One of the most common challenges HR managers face is coming up with ways to improve performance reviews.
The problems associated with this particular aspect of workforce management have been well-publicized, and many businesses are looking for innovative approaches that will help them make the process less painful and more beneficial for everyone involved.
So what practical steps and changes can you introduce to stop your employees from dreading their performance reviews?
Make reviews specific to the role
It's essential that any employee taking part in an appraisal of their performance feels the procedure is relevant and specific to them. It’ll be instantly obvious - especially to experienced staff - if you're using the same questions and structure to evaluate the entire workforce, regardless of the differences that separate people and roles within the organization.
Taking a 'one-size-fits-all' approach will lead to individuals becoming disengaged and bored with the whole process. It’ll also give the impression you're more interested in ticking a box and simply getting the job done than actually learning about your people and helping them gain more satisfaction and success in their careers.
One way you can make performance reviews more specific is by creating dedicated role scorecards to outline the exact responsibilities and scope of particular positions. This can provide a useful framework to ensure reviews clearly relate to certain jobs and the work and targets involved in them.
Employees are much less likely to dread their performance reviews if they feel confident the process will not only be relevant, but genuinely helpful to them.
Focus on achievements
Another effective way to make performance reviews specific to the individual, and also more positive and motivational, is by concentrating on people's achievements. This can help you sidestep a common problem that’s likely to have a negative impact on employee perceptions of appraisals: coming across as overly judgmental and punitive.
Members of your workforce are unlikely to go into their reviews with optimism and positivity if they're expecting to be criticized for times they’ve underperformed, rather than praised for their successes.
Failing to give sufficient attention to people's achievements and what they've done to help the business could be one of the key reasons why, only 14% of employees agree their performance reviews inspire them to improve, according to Gallup.
Managers should be sure to recognize times when workers have done well and either achieved or surpassed their targets. When people fall short of your expectations, look for a constructive way to explore the issue and help the individual address it.
Set motivational goals
It's certainly true that the HR department will sometimes need to use reviews to address underperformance, but there are ways of going about this that can provide motivation for the employee, rather than making them feel inferior or under attack.
One positive route forward is to work side-by-side with staff on coming up with a bespoke development plan that will help them improve in key areas where they're struggling. Rather than simply highlighting these areas, talk to employees about what they're finding difficult and how you can help them overcome their challenges.
You can then set ambitious (but not unrealistic) goals to provide a sense of purpose and motivation for the worker.
Taking this approach will also create opportunities to talk about individual goals for professional development, which can contribute to people's overall job satisfaction and fulfillment.
Give lots of feedback
Performance reviews shouldn't be all about the company collecting information on its workforce and analyzing data for its own ends. Individual employees have a vital part to play in the process - and in the success of the business as a whole - so they should have just as much to gain from it as their employer does.
It's vital, therefore, to use performance reviews as a chance to provide up-to-date, constructive feedback to your staff.
One approach worth considering is 360-degree feedback, which involves collecting information from a range of sources - including colleagues, direct reports and customers - to build up a thorough picture of how an employee is performing. This can be analyzed and, where appropriate, passed on to the individual.
Make it an ongoing process
Research has shown that nearly half of employees receive feedback from their manager just a few times a year, or even less. Such a low level of contact isn’t conducive to a happy workforce or to healthy, productive relationships between team members and their managers.
One potential solution to this problem is the ongoing performance review approach, which advocates moving away from the old-fashioned idea of annual appraisals in favor of regular performance management.
Introducing a weekly or monthly schedule that allows employees to regularly catch up with their managers and discuss their latest achievements and challenges, as well as their current goals, can make the entire process feel more relevant and responsive.
This can provide a valuable boost to working relationships, staff morale and, ultimately, the performance of the business.