Continual Feedback Makes for the Most Effective Annual Performance Reviews

Most companies have annual performance evaluations, often timed to potential annual salary increases. It’s important that these reviews are conducted fairly across the workforce. Here are some tips so that reviews do not become a tool for possible discrimination, where they can open a company to potential legal liability.

  1. Establish objective criteria for success. It’s important that everyone in the company knows what it takes to succeed in their position. Don’t wait for a performance evaluation to inform employees of what is expected. Publish criteria for each job, both in general terms regarding company norms, and very specific requirements for the position at hand. Doing so in writing and verbally reinforces company expectations.
  2. Provide feedback throughout the year. An annual performance evaluation is not the time for a newsflash. Employers should be providing feedback, both praise and constructive direction, throughout the year. Again, this can be done both formally and informally, written and verbal. Open dialogue means that both manager and employee will be more successful communicating with each other when formal review time arrives.
  3. Focus on the positive as well as the negative. It’s key that positive contributions and strengths are acknowledged first. Every employee adds something to the workplace; if they don’t, they shouldn’t be there. When an employee is struggling, it can be tempting to dial in immediately on what needs fixing. Set the right tone for the most optimal conversation. Avoid putting anyone immediately on the defensive.
  4. Make observations, not judgments, and never assume. Focus on behavior, not character. Be sure to check your own bias as a reviewer. Remark on what you have observed (and hopefully you’ve kept records of both the positive and potentially negative behavior), but don’t immediately assume a cause. Engage the employee in conversation, rather than subject them to a lecture. Oftentimes, involving the employee in finding the heart of the matter, and then crafting a solution, is the best path to sustainable recovery for an employee who is not currently performing at his or her best.