Tips: Preparing to Give a Performance Review

It’s time to evaluate your employees’ performance, and as with many important conversations, effective preparation is key.  Your first step should be to objectively reflect on each person’s contributions over the past year. Here are some tips:

  • It is easy to consider only the past few weeks when considering performance—a recent win or problem can flavor the conversation so be careful! Look back on emails and calendar items for the past year, as well as any accomplishment reports or metrics that capture an individual’s work.  These provide useful data to inform your conversation.
  • Consider not only the work completed, but also the general trajectory. Does the employee continue to expand new skills and take on new tasks, or has the work been steady state over time?  Either may be fine, but it is important to account for how much the person is stretching when evaluating performance—mistakes or misses should be viewed through different eyes when the employee is actively growing and taking risks.
  • What three things do you want the person to remember leaving the session? Consider the following categories of actions:  keep doing, stop doing, change what you are doing.  What behaviors do you want to encourage? Discourage? Tweak?  Give the person actionable feedback, and don’t forget the “why” to be clear on the desired impact.

You likely have some strong performers, some weak performers and some people in the middle.  When planning to talk with strong performers, consider other development options or opportunities you may want to discuss with the person during the conversation—as well as the strong outcomes you want to appreciate.

When planning to talk with poor performers, consider what your next steps will be. How direct do you need to be to motivate change?  Do you need to prepare the person for a possible change?  Prepare carefully, so you can be specific and action based.

For your people in the middle, getting a C performer to a B performance level can be a significant gain. Consider what you really need from them to move forward—focus on the tangible changes that are likely to lead to the greatest results, and then plan to check in regularly.

Performance evaluations can be stressful, but effective planning places you in the best position for an effective and engaging conversation.