managers, the intent being to achieve the common goals laid out at the outset and also in the future. To make the post-appraisal discussion a productive one, preparation at both the employee as well as manager-end is of paramount importance. Here’s how managers can do their bit in facilitating a successful post-appraisal phase.
The contemporary nature of performance reviews
Whether the performance review discussion is part of an annual/semi-annual performance management process or a frequent check-in, managers must understand that the supervisor-employee relationship has shifted from an authoritative to a participative nature. To achieve the goals of individual and organizational success, it is important to have a two-way dialogue based on honesty, openness, transparency, and growth. Managers must let go of the “tutoring” mindset, and be open to participative conversations with employees. At the same time, employees must own up accountability for their behaviors and actions. Managers may not be skilled to deal with difficult performance conversations, or they often shy away due to non-confrontational attitude. Managers must take on people-responsibility head-on, and give priority to molding the team, the right way. Hence, preparing for the post-appraisal conversation becomes critical.
Manager’s checklist for post-appraisal:
Before the review discussion:
- Schedule the meeting: Dedicate a slot for the meeting, in a quiet place without any distractions. Prepare your frame of mind such that you are receptive to open dialogue with your employee. Schedule the meeting within a reasonable time-frame post-appraisal, to ensure the maximum impact due to recency.
- Review the employee information: Understand the employee’s professional and personal details. Review the job description, professional goals, past performance, past feedback (but don’t be biased), career aspirations, tenure, ongoing and past projects, education, experience, etc. Go through the self-evaluation or 360-degrees evaluation forms, if any, and plan conversations around it. Such thorough insights can help you probe the right questions and coach and counsel the employee in a personalized manner.
- Revise about the organizational direction: Get yourself up-to-date on the organizational and department strategy, vision, mission, values, etc. so that you can clearly communicate to employees, about the way ahead.
- Communicate the meeting details: Send a calendar invite, sharing the venue, timing, duration of the review discussion. Avoid rescheduling, or arriving late, since it may send the message that you are not interested in your team’s career or development.
During the review discussion:
- Create a favorable atmosphere: Make sure the meeting starts on time, and turn off any distractions. Employees are often anxious just before a review discussion, and an uncomfortable atmosphere may only hamper any open discussion.
- Invite opinions: Ask the employee to share his or her experience in the past year, and be open and attentive to the conversation. You can take a cue from the self-evaluation form and stakeholder feedback to steer the conversation, but let the employee do the initial talking. Ask the employee about contributions which are undocumented, and make a note of them to make the employee feel you care.
- Discuss details, step-by-step: Open your discussion by touching upon the role-expectations, and discuss achievements first. This sets a positive tone to the conversation and can make the employee more receptive to feedback. Then move on to what could have been done better. Check whether the employee had the resources to achieve the goals, and ask what obstacles he or she faced. Provide feedback in a direct manner with supplementary examples, asking the employee of how things could be done differently.
- Discuss development and growth: Learning and career growth are intrinsic benefits that help retain the right people. Discuss the person’s career and personal aspirations, and provide practically possible career path options, to help achieve those, wherever feasible. Employees value managers who are invested in their growth. Don’t forget to discuss both the short-term and long-term aspects. Do not make false promises, only outline the options which are genuinely possible.
- Negotiate, but draw the line too: As you deep dive into the goals and agree upon the way ahead, aim to raise the bar, and lay out expectations clearly, by defining or fine-tuning the way ahead. Some goals can be negotiated upon, but remember that it is important to keep raising the bar so as to elicit and sustain high performance. In case the discussion is not going as envisioned, do not hesitate to draw the line and exert authority, firmly, yet gently. It is important for employees to be clear on what is expected of them, so as a manager you should provide a reality check.
- Prepare to receive feedback: Ask the employee for any feedback that he or she may have. This helps generate trust and paves the way for a smoother working relationship.
- Thank the employee: Thank the employee for his or her valuable contribution to the organization, and wish success for a brighter future in the right direction, which has just now been laid out. Decide on a follow-up meeting to continuously review progress. Ending the discussion on a positive note will leave the employee motivated to work afresh on the new direction.
After the review discussion:
- Chart out the discussed plan of action to improve performance in the coming appraisal cycle. Outline SMART goals and mutually agree on how those will be achieved.
- Document the discussion details and outcomes in the performance review system, so that continuity remains.
- Relook at, and modify the job description for the role, in conjunction with HR.
- Reassess and assign resources required, if feasible.
- Sign off the final review form with the employee, and route to the higher authorities for comments and sign-off.
Apart from role discussions, employees like to stay informed about the organizational strategy and direction. While the one-time appraisal process shall happen, it is important to provide continuous insights into the organization’s or department’s direction, strategy, goals, etc. When employees are aware about how their roles roll up into a bigger picture, they are more likely to be engaged and go the extra mile. The “Why”, along with the “What” and “How” is a very important motivator to elicit high performance from modern-day employees. Managers must, therefore, hone their people skills significantly to motivate their employees to be their best selves.