Performance reviews are sometimes seen simply as an annual process with managers ticking boxes and setting goals with no real relation to jobs or to business needs. They can end up being less about work, and more about personalities and managerial style. But performance reviews are important. Done correctly, they ensure that an organisations aims and goals are being achieved by each member of the team, allow employees to know exactly what is expected of them in terms of standards of performance and ensure that the right skills are in place to achieve objectives.
There are really two ways to undertake a performance review. Some organisations find that using an annual performance management cycle adds structure and process in helping employees reach their potential as well as playing an important role in ensuring employees remain motivated in the workplace. Alternatively, instead of carrying out an annual appraisal an organisation can look at managing the performance of it’s employees, teams and, the organisation as a whole, on an on-going basis.
Whichever method is used, a standard performance review fulfills two distinct purposes: to look back on progress and achievements, and prepare an individual development plan for future success. There are many different versions of the cycle, but they all essentially follow a common management process of:
- reviewing what has been done
- planning what needs to be done
- putting those plans into action
- rewarding employee achievement
Depending on the requirements of the organisation, performance review can take place over a year or on a month-by-month basis. Whatever time period is adopted, the first stage of any performance management cycle always involves an element of planning to establish how the success of individuals and teams will be measured and how their progress will be reviewed against agreed Key Performance Indicators. This means it’s essential that managers possess the skills and attitudes that support success as well as a good knowledge and understanding of the roles their employees undertake.
A less structured, on-going style will require an organisation to put processes in place to review everyone’s performance and to ensure that mechanisms for giving recognition to individuals, teams and the organisation for their contribution to performance are in place. Progress is reviewed and feedback given on an on-going basis with conversations taking place between managers and their staff, so that the performance review becomes less about looking back, and focuses more on how to make progress and help the organisation.
Larger organisations perhaps need a more structured approach which would commence with an initial meeting with an employee where expectations for a set period of time are evaluated, the employee’s current role and performance reviewed, ideas about areas of improvement and realistic targets discussed and a plan put forward that ideally allows the employee to combine existing skills with their potential for development. Plans should also address the priorities of the employee’s team and the organisation as a whole. If a method of reward is part of the process, it should also be discussed at this point.
Once the cycle is underway, it can be useful to schedule a meeting mid-way through the process to discuss any problems, ensure that employees have the resources to undertake their role and amend objectives if external factors have changed as the next stage is the actual review. This allows both parties to consider if the goals set during the planning stage have been met and to look at results, both tangible and intangible. It also provides the springboard for determining where to concentrate efforts as the cycle returns to the planning stage. If all of the objectives of the performance management cycle have been met, then the subject of reward to employees should be addressed. The type of reward will have been discussed at the original meeting and will vary depending on the organisation.
This brief outline shows two different ways to undertake performance management and how the main elements of the performance management cycle work together. To be successful, any performance management cycle needs be viewed as a continuous process, one where managers and employees both recognise the benefits it provides and are comfortable actively contributing to. It should also be remembered that reviews are a partnership and that once the paperwork is done, managers need to be involved in what happens next, either by providing support and coaching, making sure there’s the right environment for employees to develop or by ensuring the provision of time, training or different kinds of work experience.
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