Every day I drive past a school that has a sign at its entrance that says “outstanding Ofsted report” …. and I think to myself, why don’t you just get it done?
It’s the same in businesses everywhere at this time of year … how many outstanding performance reviews do you have? Outstanding has two very different meanings, of course – either exceptionally good, or not yet completed.
So how can you ensure your performance reviews are the right kind of outstanding?
Make them regular
The old ‘no surprises’ mantra sounds out every time we run performance management training, but let’s be honest, we’re not all great at managing those reviews on a regular basis. How would we ever find the time? The reality is that by NOT doing them, you are wasting time – a regular review can keep your team members engaged, busy, focussed, trained .. and can give them a vehicle to proactively raise any challenges that may prevent them delivering. If a small but regular investment of time can make more happen, it’s important that you find that time … meet over a coffee for an informal chat, or ramp it up in the boardroom for more formality … just meet, review and plan!
Make them matter
If someone is doing a great job, this is your chance to tell them. If someone isn’t doing a great job, this is your chance to tell them. A performance review shouldn’t simply be a ‘tick-box’ exercise, an action completed and reported back to the business. It should have an impact. An impact on people, on performance, on delivery. Finding ways to make sure the performance review process has some consequence will prove powerful. Give some thought to what those consequences might be … a thank you in recognition of extra effort, or a corrective action plan to address performance shortfalls. Taking the easy route and finding everyone to be ‘average’ or ‘good’ or ‘succeeding’, without providing additional feedback, will have little impact on whether your employees put in extra effort, or no effort. And you presumably want the extra … so recognise it, reward it somehow (a box of chocs won’t cost the earth) and make people want to excel.
Make them meaningful
The form filling process of performance review is probably one of the biggest wastes of time in business today. Controversial maybe, but whether the form gets sent to HR, or gets filed until the next review, it’s simply paperwork… it’s the process of dialogue that’s
important. The quality conversation is important. The investment of time is important. Yes, there will be some mandatory form filling for audit trails and record keeping, but don’t make that the focus of your discussion. Think about what you really want to get out of the session, and think about how you might achieve that through a proactive two way discussion. What questions do you want to ask? What feedback do you want to give? What do you want to be different at the end of the discussion? What opportunities do you want to offer? And what support are you going to give? Preparation is key to a meaningful discussion. Think about the conversation you want to have, and fill in the form later if it’s needed.
Make them encourage change
By spending time with your team members, you can encourage, advocate and drive change. What change? Well, what change do you want ? More output? Greater efficiency? Reduced cost? Better performance? More peer group support and coaching? You decide what it is you need, but through the performance review process, you can advocate, encourage and enable change in individuals, in teams, and ultimately in your results. But you can’t achieve anything if you don’t talk… if you don’t explain your point of view… and if you don’t listen to theirs. So think about how you want things to be different, think about how to engage your team members in the design of different, the planning and the journey towards the new and how you’ll celebrate once you all get there.
Your performance reviews can be extremely powerful in helping you – and your team – to deliver.
Don’t leave them outstanding. Make them outstanding.