Many review systems follow a rigid structure that forces managers to apply the same standards to all employees -- that's not very engaging at all. Performance reviews should not be cookie cutter. Our five-step performance review process follows a simple format and is loaded with feedback, focusing on what is going well and areas for improvement. Here’s what you need to do to implement it at your company:
Agree with the employee to a list of reviewers (15 minutes). This step is very important. You must get a list that will give great representation of different relationships and different viewpoints. The goal is to have about 12 to 15 people provide feedback and to have all of them respond.
Collect feedback (15 minutes). Your goal is 100 percent response, so you need to ask nicely, remind gently and ultimately push for a reply. The 100 percent is important so you do not have bias -- you agreed to the list, so be sure you have plenty of feedback from a variety of sources. You should also submit your own feedback during this part of the process so you aren’t influenced by the responses.
Create a feedback document (90 minutes). Be sure to block the full 90 minutes to create the feedback document in one sitting, as this will allow you to maximize your understanding of the comments. Read each reviewers' feedback in full, and categorize them into either positive responses or opportunities for improvement. You may need to slightly alter comments so that you protect anonymity -- the goal is to give exact wording of the feedback without identifying the source of the information.
First feedback meeting -- present and discuss (60 minutes). You now need to share the feedback. Don’t hand it out in advance -- the reviewee will likely read the negatives first. Instead, read it together, reflecting on strengths first. After identifying key messages in the strengths section, you’re ready to move on to opportunities. Be sure that you take time and allow them to process the review with you. Do not allow the employee to leave in an emotional state, and end on a positive view.
Second feedback meeting -- finalize review and agree on action plan (60 minutes). The first step in this meeting is to revisit the review -- ask the employee if they have any questions, or how they feel now that they’ve had it for some time. Then, review their action plan to ensure that it is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Ask them how you can help, and gain their commitment that they want to improve and see the value in doing so. Finally, set a plan for how you will review their progress on the plan on a monthly basis.
Performance reviews are meant to be thoughtful, providing a chance to look at someone’s overall performance from many perspectives. Four hours of a manager’s time will add value and improve engagement and performance.
Kevin Higgins is CEO of training organization Fusion Learning, recognized by Selling Power as one of the top 20 sales training companies in North America and as one of Canada’s Top Small and Medium Employers for 2014. He is the author of Engage Me: Strategies From The Sales Effectiveness Source.