Managing Performance - How To Conduct A Performance Review Right

Mark stumbled nervously into the darkened office. The door closed behind him with a faint click. A silhouette of a big desk and the man behind it loomed imposingly, seeming to fill up the room.

"Have a seat, Maaaaaark," Mr. Benson directed in a formal tone not used often for making small talk. "So, before we begin your annual performance review, is there something you'd like to tell me?"

OK, maybe performance reviews you've given in the past weren't quite as dramatic and intimidating as that. Then again, from the employee's perspective, the last appraisal may have seemed just as soul crushing.

Many employers use performance reviews as the time to discuss salary increases. Knowing that the boss is going to dredge up dirty laundry about a mistake made six months ago in one breath, and then discuss your salary increase percentage in the next breath, is a situation likely to turn employees into walking masses of anxiety.

Bad performance review procedures can leave employees feeling stressed out and employers feeling exasperated. With once a year reviews, lost productivity is a common problem since the company virtually shuts down as all employees go through the performance review process.

Some employers use the annual review as the ONLY time to discuss performance issues with employees. Employees wait months to find out they did something they shouldn't have done. Meanwhile, employers don't nip problems in the bud and can miss out on major opportunities for improvement.

Effective performance review procedures don't come into place without careful planning.

Here are 3 tips to remember:

  1. Annual Performance Reviews By Themselves Don't Work - Most employees want immediate feedback when they do something wrong, and especially if they do something right. Managing performance is about making sure employees are effective on an ongoing basis. Having regular monthly, weekly, or even daily, discussions with employees about what they are doing well and where they can improve is critical to effectively managing performance. A once a year meeting can certainly be used to summarize performance from the previous year, but there really shouldn't be any surprises at that meeting because all issues have already been discussed during the year.

  2. Have A Normal Dialogue - Have regular, informal, ongoing discussions with employees to find out what's happening with them. Have a normal, relaxed conversation. That way, when you do go into serious negotiations over salary or position, it's not an anxiety-filled exercise. After all, it's supposed to be a performance discussion, not an investigation.

  3. Look Forward, Not Just Backwards- Use a performance review meeting to discuss not only your observations of past performance, but also to set goals and targets for the upcoming month, quarter, year or whatever time period you need to consider. Discuss areas in which the employee wants to develop to advance their career, and how the company can help them achieve that. Talk about how the employee's position supports overall company objectives and the part they play in helping the company succeed.

Performance discussion meetings are a two-way conversation. Employers need to talk with employees about current projects and achievements, ask the right questions, and provide constructive feedback. Employees need to use the meeting as an opportunity to discuss the support they require or to make suggestions for improvement at the company.

Regular and effective performance discussions can provide the following benefits:

  • Work Gets Done - When performance reviews are built into your company's regular processes and procedures, it's much easier to maintain workflow.

  • Staff Feel More Comfortable - Employees who maintain good communication with regular feedback from their manager are less stressed. They can focus on their jobs.

  • Performance Improves - By providing regular feedback, employers ensure that employees perform optimally and, ultimately, help the company function better overall.

Managing performance is an essential function for anyone who has employees reporting to them. Managing performance effectively inspires employees to be top performers.

Cissy Pau is Principal Consultant of Clear HR Consulting Inc. (

Cissy's winning track record of more than 12 years in HR management has earned her a reputation as a leading HR expert in the Vancouver and Lower Mainland business communities. This HR expert specializes in and is passionate about developing and implementing practical HR policies, procedures and systems for companies experiencing growth and change. As an advisor and partner to business owners and managers on strategic and tactical HR matters, Cissy relentlessly delivers HR solutions that are realistic, functional and easy to implement, while fully supporting the business' financial and operational goals.

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