o you dig in your heels when it comes time for performance reviews? Does the thought of rummaging through your memory bank to recall a year’s worth of accomplishments and failures—for every single employee—fill you with dread?
The answer is most likely “Yes.” But let’s face it. Performance reviews aren’t going anywhere any time soon. According to Globoforce, a whopping 91% of organizations use them. And they’re mostly just doing them to check it off their to-do list.
Why Managers hate theM
Performance reviews are the bane of any manager’s existence. Managers don’t want to be labeled the “bad guy” when they dish out negative feedback. Not to mention, they try to consolidate an entire year into one 30-minute review. And don’t even get us started on how time-consuming they are.
There’s got to be a more efficient way to do them, right?
Why eMployees hate theM
Globoforce, found that 51% of employees see their performance reviews as inaccurate. They’re right. With a 6- or 12-month lag between each cycle, they’re untimely and irrelevant. Managers tend to focus too much on the negative and don’t provide valuable information.
There’s got to be a way to make them more beneficial for employees, right?
Why this guide?
Performance reviews are underperforming. And lucky for you, we’re overthrowing those age-old methods. We’ll show you what types of goals to set, where to elicit feedback, and when to time your reviews. This guide will ultimately show you all the tips, tricks, and best practices to make you a performance-review master in no time.
BE TRANSPARENT WITH
id you know that management transparency is the number one factor correlated to employee happiness? Our Engagement Report uncovered this startling relationship. It’s the crucial reason that you need to share your goals with your team. Your employees needs to know what you’re driving towards so they understand how the team can work together to achieve those goals.
sharing is Caring
Don’t be shy—share your goals with your employees. Even better, share them with the whole company. Doing this helps everyone in your organization focus on the top goals that are important for the company’s success. As Warren Bennis’ book, Transparency: Creating a Culture of Candor, points out :
Transparency is a competitive advantage. It provides clear visibility into the company’s mission and where it’s headed. Don’t you want your company to be the number one in the industry?
Also, being candid and transparent about your own goals creates expectations for your team. Because they know what you’re trying to accomplish, they’ll understand:
- What needs to be accomplished: Are you driving towards 1,000 new customers? Or maybe you’re releasing a new product. Being transparent gives employees a future look at what kind of projects and tasks they’ll need to complete.
- When it needs to happen: Is the project launching in two months? Do you have a four-week campaign running? Provide dates so employees know when each goal needs to accomplished.
- Who’s going to do it: Is it the sales team’s responsibility to inform customers about new features? Does marketing need PR’s help to pitch their product? Make sure to mention these in your goals so you don’t surprise your employees in the future when you do ask them for help or you assign a specific project to them.
Instead of having your employees trudging along in all different directions, share your goals to set them on a singular path. And that path? It’s called success.
how to share your goals
So we went over why you should share your goals. Now let’s dive into how you’re going to do that.
1 Create a doCuMent: Go digital and keep the document in an easyto-access, centralized location. We like Google Docs. Avoid having your document live as an attachment in an email. It would just get lost in a sea of mail.
2 tell eMployees it exists: If you want people to read the document, you’ll have to let them know it exists. Send an email out to let your employees know what the document is and where to find it.
3 present it: At the next meeting, go over your goals. Employees may not understand the document from their initial read. Explain why you’ve made each goal and how it’ll impact the business.
Transparency is critical for success. So give your employees a clear direction by making your goals visible. That way, they’ll understand how their work impacts the organization.
aNd COmpaNY GOalS
oals provide direction. Deliberate goals are a powerful tool that are essential to an organization’s success. So make sure to align individual goals with the company’s goals. It ensures that an individual’s or team’s work—big or small—is impacting the business.
give eMployees a direCtion
Employees need to understand how their work impacts the business. And they need to understand what’s expected of them. Consider these findings from Cornerstone Ondemand and Robert Kaplan and David Norton’s book The Strategy-Focused Organization :
Throw employees a bone and let them know how their work is contributing to the company’s success. That way, they can understand what’s expected of them.
Kaplan and Norton also pointed out that there’s a “strong correlation between a company’s financial performance and an effective goalsetting process.” At the end of the day, the clearer the goal is, the better chance that it’ll be achieved.
When to set Whose goals
Cornerstone Ondemand found that a mere 32% of employees indicated their performance goals are aligned with their company’s business objectives. But you can’t align an individual’s goals to larger company goals until the company and leadership establish their own goals. Here’s the order you should take:
1 CoMpany goals
2 Manager goals
3 individual goals
If you want your business goals to be accomplished faster and better, you need to make sure everyone else is on the same page. Be deliberate with goal setting to ensure everyone is directly impacting business objectives.
hen it comes to goals, there’s no such thing as playing on the safe side. After all, objectives are supposed to push people to go further. To go beyond their limits. To become ambitious.
According to a survey by Cornerstone Ondemand, 15% of employees said performance reviews are a one-sided discussion led by their manager or employer. So don’t be that my-way-orthe-highway kind of manager. Collaborate with your employees to set goals.
the Way it Works
It’s easy to be overbearing in a conversation with your employee—especially when it impacts the organization’s success. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind during the process:
- Don’t ignore your employee’s developmental desires.
- Don’t underestimate their capabilities, skills, and talents.
- Don’t decide your employee’s goals without consulting them.
- Do ask where your employee sees their career heading.
- Do ask what skills they wish to develop further.
- Do consult your employee if you have a goal in mind.
Goal setting between managers and employees is a give-and-take process. And now that you’ve clearly communicated the business goals along with your own goals to your employee, you can work together to come up with individual goals. Just follow these three easy steps:
1 ask eMployees: Let them come up with goals to support business objectives. Do they want to drive 1,000 leads in six months? Or perhaps they wish to become a better financial analyst.
2 push theM: Give your employees a nice nudge. Push their goals to make them more aggressive. Instead of 1,000 leads, try for 2,000 leads. Rather than a better financial analyst, why not a financial analyst expert? Remember to keep them achievable, not impossible.
3 set it: The give-and-take process results in ambitious goals that will help not only the business succeed but the employee as well.
The key word to employee goal setting is collaborate. You can’t tell your employee what to do, but you can guide them and make sure they’re pushing themselves to be better.
uSE OKrS aNd
t’s easy to come up with a goal. But how do you know someone’s achieved it? Is there a way to measure the progress? Goals need to be tangible. You need to be able to measure how much and when it was achieved.
the goal of okrs
Made famous by Intel and Google, OKRs (objectives and key results) is a goal-setting system that outlines highlevel objectives and the quantifiable actions (the key results) it’ll take to achieve them.
The main goal of OKRs is to make sure every employee knows what’s expected of them. And on the plus side, it gives you an easy way to measure their progress on said goals.
everyone needs to Be sMart
All professional goals should be SMART. That is, they should follow the acronym below to create concrete goals that’ll further larger professional objectives.
- pecific: Focus on a discrete task so employees know exactly what they’re aiming to tackle.
- easurable: How will you know if employees have achieved their goal? By making it measurable, you’ll have a clear benchmark to know if they’ve hit the target or if they still have work to do.
- ttainable: Don’t set employees up for failure. Create goals that they can actually achieve.
- elevant: Your employee’s goals should matter, so only choose ones that help further larger business objectives.
- ime bound: Give employees a fixed period of time to complete their goals to ward off procrastination.
Why should your employee’s goals be SMART? It makes it easy to understand them, do them, and assess if they are truly complete. SMART goals let everyone be efficient and ultimately make it easier for employees to achieve their larger quarterly and even yearly goals.
putting tWo and tWo together
OKRs and SMART goals go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. While OKRs focus on objectives and key results, you need SMART goals to achieve those results. Consider structuring the two this way:
1 oBjeCtives: Define three to five objectives based on the company, team, or personal levels. Keep in mind that these goals should be ambitious and that they’re time bound.
2 results: Under each objective, define two to four measurable results (SMART goals). Each objective needs to be quantifiable and ambitious but not impossible.
Here’s an example:
- objective: Get published on 20 major publications in six months
- results: Identify key journalists for each publication and establish contact with journalists by month one.
Establishing goals lays down the groundwork for employees to manage their day-to-day activities. Now that you know how to outline goals, you’ll be able to accurately measure your employee’s performance.
OffEr OppOrTuNITIES fOr prOfESSIONal GrOWTh
n employee’s development extends well beyond their first few days on the job. Think of it as a retention tool, especially when you consider this finding from Deloitte: lack of career progression would drive 27% of employees to look for a new job.
give theM stepping stones
Globoforce points out that 70% of employees want reviews that help them develop and grow. But performance reviews tend to be all about the past. And GuideSpark reported that too much focus on the past doesn’t give employees a clear direction for the future.
Instead, consider creating stepping stones that will allow your employee to develop professionally. Ask your employee where they see themselves in five years. Or find out what skills they want to learn. Work with them to build goals that will get them there.
And if your employee doesn’t know exactly where they want to go, be flexible with their career path. Consider revising their responsibilities to suit their strength. Don’t confine them to a rigid ladder, and let their development be shaped by their interests and aptitude.
Learning doesn’t stop after an employee gets a job. In order to advance in their career, they need a way to gain knowledge. Consider some of these great external and internal opportunities:
- Conferences and seminars: Send employees out to learn about specific topics from industry leaders. These are ideal opportunities to hear from experts and network with peers. So not only are employees advancing their careers, but they’re also providing your company with beneficial knowledge.
- Technical courses: Do you want your employee to succeed at their role? Consider covering classes related to their field so they can gain more knowledge to support their position at work.
- Classes for exams: Certain industries, such as finance, require exams in order to progress professionally. Covering these classes will help employees advance, especially if they’re still in a junior-level position and they don’t have the funds for the courses.
- Networking: There’s a good chance that your social circle is fairly extensive. So become the middleman and introduce your employee to other people in their industry. They can learn about tips and tricks from their peers.
- Rotational programs: Have employees spend a few months at a time in different sectors of the company. They’ll learn valuable skills that they would not have gotten had they stayed in the same position for years.
- Brown bag learning lunches: Leverage leaders in your organization to run a short seminar. This way, the more experienced workers can share their wealth of knowledge with the less experienced employees.
Work isn’t just about producing and meeting quotas. Give employees a chance to learn by implementing training opportunities in and outside of the workplace. You’ll not only help them develop personally, but you’ll also gain a more knowledgeable employee.
lOOK fOr fEEdBaCK
IN all plaCES
ust like any type of survey, you wouldn’t just rely solely on one person’s answers. So why are organizations relying on one person’s feedback for performance reviews? If you want a more comprehensive idea of someone’s performance, turn to crowdsourcing.
disadvantages of a singular point of vieW
When you get feedback from just one person, you’re only getting that person’s opinion and their experience. The biggest problem is that direct managers don’t always see their employee’s day-to-day operations. And that’s leading to employees feeling that the current performance review process is doing them a disservice. According to Globoforce, 63% of employees believe their reviews are not a true indicator of performance. And it’s true.
Managers have a lot on their plate, so they only get a chance to see part of the process of any project. That also means they don’t see all the interactions that went into it.
advantages of Crowdsourced reviews
In order to really gauge how an employee is performing, you need to poke and prod indirect managers, team leads, peers, or even employees from other departments. Globoforce highlights the importance of crowdsourcing feedback:
Employees want to be evaluated by people other than their direct managers. Multiple viewpoints allow you to get a better understanding of an employee’s performance. And if those numbers still don’t convince you, consider these advantages of crowdsourced feedback:
- Increased accuracy: Crowdsourced reviews come from multiple people. Therefore you’re getting multiple stories. When these reviews are meshed together, a bigger, more comprehensive picture of the employee’s performance is put together for evaluation
- Performance improvement: Employees gain valuable insight into their strength and weaknesses from their colleagues because they have daily interactions with them. And this makes the process of improvement public. Employees must work harder to get better so they don’t let their peers down.
- Encourage recognition: Management can recognize employees for their big accomplishments, but coworkers see the small successes. Crowdsourced feedback builds a culture of open communication that involves feedback and recognition.
Management only sees part of the process, but they should be empowered to have the full story. Luckily, information from peers and other leaders gives them this opportunity.
hOW TO lEvEraGE
id you know that a staggering 79% of employees don’t feel all that valued at work? That’s what we uncovered in our Employee Engagement Report. So flip this around and make performance reviews an opportunity to give your employees a well-deserved pat on the back.
use ConCrete exaMples
Note cards and gift cards are great and all ... but that’s not what we’re referring to when we say “tangible recognition.” While just a simple “thank you” is something you should say on a regular basis, you should also let your employees know why you’re praising them.
During performance reviews, use concrete examples to recognize your employee for their accomplishments. Did they rock a project? Maybe they went beyond their daily quota for two weeks in a row. Giving employees a reason behind your praise lets them know what they’ve done right so they can repeat that successful process in the future.
leveraging peer-to-peer reCognition
Managers are super-busy and don’t always see all the great deeds done that warrant recognition. So turn to their peers. In fact, colleagues want to give out recognition, according to our internal research and our 2014 Engagement Report .
Leverage a peer-to-peer recognition tool. Make it easy to use and always digitally accessible. That way, the recognition becomes a real-time tool that avoids playing the waiting game like performance reviews. Employees can instantaneously give a shout-out anywhere, any time to their colleague for a job well done.
So what’s in it for you? Because you don’t get the chance to see day-to-day operations, you can leverage the recognition that your employees sent to their peers. You’ll be able to use the recognition as examples to evaluate how someone has gone above and beyond.
WhEN TO TImE
erformance reviews aren’t a one-and-done deal. Now that you’ve established goals with your employee, sourced feedback from all realms of the company, and had the actual review meeting, you need to follow up on them. Otherwise, you’ll fall into the same 12-month trap that’s making performance reviews fail.
tiMe lags are killers
Feedback is time-sensitive. But surprisingly, 75% of companies do performance reviews annually, according to a survey by BLR. And the problem is that so much happens and changes in 12 months. It doesn’t make sense to withhold feedback until the end of the year.
When review cycles have a 12-month lag, it’s easy for managers to focus on what’s fresh in their minds and fall prey to the Recency Effect. That is, they only use recent events to analyze past performance ... even though they should be looking at a full year. The result can lead to certain behaviors going unaddressed as well as feedback and recognition being put on hold.
Don’t fall into this trap!
the perfeCt tiMing
Annual performance reviews don’t have to be completely abolished, but it’s time organizations supplemented them with regular check-ins along the way. Organizations that are relying solely on annual reviews are failing their employees (and their own business as well). Globoforce surveyed employees and asked when they prefered to get feedback:
Keep in mind that one type of frequency doesn’t triumph over all—weekly isn’t better than quarterly. But there are certain frequencies that function better for other objectives.
- Quarterly: How well did someone execute a project? How is the project performing after it was launched? This is an ideal time to review an employee’s project performance. And because these check-ins occur every four months, it’s time to establish new OKRs for the next quarterly meeting.
- Weekly: Is this employee making progress on their OKRs? What are their pain points? Keep these meetings short and informal, but also use them as a chance to check in on how employees are coming along on their goals. Find out what’s working and what’s not working. Then work on finding a solution to any obstacles that might be hindering employees from completing their goals.
- ASAP: Did an employee put in extra hours and effort to complete a project on time? Or perhaps they’re not following the correct procedures for communicating with clients. Positive or negative, don’t wait to give out praise or correct someone’s behavior.
Having regular reviews keeps things current, removes inaccuracies, and gives employees the consistent feedback they need to improve and exceed expectations. But if you wait until 12 months to check in with your employee, it’s just as good as giving them the cold shoulder.
erformance reviews are critical in the workplace. But they’re only useful when done correctly. The traditional method of waiting 12 months, using subjective questions for measurement, and ignoring professional development don’t work. It’s time to revise the old ways.
the steps you need to take
Before you completely abolish the age-old annual performance review, you need to prepare yourself and your team. Here are the steps to start with:
- Share your goals: Be transparent about your goals to your employees or even the whole company so everyone can focus on top goals that will contribute to the company’s success. And don’t forget to create a digital document that anyone can easily access and review.
- Align goals: Get employees on the same page as the company by aligning individual goals with business goals. It gives people a clear direction so they understand how their work impacts the business.
- Collaborate on individual goals: Don’t dictate what your employee should accomplish. Let them ideate their own OKR and SMART 27 goals, then push the goals further by making them aggressive. But remember to keep them achievable.
- Crowdsource feedback: Don’t just get feedback from a direct manager. Use team leads, peers, or managers in other departments to gather feedback. It gives you a more comprehensive look on an employee’s performance.
- Concrete examples: Leverage peer-to-peer recognition to gather tangible examples of your employee’s performance.
Now you’ll have an accurate way to measure goals, and you’ve given employees a clear direction for what they should work towards.
the Benefits eMployees reap
In the end, performance reviews should be all about employees and how to better themselves. With your new strategies, your workers will enjoy:
- Clear direction: Because you’ve made your goals transparent and aligned your employee’s goals with the company’s, now your worker knows what’s expected of them.
- Professional growth: Offering the opportunity for classes, seminars, or brown bag lunches gives your employee the chance to learn the skills that will help them grow.
- Accurate reviews: Through measurable goals and timeliness, your employee’s review will now be a more accurate reflection of their actual performance.
With all these of tips and tricks, you’re now on your way to becoming a master of performance reviews.
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Founded in 2012, TINYpulse works hard to make employees happier around the world. Our goal is to give leaders a pulse on how happy, frustrated, or burnt out their employees are, helping managers build bridges by sparking dialogue that results in organizational change.
what we do
We believe that information empowers leaders to create an engaging work environment and culture where people can thrive. Here is how we do that:
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- Peer-to-peer recognition: TINYpulse’s Cheers for Peers™ peer-to-peer recognition tool captures the appreciation, extra effort, and little things that are often overlooked by leaders. Peers can easily send a quick shout-out to their colleagues to brighten up their day—because a little recognition goes a long way.
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who uses us?
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