Breathe New Life into Your Old Performance Review Tactics

By | December 29, 2011

The end of the year is swiftly approaching, signaling that the time has come for the daunting task that all supervisors face — the employee performance review. Many hypotheses exist about how to execute employee assessments. The consensus is that it’s time to take a new look at worn-out assessment tactics. However, the fact remains; there must be a formal exchange of information between the employee and supervisor to improve the output. Supervisors have the task of not only executing a productive review, but striking a balance of year-round feedback to keep employees on track. The “right way” naturally varies from company to company, department to department, and employee to employee.

A performance review, in some shape or form, is necessary for a healthy work environment. If this is the case, why do so many managers and employees dread the annual performance review? Perhaps it is time to breathe new life into old employee performance review tactics.

Have A Two-Way Conversation

Remember that the review is for talking with the employee, not at the employee. The review is an opportunity for both parties to learn. Make the review less about filling out a form and more about having a conversation. Keep the documentation and paperwork, but allow employees to see everything in advance. Employees can then prepare by making their own notes and coming to the table with their own talking points. The performance evaluation should be a free flow exchange in which employees are given the opportunity to voice their concerns, as well.

Address Strengths and Weaknesses

Rather than just handing out ratings, discuss areas of strengths and weaknesses. Do not present a weakness without broaching possible solutions. Talk not only about ways to improve, but also ways to adjust processes if need be. Be open to change. Is there a way to shift workloads to play up the employee’s strength? Pay attention to group dynamics, as well. Who works well together and on what types of tasks?

Review and Set Goals

Some things must remain part of the review process, such as challenging goals and bench marks. Departmental and individual goals should be set at the beginning of every year and the employee’s progress toward goals should be tracked. Measurable progress is still important and the employee should be aware of the metrics used to measure success. Progress must be shared often, not only at review time. The review is no time for surprises — an employee should know his/her progress at any given point throughout the year.

If goal setting is not already part of this process, it should be. Employees should have a hand in setting their own goals. Listen to what the employee hopes to achieve and incorporate it into next year’s objectives. Ask the employee what factors are helpful in reaching goals and what roadblocks might be present. Set the tone for the year; ensure that your employees leave your meeting energized and with a new sense of purpose.

Be Flexible

Your employees undoubtedly have different ways of processing information. Stay in tune with how they are responding to feedback. Present areas for improvement in a way that makes sense to that individual employee. Ask employees what they think should change to help them realize their goals. If anything feels forced or uncomfortable, explore how you can modify the review process or your communication style for that particular employee.

Remember that the employee performance review should benefit everyone — the supervisor, the employee, the department and the company as a whole. This is the time of year set aside for one-on-one dialogue; take advantage of the opportunity. Create an open forum to discuss strengths and weaknesses, problems and solutions, and goals and to set the tone for a successful year ahead!

Coons is senior vice president of the Jacobson Group, a national provider of talent to the insurance industry. Phone: 800-466-1578. Email:

About David Coons

Coons is senior vice president of The Jacobson Group, a provider of talent to the insurance industry. Phone: 800-466-1578. Email: More from David Coons

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