Although they aren’t the most fun part of the job, employee evaluations are both important and tremendously helpful. Conducting these types of reviews can be an experience that ranges from “terribly awkward” to “constructive and positive,” so it’s important to handle them properly. As a manager, your ability to handle interpersonal relationships is extremely important. In an employee review, you want to provide constructive, positive criticism without beating around the bush (too much). This can be a difficult balance to strike. So, let’s jump into some tips for conducting successful employee evaluations.
Establish Expectations Early
Technically speaking, the performance review doesn’t start until the employee is in your office. However, there are ways to help your employee long before that moment. This all comes down to managing expectations. Early on in the hiring process, you should explain to your employees what they will be “judged” on during future performance reviews. Make it very clear what an employee will need to do in order to succeed and thrive within the workplace. By setting clear expectations, you give your employees a solid idea of where to focus their efforts. Not only will this help with the process of performance reviews, but it will also improve your team’s day-to-day working life. The clearer the expectations are, the better.
Set a Tone
This is another form of managing expectations. It’s important to choose your tone for employee reviews and stick to it. Employees should know what to expect coming into the meeting. Too often, employers mix praise and harsh criticism, leading an employee to not know where they stand in their boss’ eyes. Instead, we suggest keeping a positive tone (whenever possible) and mostly addressing what your employees are doing well. This reinforces good behavior, which in itself can help eliminate bad behavior. However, some employees will certainly need a more “direct” approach. In these cases, do not sugarcoat and keep a consistent message throughout the performance review. Although it may seem harsh to do this, it will make things easier.
When it comes time to critique your employees, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of “calling them out.” Avoid layering criticism on top of criticism. Instead, provide real, actionable ways that employees can improve their performance at your establishment. Offering arbitrary criticism without any form of solution is harmful. Instead, think: What is my employee doing that they should not be doing? What can they do that they are not currently doing? What actionable methods can they take to improve?
Provide Consistent Feedback
Performance reviews should happen quarterly or annually, but you should try to consistently offer feedback to your workers. This can happen informally or in small passing moments. You should be tracking your employees’ performance all year long and providing constructive feedback regularly. Of course, always aim to be positive. Encourage good behavior, and provide alternatives to bad behavior. By doing this in small doses throughout the year, you will significantly reduce the scope (and intensity) of year-end reviews.
Prepare—And Ask Them to Prepare
Do not “sneak attack” employees with performance reviews. Provide ample warning to your employees that they will soon be reviewed. Let them know well ahead of time that reviews are coming. In addition, offer them some tips for how they can prepare. Encourage them to think of questions, and provide feedback for you as well. On the other hand, you should also prepare yourself for performance reviews. Do not go into performance reviews completely blind. Make notes and spend time preparing for each employee’s review. This will give you a roadmap for issues to cover. It will make conducting your performance reviews easy and quick.
Make it a Conversation
A performance review should not be you barking orders at an employee. Instead, it should be a dynamic, two-way conversation between manager and employee. Do not give ultimatums or threaten your employees. Instead, approach the evaluation with a constructive mindset. Be open to your employee’s ideas and questions. Give your employee a platform to speak their mind regarding the issues at hand.
Ask Questions and Listen
An employee review isn’t just a chance for you to correct errors. It is also an opportunity to understand your staff members better. It is a chance to extend some empathy and get a glimpse into what your team members go through. Ask questions about your employee’s day-to-day work, and be attentive when they respond. Take notes on employees’ responses, and consider utilizing them in the next review. For example, if your employee expresses negative feelings, bring them up at the next performance review to see if the issue has been fixed. This is a great way to form a strong, positive relationship between employer and employee.
Conclude with Actionable Ideas
Your employees should not leave their performance review thinking “Now what?” It is important that they walk away with real, actionable insights. If you have given them criticism on behavior or performance, you should also give them the tools they need to address those issues. Employees should leave their reviews feeling empowered, not beaten-down. To some extent, how employees deal with criticism is going to vary widely and you should always conclude with the next steps to give the employee solid ways to improve.
Evaluate Your Evaluations!
This next one is simple: always work to improve your employee evaluations. Never be satisfied! After you do a round of evaluations, make notes on what worked and what didn’t. Be self-critical and try to look at things through your employees’ eyes. Good intentions will only get you so far with employee reviews—you need to have good execution as well. By building on past successes (and failures) of evaluations, you can provide a better roadmap for future reviews. Employee evaluations are difficult, for both employee and manager. It may take several years to get a good system nailed down, so be patient.