At their best, performance reviews should be the start of a two-way dialogue that will last the entire year. Here are some tips:
- Acknowledge that the performance review— while important— is a moment in time over the course of a year. One conversation is unlikely to change the course of history, so decide what groundwork to lay, and be prepared to return to those points on a regular basis moving forward.
- Many factors, both personal and professional, impact the performance of a long-time employee. Keep your focus on overall impact and the general trajectory over time.
- Give frequent informal feedback through quick check-ins after meetings or projects. This should include some comments about what went well, and what could benefit from a course correction, with the reason for the course correction.
- Honestly acknowledge what the employee can control—and consider the organization’s or team’s role in either supporting or detracting from the person’s success. Consider the roadblocks that the person may need your help to remove over time.
- In addition to informal conversations, schedule follow-up conversations on a regular basis—monthly or quarterly—depending on the performance level and pace of work. For each of these, have a plan for the conversation, be on time, schedule enough time and minimize interruptions and distractions.
When receiving feedback in a performance review setting, here are some tips:
- Be objective about your own strengths and weaknesses, and how they may be impacting your own work and the relationship. Knowing yourself may help you hear feedback in a different way.
- Being honest and open about what you yourself plan to do differently moving forward—your vulnerability is likely to cultivate vulnerability and honesty in others as well.
- Listen, listen, listen. Many employees long for more feedback about their work, and for some, the review is the only time they get it in a formal way. Listen, ask questions, and then follow-up so that the conversation can continue after the meeting.
Both raters and receivers are vital partners in the performance appraisal discussion, and both players have the power to make it a richer conversation. Prepare, listen, and connect!