Performance reviews remind me of blind dates. In both cases, I'd look forward to them, thinking they'd provide new dimension or insight into my life (social or professional). More often than not, however, I'd end up disappointed. They might not be a disaster, but I rarely felt I got any real value out of them. I considered them a chore and tried to avoid them when I could. That's easy enough to do with blind dates, now that I'm married. Not so much with performance reviews.
There's some comfort in the fact that I am not alone. As I wrote several months back, many experts don't think much of performance reviews. Perhaps not surprisingly, many managers don't like giving performance reviews any more than employees like receiving them.
That said, I don't expect performance reviews to go away any time soon. Managers can make them more productive, though, by following four tips included in a recent Harvard Business Review article:
- Make it more of an open, two-way dialogue. The article suggests managers should open by asking employees how they think they are doing. This won't be helpful, though, unless employees are prepared for this kind of an open-ended question. It's a good idea to have employees fill out some kind of a self-assessment form beforehand and to suggest they compile a list of projects or tasks they've been involved with that they'd like to discuss.
- Reduce subjectivity as much as possible. The article suggests ranking employees by comparing performance against their peers. Also consider using 360-degree evaluations, in which peers, subordinates and other managers contribute feedback. This kind of review was recognized as a Google strength by software developer Sergey Solyanik, who worked for both Microsoft and Google. Keeping a record of specific incidents or behaviors to support your evaluations is another suggested practice.
- Don't wait for reviews to offer feedback. It's easier to curtail undesirable behavior or encourage continued good behavior if you comment on a regular basis rather than waiting for the relatively rare formal review.
- Separate the review and developmental sessions. This will give employees time to think about your feedback and offer their own suggestions for improvement.