Performance Review Time – Should You Keep Doing Them?

 

Its the beginning of the New Year and many companies may be getting ready to produce their employees’ annual performance reviews, so I’m sure the topic of whether or not its worth the time has started to come up.

There are a lot of different opinions out there as to whether or not companies should still be doing “performance reviews” for their employees.  Some say its too time consuming in this day and age.  Others say employees don’t really care because all they want to hear about is a raise.  And even more say that there’s just no purpose anymore.

I disagree.

Performance Reviews are more than just a “necessary evil we have to do once a year.”  Its an opportunity for the manager and the employee to have an open discussion on the employee’s work performance and continued employment with the company.

Today’s employees aren’t building lifelong careers with any one company anymore.  In fact, studies are out that actual encourage employees to change jobs every 3-4 years.  That “job-hopping” that used to be frowned upon in the past now…its acceptable and expected.  Turnover in a company does more than create open positions and slow down production for a short time – it costs the company money.  Money that has to be spent on recruiting the new employee and then training the new employee before they are ready to perform the job by themselves.  Companies that properly use “performance reviews” are able to control that amount of turnover and, quite possibly, find they have employees that they can promote from within again.

Employees today, more than ever, want to know what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong and what they can do to advance in the company.  Not communicating with the employee shows them that the company doesn’t care about them or their career path and before long, their performance will start to drop.    A negative attitude will develop…employees will begin missing work or coming in late as dedication to the job begins to slide.  By the time their manager finally does come around to giving them a review, all they will focus on is the employee’s poor performance – taking no ownership in the fact that they themselves contributed to the problem.

Performance reviews are basically feedback we give our employees.  While many managers claim it takes too much time and limit it to once a year, it actually should take place more often during the year.  The biggest complaint employees have about the process when its only annual is the manager will only focus on what he or she has done recently.  So, if they were a star employee for 9 months but the last 3 months ran into issues because of family problems, for example, the manager will typically use that as the focal point and the review will talk about how they “need to improve their attendance and performance.”  No wonder employees get frustrated!

If you decide this year to change how you do things and turn it into shorter, but quarterly reviews, the goals you set for the employee will seem more attainable – setting them up for success instead of failure – because you will be discussing the progress throughout the year as issues are coming up.  What you are truly showing your employee is that the two of you are working together as a “team.”

Keep in mind – feedback sessions do not have to be formal reviews.  Call it a “strategy meeting” or “career planning” if it makes it easier for you not to label it a “performance review.”  You will sit down your entire department to talk about a goal and strategize how to accomplish it.  Well, why not do the same with your employees?

These sessions should be two-way feedback sessions with your employees also sharing their observations, expectations and suggestions for both personal and company improvement.  Remember – while you are focused on managing these employees, they are the ones carry out the tasks and will have more insight into the effectiveness of the plans you have put into place.

Talk about what additional training the employee should also look into and whether or not the company would be willing to absorb the cost.  Let them research training and classes on their own to show you how serious they are about improving themselves.  Not all employees will be motivated to do so and that’s okay.  The point is that you created the opportunity for it to exist and by including it in a performance review session, you also have a speaking point to come back to in future sessions.

You don’t need fancy programs or long forms to fill out – keep it simple and stick to only what’s relevant:

  • Attendance and punctuality
  • Quality of work produced
  • Communication skills: following directions, asking questions, offering help
  • Knowledge of the job
  • Interaction with customers and other employees

And then, set some goals:

  • What is the specific goal as it applies to the employee (not overall for the department)
  • Give a timeline of when you want to see the goals completed
  • What training will the company assist them with or help them find to complete the task
  • What are your expectations: that the employee let you know how things are going, ask for help when needed, make suggestions for changes along the way

That’s it!  Let them know how you feel they are performing right now, what areas you would like to see them improve in and what goals you would like them to work toward before the next discussion.  You are creating a positive and growing environment for the employee and “a happy employee = a productive employee!”

Bonus: By following this method, if an employee’s performance starts to deteriorate and the company decides to end their employment, you now how documentation to show that you (as the company) did try to help the employee improve and can show that the company offered their part in helping improve the matter. 

 

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Employee Reviews Are Useless??

review“They aren’t important…it’s all about the money anyway.”

As much as I hate to admit this – yes, there are managers out there who believe this to be true!  After hearing these words come out a manager’s mouth when I asked when he was going to get the performance reviews for his department completed, I decided to sit down all the managers at my company to explain to them what performance reviews are and why they are important.

While many employees have come to expect a raise to be rewarded at the time of their performance review, managers need to realize that this isn’t the purpose behind them.  Performance Management is a more than just a “review” – its best when used as a check-and-balance method of communication.  Employees today, more than ever, want to know what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong and what they can do to advance in the company.

The worst mistake a company can make is to avoid giving a performance review because they expect the employee to be looking for a raise.  Not communicating with the employee shows them that the company doesn’t care about them or their career path…and before long, their performance will start to drop.    A negative attitude will develop…employees will begin missing work or coming in late as dedication to the job begins to slide.  By the time their manager finally does come around to giving them a review, all they will focus on is the employee’s poor performance – taking no ownership in the fact that they themselves contributed to the problem.

Performance reviews are basically feedback we give our employees.  While many managers claim it takes too much time and limit it to once a year, it actually should take place more often during the year.  Few goals take an entire year to complete so why wait so long to discuss them?  Keep in mind – feedback sessions do not have to be formal reviews.  Call it a “strategy meeting” or “career planning” if it makes it easier for you not to label it a “performance review.”  You will sit down your entire department to talk about a goal and strategize how to accomplish it.  Well, why not do the same with your employees?

Actually, if you conduct these performance review sessions more often throughout the year (my suggestion is to conduct them quarterly), they will take less time to complete as you will be updating and modifying the goals and expectations you have of your employees as you go along…tweeking it if you will.  These sessions should be two-way feedback sessions with your employees also sharing their observations, expectations and suggestions for both personal and company improvement.  Remember – while you are focused on managing these employees, they are the ones carry out the tasks and will have more insight into the effectiveness of the plans you have put into place.

Tie goals to a performance matrix so they know what they have to do before they can earn a raise and at what level.  Think back to school – you knew what score you had to get in order to receive an A versus a B…put the same concept in place in the workplace.  For revenue-generating positions, this can be tied to profit but even non-revenue positions can have “levels” of success for the employees to strive for.  Talk about what additional training the employee should also look into and whether or not the company would be willing to absorb the cost.  Let them research training and classes on their own to show you how serious they are about improving themselves.

And remember than performance management doesn’t have to be limited to a one-on-one discussion with the employee.  Turn it into a true recognition program!  Have your goal setting session with the employee and once they achieve them, make an announcement to the entire company.  Not only will the employee enjoy the attention paid to their accomplishment, but it will (hopefully) motivate other employees to want to do the same.

In the end, communcation will increase throughout all levels at the company which will in turn boost employee morale and increase performance levels…all of which will lead to an increase in company profit.  Now – doesn’t it seem worth the time to have these “pow wow” sessions with your employees?  And if you feel compelled to award a raise as a result – I would say go with that feeling!

#HRHorrorStories – Day 1 – Your Employees & The Internet

fashion-week-etiquette-horror-storiesThis week on Drive Thru HR (#DTHR), the topic is HR horror stories…those incidents and events that not only left us speechless but also spurred changes and policies in the workplace.

On Day 1, the topic of discussion centered around employees use of the Internet at work – more specifically, visiting inappropriate sites while on company time.  Not really a shock there with use of the Internet part of many employees’ daily duties.

Many companies have put policies into place in an attempt to “monitor and control” usage on company computers and while on company time:

”The Internet is intended for business use only.  Use of the Internet for any non-business purpose, including but not limited to, personal communication or solicitation, purchasing personal goods or services, gambling and downloading files for personal use, is strictly prohibited.

Consistent with applicable federal and state law, the time you spend on the Internet may be tracked through activity logs for business purposes.  All abnormal usage will be investigated thoroughly.  Employees learning of any misuse of the Internet shall notify a member of management.

Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including discharge.”

Some companies have recognized the potential for harassment in the workplace as a result of inappropriate Internet usage and have added additional comments to their Internet Usage Policy:

“Our company’s policies against sexual and other types of harassment apply fully to Internet usage.  Violations of those policies are not permitted and may result in disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.  Therefore, employees are also prohibited from displaying, transmitting and/or downloading sexually explicit images, messages, ethnic slurs, racial epithets or anything that could be construed as harassment or disparaging to others.”

But, with use of the Internet such a part of each employee’s daily routine, how effective is it to have such a policy?  In a story shared, it was an IT Manager who had violated the policy – the person responsible for monitoring all other employees’ usage.

This comes back to a company needing to be “proactive” rather than simply “reactive.”  Remember: policies are put in place to guide the employees, make them aware of limits and for use in disciplinary cases.  But, a company cannot simply think setting a policy and reviewing it with employees if enough to monitor such things.

There will be “signs” before the misuse of the Internet begins to occur.

What are the two main reasons why an employee will pull back from their job duties and start surfing the Internet while on company time?

1) The Employee is dissatisfied with their job so it’s a form of rebellion, and

2) The Employee truly doesn’t have enough work to keep them busy so they turn to the Internet to fill their time.

And both of those come back to interacting with and managers your employees.  Don’t be so wrapped up in carrying out your own duties that you stop paying attention to your employees.  You don’t need to micro-manage them, but by simply having open communication lines between you and them allows you to know when they are looking for work to do, may be ready to tackle a new and more challenging project, have hit burn-out or have frustrations brewing that if not addressed will escalate and potentially cause damage to the co-workers around them as well.

HR Would Be Better If….

670px-Stop-Thinking-of-Something-or-Someone-Step-9My friend Steve Browne (@sbrownehr) posed a question and a challenge to all HR professionals to answer this simple question: “HR would be better if ______________.”

So, here is my response:

HR would be better if “human” was put back into Human Resources.

Back in the day, we were known as the Personnel Department.  Why? Well, my thought is that the perception is that all people in our position did was processing employee paperwork – you know, new hire documents, benefit enrollments, payroll, etc.

When the switch in title was made to Human Resources is was to bring attention to the fact that our employees are just as much a resource in the company as the equipment we use…and those of us in those roles were their “spokesperson.”  Suddenly, HR folks were getting involved in much more than just paperwork.  We were involved in performance reviews, disciplinary meetings, creating recruiting strategies, conducting employee training…all kinds of things that got us away from just being known as the “paperwork” department.

We jokingly started being called the company’s “police officer” for enforcing the Employee Handbook or the “counselor” because of our open door policy welcoming employees to come to us with their problems or issues.  We were the “go between” for the employees and their managers where we played referee during problems and career coach during motivational sessions.

Suddenly, the fact that we weren’t a “profit center” for the company didn’t matter – managers were seeking our opinions and upper management was inviting us to participate in planning sessions.  As a result, HR pros dove into ideas and strategies to improve their day-to-day responsibilities and position within the company.  We sought out new technology to utilize, setup new procedures for recruiting, welcomed Internet-based applications to help with benefit enrollments…and so much more.  And it made sense as the rest of the world around us was embracing automation thanks to email, the Internet and smartphones.

And that’s where we went off course…

The personal touch that we had become to be known for started to fade.

> When it came to recruiting, we began to rely heavily on the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that we setup to help us sift through candidate resumes so that we didn’t have to read them anymore….and potentially lost out on some great candidates who didn’t know how to “use the system” to make sure their submissions were considered.

> We sat back and let LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Bullhorn….all these social media sites where we could post jobs do the legwork for us to find new employees.  After all, everyone is on social media right? And if they want to work for us, they will see it and reach out to us, right?

> We stopped using our email’s automated response option to send a “thank you” to candidates when they forwarded their resume to us because we didn’t want them to have our direct contact information and start reaching out to us.

> We stopped following up on interviews after the fact to let candidates know that we had chosen to pass on them.

> We stopped requesting to hold company-wide meetings to talk about new benefits or open enrollment and opted for email blasts with links to websites for “any questions” and to enroll directly.

> We pulled back from asking our employees their thoughts and opinions on improvements to their job.  Why? Either we’ve been too busy with other things that have become a “higher priority” (meaning, will help US look good in our jobs) or we have a better idea what they need anyway because of all the suggestions we see from our peers on social media.

> We worried more about cost to the company than overall benefit to the employee because we wanted upper management to keep viewing us a team player rather than an employee advocate.  We knew better…we knew what we should be suggesting to help attract higher caliber candidates and increase retention of our current employees but we feared loosing that relationship with the boss that we were enjoying.

> We focused so much on “getting a seat at the table” that we forgot that its the employees that should be our first concern…and our focus.

We forgot about the “human” side of Human Resources that we were supposed to be known for.

So, its not a matter of what would make HR better in my eyes – its a matter of getting back to the core of who we are and why we became so good at our jobs: the communication and the personal touch we had with our employees.   Let’s face it: HR plays a key role in an employee’s happiness on the job and longevity with the company.  We bridge the gap between the employee and management.  We keep the communication lines open and build up trust & loyalty with the employees.

And we shouldn’t be afraid to loose our status as “Strategic Partners” simply because we push for better for our employees.  A Department Manager will go to his boss when he feels a new piece or equipment or upgrade will help improve production.  Our argument should be no different.  We represent the “human” equipment of the company – without which there wouldn’t need a need for the physical equipment.  Our position is of more importance when we put it that way.

HR Professionals everywhere! Get back in touch with your employees and candidates. Now more than ever that personal touch can have the greatest impact: at branding the company, at building its reputation, and at building a strong employee base…and you are a huge part of that!

Do’s & Don’ts of Performance Reviews: And Why You NEED To Do Them!

goalsFirst let’s start off by saying: a Performance Review does not equal a salary increase!

Yes, the two are normally tied together…but that raise is tied to the end result of the performance review as a reward.  Too many managers shy away from doing performance reviews on their employees because they assume they HAVE to then give them a raise.  If you are one of them – time to change your way of thinking!

Performance reviews serve a dual purpose:  1) helps your employees know whether or not they successfully meeting their job requirements and what goals who have set for them and 2) helps identifying under-performance issues before they have to become disciplinary issues.

Remember: if you terminate an employee for poor job performance but have no paper trail to show you have counseled them or tried to help them correct it, YOU as the employer will be paying unemployment!   These performance reviews are a more productive and proactive approach than having to go right to a disciplinary action.

Performance reviews can be given at anytime of the year – most companies will do then only once annually along with a pay increase but I would suggest doing them more often.  Depending on how many employees you have to review, bi-annual or even quarterly can really make a difference in job performance and satisfaction.

Some key points to remember when you are filling out an employee’s performance review:

1) DO have a system in place for measuring performance. Quickest way to have an employee doubt you are giving them a fair review is to pull numbers and comments “out of a hat.”  Every job has some sort of guidelines that can be used to measure performance.  This is why more frequent reviews can help you – set goals for your employees and use those as the measuring sticks!

2) DON‘T delay discussing performance issues with an employee until the annual performance review. There is no reason to wait 3 – 6 – 12 months until you bring up an error or job deficiency.  Employees have come to expect that from employers and assume that their review won’t take into account the good things they have done.  Address a performance issue right away!  If the “check oil” in your car goes on, you don’t wait til the engine seizes…do you??

3) DO be direct, factual and detail-oriented. Don’t rush through a review to simple “get through it.”  You aren’t doing you or your employee any good with that…and they will remember that.  Take your time to prepare a clear, honest and well-thought review.  Go through your old notes, review the employee’s Personnel file or last review and come up with a new set of goals each time…even if you are including some of the same.  Give the employee a clear direction of where you want them to go in the position and what they will need to do to get there.

4) DON‘T make negative comments that attack an employee’s attitude rather than performance. Everyone has a bad day and not everyone is “Mr/Ms Personality” so don’t make the review personal.  Focus on their job requirements and expectations.  Should you bring up issues/complaints related to their job, yes – but in a constructive manner and NEVER assume you know why they act the way they do.  Tell them you have a “concern” and want to discuss…maybe they weren’t even aware they were coming across with an attitude.

5) DO document all points covered in the performance review. Performance records can also provide important documentation for your company in the event a disciplinary action, termination or other adverse personnel decision becomes necessary.

Performance reviews can be such a powerful and productive tool…see them as that and not a burden and watch how they will help improve morale and productivity!