How To Take The Pain Out Of Performance Reviews by cmlang


									by: Lora J Adrianse

The Painful Approach

For many years, "performance management" was of an annual event dreaded by both the
management and the workforce. For a week or two every year the manager would virtually
isolate himself and ponder the stack of review forms staring him in the face. Chances are there
was very little data tracked, so he'd try to rack his brain for the past year so he could "evaluate"
his employees. In the meantime, a silent tension was building within each of the employees.
Always anticipating a "surprise", they had no idea what to expect. After all, "how far back could
the manager remember?" and "what will he remember?" Regardless of the outcome, everyone
would breathe a sigh of relief when it was over.

It's Different Today

Today more than ever before, the entire performance management process is in the spotlight.
Companies need factual, reliable systems to make tough business decisions. Performance
management data is being used not only to measure individual performance, but also to measure
benchmark strength, the potential human capital, and the performance of segments within the
company. It's all crucial today, and it's here to stay.

The timing is perfect for managers to optimize performance review processes and engage each
employee in the process.

The Possibilities

Imagine what it would be like if the annual performance review process transformed into an
annual strategy session. No tension, no getting blindsided and no negative energy. A time for the
manager and employee to come together to reflect on the past year, formally acknowledge
accomplishments, strategize development opportunities and identify goals. Yes, there would still
be a fair amount of time involved, but wouldn't it be worth it if both the manager and the
employee could walk away feeling good about it?

Creating a partnership approach to the performance review process not only produces powerful
results, but also empowers employees. By proactively contributing to the process, employees feel
more in-control, and are motivated to perform better and achieve more.

How To Create A Partnership Approach To Performance Management

The First Ground Rule

As with most new processes, communication is the essential factor that can determine the
success or failure of your initiative, and especially a change. So, the ground rule is, communicate
openly, honestly, often, and completely.

Getting Started
Start with communication to your team. Tell them what, why, and especially, what's in it for
them. Then schedule a series of meetings with them to work through the details as suggested
below. It's extremely beneficial to get a volunteer to document the outcome of each meeting.
After the meeting send the document back to the group to confirm and/or clarify agreements.

Establish Shared Understandings

Establishing shared understandings and agreements takes the guesswork and assumptions out of
the performance review process.

Work with your team to create a list of performance management criteria that needs to be
understood by all. Some examples:

      Definitions of each performance competency
      Definitions of rating scales or systems
      Performance standards
      Success indicators
      What will be measured
      How it will be tracked

Create Support Processes

Creating support processes will become nucleus of the partnership approach. In other words, the
support processes you create with your team become their critical opportunities to contribute to
the process.

Again, work with your team to create the processes that will support your performance review
process. Some examples:

      Weekly or bi-weekly meetings to discuss progress, roadblocks, etc.
      Monthly, quarterly or semi-annual reports to track accomplishments, progress, etc.
      A proactive ongoing feedback process - both employees and managers actively seek
       feedback regularly (what's going well, what can go better, what needs to change)
      A year-end process for compiling the information and planning for the annual
       strategy/review discussion
      A self-review process for employees - managers can request that self- reviews are
       submitted before the manager writes the review.

Integrate The System

Now, put your process in action. Think of your "shared understandings" as your guide to
performance standards and measurements. Your support processes are the tools you use to gather
and compile performance data. Now, all you need to do is to integrate the informa tion into your
performance management system and schedule the actual review meeting.

Reflect And Improve
At the end of each performance review cycle take time to get feedback from your team. It's as
simple as scheduling a meeting or sending an email. It's a great time to review your shared
understandings and support processes. Here are some questions to ask about the process:

      What went well?
      What could have gone better?
      What needs to change?

In Summary

When it's time for the annual performance review process both employees and managers have
plenty of factual information, will already know how they're doing, and best of all, will have
established relationships and rapport.

The annual strategy/review discussion becomes a time for the manager and employee to come
together to reflect on the past year, formally acknowledge accomplishments, strategize
development opportunities and plan for the upcoming year. And best of all, the painful surprises
have been eliminated.

This article was posted on December 02, 2003

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