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Although HR professionals, people managers, and employees often face annual performance reviews with feelings of dread, that doesn’t have to be the case, experts say. HR can help everyone get the most out of the experience.
“HR has to be the leader in developing and managing a performance review process leading to better performance and results for the company,” according to Brian D. Poggi, author of I Am Not Average: How to Succeed in Your Performance Review (CreateSpace, 2011).
“This can only be done through better education of both parties focused on creating a safe and productive environment for the performance review conversation,” he added in an email interview with
Lay the Groundwork
Executive support, timely evaluations, periodic reviews throughout the year and a forward-looking approach are keys to successful reviews, experts say.
A leader needs to “insist, through words and actions,” that the process is crucial to the firm’s and employee’s success, according to Greg Szymanski, SPHR, HR director for Seattle-based real estate development firm Geonerco Management.
HR should ensure that managers conduct reviews in a timely manner, since those that are delayed send a message that managers don’t take the process seriously, Szymanski explained in an e-mail interview. Managers should also hold performance-related meetings throughout the year—with the review document present—to discuss goals and metrics.
“No one likes surprises,” Szymanski wrote.
John M. Baker, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based consultant and author of
The Asking Formula (Wonsockon Press, 2012), learned this lesson the hard way while evaluating an employee who presented a glowing self-appraisal. Baker, a newly minted American Express manager at the time, said he felt the employee was “a borderline performance issue” and realized quickly that he had not provided timely feedback.
“You get into contention and confrontation, and that’s unforgivable,” Baker told SHRM Online. “It’s a crushing blow to trust and it sets you back in terms of productivity.”
Reviews should also provide a roadmap for the future. Reviews focused only on what the employee has done wrong can end only badly, according to Szymanski. He recommends spending 20 percent of the time discussing past performance and 80 percent on future expectations and organizational needs.
Employee Opinions About Performance Reviews
Rick Dacri, an HR consultant and president of Dacri & Associates in Kennebunkport, Maine, said typically, employees have a variety of complaints about performance reviews: They see themselves as victims, believe results are predetermined, don’t know what to expect, or think appraisals are something “managers do” and don’t realize that they have a role in the process, he told
SHRM Online. Others have had bad experiences in the past and “think this is the norm,” he continued, or sense managers “really don’t want them to participate and speak.”
Dacri, author of
Uncomplicating Management: Focus On Your Stars & Your Company Will Soar (Just Write Books, 2009), said HR can add value to the performance review process by preparing employees and managers with training, coaching and guidance, along with hand-holding, if needed. Such efforts can “move everyone to a higher level of performance,” he said.
Poggi, who is president of sales and marketing, Americas, for D&M Group, a Mahwah, N.J.-based consumer electronics firm, said many reviews fail, because of lack of preparation, resulting in a lack of recognition for stand-out contributions and failure to communicate development issues.
“Typically both parties are not prepared,” Poggi wrote. “Employee motivation suffers, career advancement slows, and an opportunity for the manager to be more invested in the employee is lost.”
Steps Managers Can Take to Improve Performance Reviews
To make the most of the process, Poggi said managers should encourage employees to:
Best Practices for Performance Reviews
Stephen Balzac, president of 7 Steps Ahead, a Stow, Mass.-based organizational development consulting firm and author of
The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development (McGraw-Hill, 2010), said reviews should:
Performance Appraisal Pitfalls to Avoid
Dan Dugan, SPHR, regional HR manager for Service Corporation International in Houston, said managers should avoid:
Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.
‘We’re Looking at Performance Management in the Wrong Way,’ SHRM Online Employee Relations, November 2012
Inviting the Masses to Rate Employee Performance,
SHRM Online Employee Relations, April 2012
Survey: Most Large Firms Calibrate Performance,
SHRM Online Employee Relations, December 2011
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