One of the more tricky inter-office communications is delivering the results of a formal review process to employees.

How can you, as a manager, prepare and most effectively deliver good and bad information to your team?

Remember that the purpose of reviews is to make the company more successful.
Help change the prevalent mindset that the performance review process is done only for the purpose of determining bonuses. Evaluating employees, and the resulting bonuses, are merely a means to an end: to make the company more efficient and successful. In turn, the more profitable the company is, the better everyone will do individually.

Review sessions should not focus solely on indicating good or bad performance.
While performance certainly should be addressed, this is an ongoing conversation you should be having with your employees throughout the year as needed. And remember that it’s a conversation, not a lecture. 

  • Ask for input. During your individual review meetings, ask employees for input on how to improve processes and reduce inefficiencies — this shifts the conversation from a discussion about only their performance, and you will likely receive some great advice.
  • Set priorities. In addition to making sure your employees are doing a good job on given projects, check in to see that they are prioritizing well. For example, Jim might be doing a fantastic job color coordinating and re-organizing the filing system, but you really need him to be focused on sending invoices to customers. Reflect this in the review process by weighting or prioritizing responsibilities.

Provide feedback along the way.
Nothing you say in the annual or bi-annual review should be a surprise to your employees. Providing positive reinforcement, or constructive criticism, all year long should give them a sense of where they stand. Constructive criticism along the way gives employees the opportunity to correct course as needed before bad marks are inked into their permanent file.

Approach an employee about good, or bad, incidents sooner rather than later. If you speak to an employee immediately, your recollections of what happened will be better and they will be more likely to repeat a good behavior and less likely to repeat a bad one in the future. If you nip ineffective habits in the bud, you very well may avoid minor annoyances spiraling into difficult situations.

Meeting on a one-on-one with your employees on a regular basis (weekly or monthly) to talk about progress and priorities will also help make sure everyone is on the same page — or if not, it will help you change course more immediately.

Be Prepared.

  • Review job descriptions. Regularly review each of your employees’ job descriptions, goals, and anything else on which they’ll be graded. This will help ensure you’re looking out for the key indicators of job performance throughout the year.
  • Take notes. Perhaps the best way to prepare for a review is to keep notes about your employees’ behavior all year long. If an employee consistently exceeds their sales goals, take note. If an employee displays a pattern of arriving late to meetings, take note. Document good and bad habits. Record, especially thoroughly, any incidents, such as an altercation between employees.Providing a paper trail helps provide reminders and specific details to employees when it comes time for reviews. Again, nothing in the review should be a surprise — in addition to recording behavior, communicate your thoughts to employees along the way.
  • Conduct an informal 360-Review. Do any of your employees report to, or work closely with, anyone else within the organization? If so, take your own 360-review by talking with the appropriate colleagues. Talking to others will give you a more comprehensive view of your employee’s performance.

Encourage self-reflection.

Self-reflection could help drive a more meaningful conversation between you and your employee during the review process. How should you encourage it?

  • Insist on accountability. Ask that employees be prepared to give you an update of their priorities and progress at each of your regular meetings. They should also be prepared to give updates during staff and department meetings. This practice will help keep you in synch.
  • Ask for a list of accomplishments. Before each performance review ask your employees to provide you with a list of their top accomplishments during the last six months. This helps ensure that you will not overlook any significant achievements during the reporting period.
  • Go a step further and ask for a quick emailed update every month. Compiling this information will help you keep on track on a monthly basis, and will also help to make sure that you aren’t focusing your review on the month prior to the meeting, which is a common mistake.

Though it might seem counter-intuitive, do not ask your employees to review themselves using the same form you will use. Studies have shown that self-evaluations of this sort are unreliable. Further, asking an employee to fill out the same evaluation form gives the false impression that the review process is a negotiation.

Be honest.

Be kind and respectful, but don’t sugarcoat a problem.

Glossing over an issue doesn’t help your employee improve his or her career prospects in the long run, so don’t think that you’re doing them any favors by ignoring an issue that should be addressed. As important, dismissing an issue doesn’t help the company become better, which is the point to the whole exercise.

What are your tips?

Lauren Yates | Co-founder, ThinkWell Consulting
Lauren Yates
Principal & Co-founder at ThinkWell Consulting, LLC | lauren@thinkwellconsulting.com | + posts

Lauren Yates is a Principal and Co-founder of ThinkWell Consulting, LLC. Lauren is fascinated with the ever-changing nature of marketing and how the internet has empowered businesses and individuals to communicate directly with their audiences. Way back in grad school she wrote a paper on how “weblogs” would democratize journalism — that project is unavailable somewhere on a floppy disc. Here, she writes about consulting, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing.