As I have shared previously, the traditional annual performance review process is largely ineffective. Numerous studies have shown that the process has little or no impact on employee performance; often, they can even have a negative effect.
Companies, however, continue to require bosses and their direct reports to engage in the once yearly meetings, in an effort to analyze the past year in one or two hours. Supervisors attempt to recall what was done well and where improvements are necessary. All the while, both parties try to avoid criticism and judgements, hoping to not damage productive relationships.
A much more effective approach would be to suggest to replace annual performance reviews with monthly performance discussions. These regular meetings would be an ongoing opportunity for both parties to address topics such as workplace challenges and strategies. In my experience, these monthly discussions will lead to enhanced job performance and timely results.
To foster a productive atmosphere for performance discussions, the process should be managed primarily by the reviewee, not the reviewer. Every supervisor has expectations of their employees that need to be communicated. Regardless, the ultimate responsibility is on the reviewee to direct and develop their career path. By managing the performance discussion process, you have greater control over the discussion topics and the feedback required to advance your career.
While managing the performance discussion process may seem intimidating, there are only a few key elements necessary to make it simple and successful. I would suggest considering these three items during the process:
Have a specific agenda
Performance discussions should revolve around an agenda. Know the topics that need to be discussed beforehand and have them in writing. The agenda can be similar for every meeting with set topics or the topics can vary between meetings. What’s important is that everyone knows what will be discussed and that all pertinent issues are addressed. Don’t expect your supervisor to develop the agenda. It’s your career and your performance being discussed. Therefore, it should be your agenda that is followed.
Conduct and manage the performance discussion so that each topic is addressed in an objective manner. The intent is to determine what is working, what’s not working, and opportunities for improvement. Be honest in the analysis of each area of work and seek objective feedback. Focus on facts, figures, and other objective forms of measurement to determine results. Stay away from seeking subjective criticism. This type of criticism is difficult to give and receive, and it is not conducive to positive relationships.
Review annual goals
As a professional, you should have a written list of goals and initiatives developed on an annual basis. Make this list part of the performance discussion process. While this may only need to be done on a quarterly or bi-annual basis, it’s imperative that goals and initiatives are evaluated and measured as part of these discussions. This element allows both parties to keep a focus on specific areas and then to adjust as the year progresses.
The most successful individuals desire and seek performance feedback. An annual performance review has proven to be the least productive method to gain this feedback. The better solution is regular performance discussions.
Though, as with any process, it must be closely managed. If you are the person seeking feedback, you are the best person to manage this process. You best understand where you are struggling and where you want to experience growth in your daily work. You have a greater sense of your daily performance. You are most equipped to ask pointed questions about your performance. You are the person who can steer feedback and comments in an objective manner.
Even if your employer mandates annual performance reviews, request regular performance discussions. Then manage that process so that it is most beneficial to both your career and to your employer.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.