Why your performance reviews matter and how to make them better

Few people enjoy sitting down with their bosses and hearing about how they could be working better. On the flip side, few bosses want to sit down with employees and talk about raises or promotions. Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone could just do their jobs like robots? Well, not really.

When done right, performance reviews accomplish several things, according to Entrepreneur: They help set better goals, establish company culture, provide a platform for promotions and terminations, and keep the channels of communication wide open. If you don’t think those are valuable things to an organization, you’ve got bigger problems. In all seriousness, the rate of change in the business world is exceedingly fast. If companies don’t take a little time now and then to make sure employees and management are on the same page, the business won’t be able to keep up with the competition. To avoid that, don’t cut the performance review to save time and don’t gut it to help everyone skate by. Take a hard look at your process and determine how it aligns with the best practices.

Performance reviews can be a source of great feedback.Performance reviews can be a source of great feedback.

1. Set a schedule and stick to it
Performance reviews aren’t like speed traps, set to catch people in the act of misbehaving. Instead, let people know they’re coming and it’s more likely they’ll be responsible. The goal is to keep employees productive, so intermittent reviews scheduled well in advance will compel employees to work hard and score well on the review. Plus, it’s just more respectful: According to a survey from Fast Company, 62 percent of millennials have “felt blindsided” by performance reviews.

2. Be fair and honest
A company performs at its best when everyone is pulling in the same direction – not covering for lazy co-workers or unnecessarily chastising others based on personal vendettas. Performance reviews that paint exaggerated pictures of a worker don’t benefit the company. If he’s not hitting his marks, he should know. If she’s overstepping her boundaries, she should be warned. By the same token, when employees exceed expectations, they should be rewarded or at least offered praise and shown how to angle for a promotion or something similar. As Jeff Fermin of OfficeVibe.com pointed out, 44 percent of employees don’t believe their reviewers are being honest during the process.

“Everyone must be held accountable.”

3. Everyone deserves a review – even managers
The lowest tier of entry-level employees are just as human as the tenured supervisor who runs the show – that is to say, everyone must be held accountable. If you’ve been letting supervisors or managers escape reviews, you’d better hope your employees never find out. The last thing a company needs is a workforce that thinks management isn’t responsible at all for the team’s success. Everyone should be assessed, given ways to improve, offered constructive criticism and provided valuable feedback.

4. Keep things simple
You don’t need a long, drawn-out process to find out where an employee stands, but you do need it to be easy to administer and access. Consider keeping a file on the computer with the performance history for each employee – that way you can log new information, reference the last review and have everything in the same place. Entrepreneur explained that “less can be more if it means the reviews get done.”

5. Create an outline
As long as it doesn’t fly in the face of the preceding point, the best reviews lay out a set of expectations and check off, one by one, how well the employee has fared. He or she can’t argue with a poor evaluation when a set rubric that everyone is judged by yields that result. Of course, the outline for a brand new employee may be somewhat different from that of a manager, but the idea is that everyone should have a clear understanding of what is required of him in a given role. Plus, the rubric will help keep reviews quick and easy.

If your organization views performance reviews as a time sink, an HR-mandated drag, or a generally unpleasant thing, then it’s doing them wrong. Well-done performance reviews build better employees – who, in turn, build better companies.