What’s killing this so-called tried-and-true practice? And the answer to that is: the questions. Here are the four questions that are ruining performance reviews.
What were my key accomplishments?
Goal: Find out what this employee did well during the past year.
Why if fails: Performance reviews are done on an annual or semiannual basis. But many things happen during the past six months, so it’s difficult to think back that far or even as far as two months ago.
The fix: Instead of a 6- or 12-month waiting period, opt for weekly informal check-ins. That way, any feedback or accomplishments stay relevant and fresh in both your and your employee’s mind.
What didn’t get done or what should have been done differently?
Goal: Find out what this employee can improve on.
Why it fails: Since these reviews are typically tied to compensation, you can bet employees are going to be hesitant about dishing up their failures. So trust that employees are going to misunderstand this question and not tell the truth about their performance.
The fix: Instead of asking what should have been done differently, ask what your employee wants to work on. Or perhaps ask them how they want to develop. This way, you’re keeping the focus on their development instead of their failures.
Think about and review the competencies for your role and our company’s values.
Goal: Find out how this employee integrates the organization’s values into their daily activities.
Why it fails: It’s complicated. When you phrase questions in a highbrow or ambiguous manner, employees aren’t going to understand what you’re looking for. And when employees aren’t given a clear direction, you’re also not going to receive a clear answer.
The fix: Keep it simple. Get to the point with questions to ensure that employees in any position or level can understand it. And most of all, don’t try to sound like a smarty-pants by using words like “competencies” when you can easily use something as simple as “skills.”
What are your strengths? Which ones do you demonstrate regularly?
Goal: Find out which areas this employee excels in.
Why it fails: It’s vague. The question doesn’t ask for specifically how an employee’s strengths contribute to success in their role. Essentially, employees can, again, misunderstand this question and think they can list off anything they’re good at—related to work or not.
The fix: Clarify. Make sure you ask for specifics like “what are your strengths in your current role?” That way, employees are given a specific direction on how to tailor their answers to give you what you need.
Performance reviews weren’t meant to be useless. But the practices managers are using are making them fail. Create reviews that benefit both parties by keeping them relevant, asking what employees want, and being specific with what you’re trying to get out of each question.