For those of you on an annual cycle, it is performance review time. To us consultants, it’s also known as the largest black hole period of the year (we can’t do that now, it will interfere with reviews!).

Annual performance reviews have their detractors and those who provide tips to make them more palatable. There’s also the school of, “hold your nose and do it so we have documentation in case you want to fire someone.” The purpose of this blog entry is not to rehash these arguments.

This recent article puts an interesting spin on the performance review process. Specifically, it identifies the three aspects of communication that are part of it:

  • Thanks for being here!
  • Here’s how you can improve.
  • This is how you stack up against my expectations of you (and the rewards that go with it).

Research does tell us a lot of things about the above. For instance, appreciation is a motivator, the best performers benefit the most from coaching, and most people do not like to be externally evaluated. How can we leverage this in the performance appraisal process?

Appreciation, when earned, should not be a yearly or quarterly occurrence. Recognize and praise good performance whenever you see it. If you wait for a formal review to do this, it is too far after the behavior occurred, so the praise is less reinforcing (though still appreciated).

Spend your coaching resources on the top 50% of your workforce. They are more likely to be open to the feedback, which is how they became top performers in the first place. However, the coaching needs to be frequent to be effective.

Delivering “the number” is performance is the most difficult aspect. Only sociopaths like giving poor performance reviews. If objective goals/standards were agreed upon, a person should have a pretty good idea about his/her performance throughout the year so, when “the number” is reviewed there shouldn’t be any surprises. Having said that, any performance feedback should also include reference to a goal as well.

Let’s face it—no one likes to get graded, unless s/he knows that it is going to be an “A”. But, documentation of performance is important for legal and fairness reasons. If you are clear on the three aspects, you will make the process a bit more effective. You might even close some of the black hole.

Feel free to share your performance review thoughts, stories, etc. in the comments.

For more information on getting more performance out of your review process, contact Warren at 310 670-4175.