Ahhh…the annual performance review at work. Is there anything else that makes you feel quite so professional – and yet quite so terrified – at the same time?
The nerves make sense. After all, no one wants to be blindsided by what their supervisor might have to say about their performance, especially when they think everything’s going well, or when they truly have no idea where they stand.
However, even though they can be stressful, most employees do want to know how well (or poorly) they’re performing, and not providing some sort of evaluation can have negative consequences. In fact, a recent study indicated 24 percent of workers would consider leaving their jobs if they have managers who provide inadequate feedback on their performance. Conversely, additional research found that the simple act of giving more continuous, strength-based feedback, can reduce turnover by nearly 15 percent.
In this installment of Conversations from the Corner Office, we’re talking with ID Plans CRO Seth Garber about performance reviews. How necessary are they? How often should they happen? And how do you prepare to ensure the next one you give – or receive – goes off without a hitch.
SG: From my perspective, annual reviews are important as a benchmark for someone’s success in their role. That said, I also believe the concept is more of an older methodology that has continued into today’s world.
SG: When you think about it, performance reviews were originally designed as a checkpoint. The team member wants a raise so he or she sits down once a year with a supervisor and they go over strengths and weaknesses and determine whether a raise makes sense. In today’s world, they’re still important, but it’s more important for reviews to happen more frequently. Like a monthly check-in, a quarterly review and then an annual review.
SG: Business is moving so much faster these days, and the typical team member is not staying with one company for 25 years anymore. There’s much less time to work with, so there’s an obligation for leaders to engage with their team more quickly. Waiting an entire year to let someone know how they’re performing just doesn’t cut it anymore.
SG: You should reach out in advance to your team leader and ask for a copy of anything you might be discussing during the meeting, or at least see if you can get a list of the most critical things they plan to go over with you. This allows you to prepare for the review rather than just coming in unaware. It should also help you keep your nerves at bay because you know what’s coming, and ideally you won’t get blindsided. Also, come prepared with examples of successes you’ve had, and even situations that you wish you’d handled differently. That shows you’re willing to learn, and most team leaders will appreciate that.
SG: If you’re in a revenue-focused role, it’s simply about the numbers. If you fall into this category, you should have some idea where you stand based on what your numbers look like. However, if your role isn’t defined by what you’re bringing in, you may have no idea how you’re performing. You might think you’re doing really well, or vice versa. It’s then really important for your team leader to establish benchmarks with you that can be measured in different ways.
SG: You have to put in the time if you want to give a thorough review. Let’s say I’m doing a review for a VP. It might take me four or five hours to prepare, not 15 minutes. And as a leader, I have the obligation to do this. Otherwise, what’s the point?
SG: You have to come into the review with a true open mind to the conversation and be willing to take critical feedback without feeling like it’s being held against you. Too often, someone hears something they perceive as negative, the walls go up and it’s hard to get past that. You have to trust that your team leader isn’t trying to punish you – they’re trying to help you accomplish your goals. Be honest, be open, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
SG: The purpose of the review is to set direction and gain alignment. It should not be the time when an improvement plan is put into place. That should happen maybe a week later. That gives both the team member and the team leader a chance to reflect on the discussion and then come in with thoughtful ideas to get back on track. It also allows everyone time to get away from the emotions of the moment, which can definitely lead to a more productive conversation. But as a leader, if someone comes in to the review thinking they were doing well and ready to ask for a raise and I think the opposite, I look at that as a leadership failure. That’s why I think more frequent check-ins are better than waiting until a year has passed.
SG: First, you should agree on the takeaways from the meeting and make sure everyone is on the same page. Second, you should provide an absolutely clear direction of what needs to happen over at least the next quarter, along with the critical success factors. Finally, end on a positive note, even if the review wasn’t so great, so the employee doesn’t leave feeling scared. Then, stay in touch. Don’t be afraid to ask for more feedback or guidance, or if you’re the team leader, to share areas where you see room for improvement. It’s a two-way street and if everyone is committed to the same goal, it will all work out.
What are your best performance review prep tips? Leave a comment below.
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