Employee Retention and Attraction #3 – Kill the Performance Review

Fear and trepidation – that’s what almost everyone feels as they meet with their boss for their annual performance review. Bosses have it worse! They also have to write performance reviews for each of their direct reports (which they dislike doing), and review performance reviews written by their direct reports.

So why the fear and trepidation? Because we know that we’re going to be criticized, to be told that what we’re doing is not quite good enough. That’s the purpose of a review, isn’t it? Here’s where you’re doing ok, and here’s where you need to improve. It’s a one-way discussion – how we fit into the job description. Nothing about where we can grow personally. We’re just a cog in a machine.

Given that virtually NOBODY likes them, why do we keep doing them? What if there were a better way? How about this – instead of a top-down monologue of judgment “here’s how you measured up to our standards”, create a 2-way conversation. The underlying tone and expectation can be two equal parties working together to help the employee AND the organization thrive. For the first meeting:

  1. Agree jointly on the expectations of performance for the position, and how they will be measured (SMART goals).
  2. Agree jointly on the expectations for growth of the incumbent, both professional and personal, where applicable (for example, communications skills). Ask the incumbent where they would like to grow and how the organization can help.
  3. Agree on the resources and support that the organization will provide to help the incumbent succeed.
  4. Agree on communication style and frequency. For example:
    1. Weekly verbal check-ins.
    2. Texts and/or e-mails frequently and as appropriate.

i. Attaboys or attagirls when something has been done well

ii. Help with overcoming obstacles. Instead of “you missed the mark (implicitly blaming the incumbent), assume that the incumbent did the best they could with what they had available. Ask “What happened? How can we work together to get the desired result? What does the organization need to do so that you can succeed?” This is a classic TQM/Lean approach.

    1. Monthly scorecard review of the agreed-upon SMART goals:

i. Holding the incumbent accountable for performance, and asking what could change to help the performance improve.

ii. Holding the organization accountable for resources and support, and modifying the goals to reflect availability of resources and support.

iii. Agree on adjustments to the goals, based on what you now know.

For subsequent meetings, jointly assess how well each party has achieved its goals – that includes how well the organization has supported the employee (steps 3 and 4). Instead of the “you failed” attitude when a goal was not met, try “What happened? What can we learn from that? If we still want to hit the goal, how can we do that?”

This will help your best and brightest want to remain with you, because they will feel valued and respected. Morale increases, at no additional expense. What’s not to like?


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