It’s hard to believe, but we’re more than halfway through 2019 and we’ll soon be preparing for 2020. Many tasks loom ahead, including those dreaded end-of-the-year performance discussions. You may soon find that you still have 10 employees to sit down with and only three days left in the year to ensure you’ve reviewed their entire annual performance, in 30 minutes or less. “Great job with scheduling; no mishaps; need to pay closer attention to client requests; continue with the good job!” Would that motivate you? Would that get you excited about what the next year holds? Maybe for some, but that would be a no for me.
“... goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and timely.”
So just how do you ensure that your conversations about performance—including performance reviews themselves—are engaging, worthwhile, and effective in improving performance or knowledge?
Employees stress about reviews, especially when they work for managers who hardly ever discuss their headway with them. They don’t know what the meeting will bring: Confrontation? Praise? Questions and directives?
But if you’re the kind of manager who engages your employees on a daily or weekly basis with small conversations about their work, any roadblocks they may be facing, and their goal attainment, your employees will likely feel more secure heading into their performance reviews. These conversations can be had while you are walking down the hall (unless discussing personal or disciplinary issues), filling up your water bottle, or sitting at your desk. The more often you talk with your employees, the shorter each meeting will be, and the actual performance review meeting with be met with relaxed employees who are well aware of how they met your expectations this year.
“The more often you talk with your employees, the shorter each meeting will be, and the actual performance review meeting ill be met with relaxed employees ...”
When discussing performance, there are the good, the bad, and the “you’re almost there.” We all think that “the good” is the easy part of the discussion, but many of us are missing the exact details to ascertain that the employee understands why the performance is good. Words of affirmation are always needed, but do they help with shaping future behaviors?
“Great training session!”
These are all wonderful to hear, but the next time around, will the employee remember what made it a great job, or why you said good work, or what they did that made the session “great”? Now consider these words of feedback:
“Great job completing that report. Because the report was broken down into the level of detail you provided, I was able to see who our top 10 clients were last quarter and compare that to who the top 10 clients were the previous quarter. This gave me direction for business development for the upcoming month.”
“Great work on handling the wedding this weekend. There were a lot of moving parts: three motorcoaches and more than 150 guests. We’ve received no fewer than four positive comments about your customer service level, your ability to ensure everyone knew where they were going and when, and your communication with our chauffeurs so they knew the change of pickup location at the end of the night.”
“Your training session this week was a real eye-opener! You were able to take a group of reservationists who have been with our company for at least five years and show them new and innovative ways to close a quote—and even upsell. I loved your use of role play, suggested statements, and the power of knowledge about the company, our clientele, and our vehicles.”
In the examples above, we went from a blanket statement that an employee could take any number of ways to specific and detailed information that can be used in the future when handling similar situations. In the same way, providing feedback on areas for improvement should be just as detailed.
When addressing areas for improvement, establish that you are considering the behavior, the work, or the reason for the error, not the personality. Blaming employees’ personality traits for an issue immediately puts them on the defensive. Imagine you have an employee who rushes through customer calls. You say, “Your impatience is causing you to interrupt our clients, thereby providing them with incorrect information.” Will your employee have a clear understanding of the problem? Instead, try this approach:
“The most important part of an affiliate manager’s position is to ensure you are listening fully and completely to the requests of our clients. In the phone call yesterday with ABC Limo Company, you were recorded providing a suggestion that was the opposite of what was asked of us. In the future, please listen fully to the request so that you can provide the correct information.”
As you have these conversations throughout the year, make quick notes in the employee’s file so that when it comes time to review overall performance and set goals, you have your feedback in one place and don’t have to rely on your memory. During your performance review meeting, you and your employee should work together to set goals for the upcoming period, based on the previous period’s goals. If you have not set goals in the past, this is the perfect time to start. Ask your employees for their input about where they would like to see their performance grow or improve. Set specific details about the goals, the timelines, and how to achieve those goals. Remember that goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and timely.
Getting into the habit of providing feedback as you notice the performance will directly affect not only your end-of-year discussions, but also areas that need improvement or changes throughout the year. Waiting until the end of the year or months from now will result in continued poor or average performance, when the good and above average performance may be waiting just under the surface. Aim to provide positive feedback as often as possible.
A study by Emily Heaphy and Marcial Losada published in Harvard Business Review revealed that the highest-performing teams have a ratio of 5.6—almost six positive comments for every one negative one. This ratio has been constant in many other studies as well. With that in mind, I challenge you to find ways to point out the positives in your employees as you work your way through the upcoming months. [CD0719]
Christina Fiorenza is the HR Director for the LMG Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.