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Performance Review 101 – How to get real results

We are rapidly approaching the end of the fiscal year and that means one thing for employees: performance review time. Ugh, the dreaded performance review, they are the bane of existence for employees and managers alike.

But there are ways to make performance reviews less painful for everyone involved. Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service.

He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that supervisors need to spend twice the amount of time preparing for the performance review as they do delivering the feedback.

Performance reviews are important because:

  • In the current fiscal environment it is essential to set clear expectations
  • You need to make sure you are able to maintain morale, despite all the doom and gloom that is in the papers today

What should managers consider prior to a performance review?

  • What were the employee’s expectations?
  • How did he/she perform?
  • To what extent are they/you responsible for the outcomes?
  • What are some concrete expectations going forward?
  • What are the things they are doing exceptionally well that you want to reinforce?
  • What are the derailers?

For high performing employees with low morale, managers should:

  • Focus on the big picture. For high performers who may be struggling right ow, they may miss that this is a great opportunity to affect change in government right now. So while we would love to have public support, this is the hand we are dealt. You have to ask them if they want to write the story that despite historic challenges, they were able to achieve even higher levels of performance.
  • Focus on what you have control over.

How to deal with low performers?

  • Before you give any feedback ask the employee to do a self assessment. That way you can have them take the delusion test.
  • Offer that employee an honest assessment
  • Put the employee on an improvement plan

“Managers should shift their perceptions of performance reviews from one of judgement to an opportunity for learning,” said Fox.

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Alan Pentz

A lot of managers will groan when they hear they need to spend MORE time on performance reviews. That’s the one thing they feel they lack but it is important to their people. One additional strategy is to ask managers to spend more time with their best people. At least they prioritize to maximize the effectiveness of the organization.

Scott Kearby

For the reviewer, often times the review process does not result in improved performance … it is an administrative report submitted into the HR system. It gets used not to improve the performance of individual employees because HR does not have a direct responsiblity to improve performance of individual employees … that is the responsibilty of the manager/reviewer. HR often uses the performance reports to compare employees and screen them for promotion, for bonus, for whatever HR is looking for. Once the report is submitted, the reviewer (manager) has no further input or involvement and the decisions are made elsewhere.

For the employee, performance reviews that identify specific areas for improvement are perceived as just documentation that coud be used against them at a later date by the HR system. Even if the manager/reviewer is attempting to provide honest feedback, once the report is submitted to the HR system it can be used for other purposes, with no further input or rebuttal from the employee or the manager.

The idea and intent of performance reviews has merit but implementation is a bear!

Dave Hebert

Scott, your comments bring me back to the one-week mandatory supervisory training I had to attend when I became a boss. Perhaps the strongest message I got out of it was that there are any number of ways bosses can get into trouble, even when they think they are doing the right thing. Performance plans and reviews are a great way to paint yourself and your people into a corner. As tough as it is (and it’s very tough), supervisors have to know they rules, and they have spend time rating and setting their employees up for success.