Performance reviews do not tend to have that great a reputation. A lot of employers and employees think them unnecessary and ineffective. At school, it was of course worth tracking progress on an annual basis as every year each pupil would move up a grade. At work, it simply does not work like that. An effective manager should be aware of the performance of each of their employees at all times – not once a year.
However, an annual ‘catch up’ meeting can be a highly effective one – just as long as employers learn to ask the right questions. A performance review should be less a review of the employee’s performance, and more of review of an employee’s potential performance going forwards. That way, both employer and employee will learn how both can get the best out of each other.
It all starts with asking questions that might actually have useful answers …
What have you achieved this year that you are most proud of?
Employees are often nervous at the start of an interview, and nervous people tend not to be forthcoming. Therefore, you should start things off by giving your employee the chance to talk about themselves, and in a positive vein.
Where would you most like to improve?
You’ve probably got a few ideas on what you’d like your employee to improve upon. If they are aware and accepting of their weaknesses, then it will be less of a struggle for both of you to work together to make improvements. If you can get an employee to admit that his punctuality is poor, for example, then you’ll meet less resistance to improvement than if they are in denial.
How can I help you to improve your performance?
If your employee is performing poorly then you – as their manager – are just as much at fault as they are themselves. It’s your job to get the best out of everyone who works for you, and everyone is capable of performing to the best of their abilities. Make sure your employee knows that it’s a partnership – you are working together in order to give them the best chance of succeeding.
Do you have everything you need to perform your role to the best of your ability?
Sometimes the employee is simply not to blame for a below-par performance – it’s the tools that they are provided with. People are often not forthcoming in blaming ‘tools’ for their difficulties, thinking it’s a failing on their part, or that they won’t be listened to. By identifying poor resources and improving them, then it can only improve the performance of your company as a whole.
Do you have any concerns going forwards?
Even the best manager cannot be omnipresent. Often, things slip beneath the radar – particularly small concerns that become overshadowed by ‘the bigger picture’. Asking this question during a performance review may uncover some important considerations that are currently being ignored.
A performance review is the ideal time to weigh up accomplishments, set new goals and pave the way to a greater chance of success. Ask the right questions, give honest answers, be open-minded and listen. What you learn could be invaluable.