Most employees hate going through the annual performance review process. In fact, according to a Gallup research study only 14% of performance reviews leave an employee feeling motivated to perform better. The key reason for this, most managers have no idea how to assess performance at the end of the year. They see their employees turn up on time, work the required hours and send the reports they are supposed to prepare. This often leaves a manager confused as to how to rate an employee at year end. Does that make someone a star performer because they did stay late quite a lot? Or maybe they stayed late because they struggled with the work?
What goals did you set?
Ironically, if the manager has done their job right, the year-end performance review should be easy. It all starts with effective goal setting at the start of the year, or the start of their tenure with the company if they are a new hire. The manager should have set specific and clear goals that the employee was supposed to deliver in addition to their business as usual tasks. At the end of the year, the employee will have either failed to deliver these, delivered them, or gone above and beyond and also delivered some additional items. That is pretty much the guide for your low, middle and high performers. Easy.
Discuss performance more than once a year
Next, it is important to discuss performance with employees at least once a quarter, ideally once a month. It should come as no surprise that employees that receive regular feedback perform better than those that do not. Despite this, roughly half of all employees do not have a performance conversation with their manager at least once a quarter. By having regular check ins with employees, you are able to better assess their performance and also coach them to improve performance. It also allows for a much fairer assessment at the end of the year. Maybe one project was not delivered, but that is because IT are in the process of changing the IT system, which has caused a 9-month delay. By having a regular check in, you will have known in advance that was the case and assess fairly, as opposed to only finding out at year end that the project was not delivered.
Only focus on the performance of the individual
When assessing performance, you are supposed to be assessing the performance of a specific employee against their agreed upon goals. You do not mark down one employee who achieved their goals, because another employee outperformed their goals. This creates resentment within the team and unhealthy competition. If you asked an employee to do something and they did it, they are going to feel unappreciated if this is not recognized. You should not compare one employee to another.
Do not let bias cloud your judgement
Finally, it is also important to ignore the personality traits of the person you are assessing. It would be wonderful if everyone could connect equally as well with all different personality types, but we are human and that just is not the case. You may have someone in your team that you really like, you have drinks after work, your kids go to the same school. That is irrelevant at the end of the year. If they have not achieved their goals, they have not met expectations. Likewise, you may just dislike someone in the team. Maybe they support a different sports team or political party. Again, it should not matter. You only focus on the quality of their work. Did they deliver what was agreed?