Nail Your Team’s Performance Reviews
Expert tips from our #charliechampions.
They’re necessary, useful and valuable, but let’s be honest…that’s never stopped anything from also being a total pain to get right! Well-executed performance reviews should sit at the heart of your team management strategy, but it’s all too easy for them to become an afterthought. The good thing is that even if you’ve let things slide, they’re one of the easiest things to get back on track.
We spent a morning with our #charliechampions – a select group of HR/people experts and insiders from all types of industries – to pick their brains about the details that make a performance review work for everyone.
Be flexible with your scheduling
Setting quarterly reviews with rigid expectations won’t work if your business is shifting fast. If your team is agile, their review process needs to be as well. Work to a calendar that reflects the natural cycles of your company.
You can start by taking a good look at the natural ebb of your company workflow. Are your teams working on fixed length projects? Do you review your strategic goals quarterly, or biannually? Personal reviews should reflect this structure, so your team feels that their personal goals and needs are being heard and incorporated into your wider company priorities.
Divide up reviews by type
Split out behaviour-based and skills-based performance reviews. Behavioural reviews can be frequent and short, tying into your wider feedback process. This ensures there’s nothing in the way of your team member performing at their best before any problems have had a chance to bed in. Brief, frequent touch points can have a transformative effect on your relationships with individuals within your team.
Then, once a month (or even biannually) take a session to focus in on skills-based feedback, so individuals have time to develop, shift and reflect on their professional goals. This is a great excuse to get out of the office, find a quiet place and talk openly and honestly. While it’s worth taking short notes during both, this type of review could make use of a self-assessment matrix to track skills development and competency over time.
In both cases, make sure you’re listening for 90% and feeding back for 10%, and always confirm the agenda at the top of the session. Keeping to your allocated time and structure will keep reviews enjoyable, efficient and focused on the individual.
Keep money off the table
Whenever possible, separate salary discussions from performance reviews. You don’t want your team to withhold information for fear of it affecting their compensation.
Saying that, you should make sure to have clear and straightforward conversations about what progression looks like. Understand that most team members will want to gather evidence of their own achievements in order to petition for a salary increase, unless you’ve got another process already in place (i.e. flat raises for everyone after a set amount of time). Even if you don’t want to or aren’t able to offer salary increases, it’s still important to acknowledge personal development and individual achievement, and not to become frustrated if your team expects this.
**Stay in touch **
Try using a tool like Culture Amp or Motivii to survey your team outside of their reviews. Performance reviews are a good snapshot, but sometimes issues can get forgotten (or worse, build up into something worse) when they aren’t caught in the moment.
Platforms like Idea Drop are also an excellent and open-ended way to solicit general feedback. You could even try asking your team to make their own suggestions for what a useful review process would look like for them. Ask your team what they need to succeed, and you might be surprised by the result.
Show your cards
When doing a performance review with anyone at management level, be transparent with the results. This sets a tone of openness and honesty, and may counteract any frustrations that the wider team are feeling if they know that issues are being tackled.
You can either store a summary in a secure (but accessible) place, such as in a Google Doc, or your leadership team could consider sending around a brief email. Although this might feel like an act of oversharing, you’ll be amazed by the effects of being truly open and honest with your team. This is true leadership by example.
Set clear expectations
Never let “I haven’t got time” be an excuse to skip a session. Be up front about the maximum (and minimum) amount of preparation you expect your team to do, and be sure to give individuals plenty of warning before their review session.
Many of the HR managers we spoke to recommend taking a morning once a quarter to put reviews into everyone’s diary well in advance. If you have time, it’s also worth sending an email out at the start of the week with expectations, and even a few reminders from their last session.
Get it down on paper
Track everyone’s positive and negative behaviours in spreadsheets, so when it comes to preparing for their review your thoughts are already in one place. This is a huge time saver, and keeps everything tailored. Depending on your permission level, you can also keep private notes on an individual’s CharlieHR profile. They won’t be able to see these, but you can refer to and update them quickly and easily.
It’s a good idea to keep a working document for the session itself, and to make sure that there’s somewhere the team member can refer to with their goals and targets for the next period. Consider sending a brief summary email after the review, or even ask your team member to send you one with their takeaways.
Hand over the reins
Let each individual set their own goals and personal/career development plans, so they can really take ownership of their progress.
In a longer session, you should always leave some time to talk about their aspirations, career trajectory and even life outside of work. No one is 100% focused on their job, so use this as an opportunity to create a personal connection, in order to better understand their unique challenges and strengths outside of the office. On more than one occasion we’ve heard of a secret passion, hobby or skill being revealed during a review which has then been applied to enrich the team.
Spread some love
A performance review is the perfect time to help an individual feel valued. Make sure that you split your time completely evenly between everyone, regardless of their position within the business. When you’re helping an individual understand what it takes to succeed, everyone should be on an even playing field.
It’s the oldest trick in the book, but where possible – and unless you’re making a strong disciplinary point – deliver negative feedback sandwiched between positive observations. The mark of a true advisor lies in your ability to match perceived weaknesses with the individual strengths that can be used to creatively overcome them. Challenge and help the individual to practically problem solve, and never just leave an observation hanging.
Make someone an example
Demonstrate what great preparation for a performance review looks like by getting those who do it well to share what works for them. This can be your leadership team, or anyone who is making an effort to demonstrate your company values in the way that they approach their individual development.
Frame performance reviews as a fun and fruitful opportunity to get the best out of your team, and watch the benefits come rolling in.