Performance reviews can be really productive or really poor. Learn how to drive high performance by avoiding these 7 review mistakes.
When properly designed and implemented, performance management review processes can help organizations monitor and improve their strategic execution so they can achieve better results.
In my work as a business consultant and performance management expert, I have seen some really good and some truly poor performance review routines at many of the world’s best-known brands and governments.
If you want to improve your performance reviews, here are 7 mistakes to avoid:
1. Not holding reviews frequently enough.
One of the biggest and most common problems I see is that companies aren’t reviewing their team members’ performance on a regular basis.
Frequent conversations about individual performance – as often as quarterly or even monthly – are far more effective than trying to pack everything into one annual review. More frequent reviews also ensure the employee isn't blindsided by negative feedback. They've been checking in with their manager on a regular basis so they have a better sense of where they stand and how they’re progressing toward reaching their goals.
2. Making reviews one-way evaluations.
The traditional model for performance reviews can make employees nervous or put them on the defensive. Instead of putting the employee in the line of fire and listing their faults, invite them to ask questions and make it a back-and-forth conversation. Help them understand why what they do matters and how their job fits into the organization so they can become more engaged.
3. Backward-facing reviews.
Even though the name "review" suggests looking back, the focus of every performance review should be the future. Instead of focusing solely on past accomplishments or failures, help employees understand how their upcoming goals are aligned with the strategic objectives of the company.
In many of the companies I work with, we have changed the name to “performance improvement meetings” or “performance preview meetings” to reflect this focus on the future.
4. Focusing on useless rating scales and performance data.
All scales and performance metrics have limitations. They can be used to guide discussions but should never be taken at face value. Put the numbers into context and don't make them the focus of the conversation.
5. Focusing too much on the negative.
It's understandable when this happens, but it's important to celebrate past successes just as much as identify places for improvement and talk about future challenges.
6. Make performance review a “tick box” exercise.
There’s nothing worse than a performance review that leaves the employee feeling like they haven’t received any useful feedback. Reviews should be genuinely valuable to both parties, not just a task that gets checked off a list once a year.
7. Negotiating goals that are too easy to achieve.
Instead of agreeing to ambitious performance goals that will push everyone forward and help individuals thrive, some performance reviews result in wimpy goals that no one feels inspired by. Set achievable goals, but still feel like a stretch for the employee, to help them grow in their role and contribute to the overall organization in a bigger way.
Performance reviews can be challenging on both sides – but these tips can help lift some of the pressure and create positive, productive conversations that motivate employees and drive high performance.