Are your employees engaged and motivated? The sad reality is that many Canadian employees are not. A big contributing factor is that many Canadian companies still lack clear processes, road maps and incentives to help their staff achieve and grow.

When it comes to getting the most from your people, your HR team should have processes and tools in place to clearly communicate goals throughout the company so that employees have the direction they need to focus and deliver.

Performance reviews offer a chance for employees to focus on work activities and goals. They also offer employers the ability to identify and correct existing problems and to encourage better future performance from employees, thereby enhancing the performance of the whole organization.

While managers might not enjoy spending time working on employee performance evaluations, they do appreciate the benefits that come from them. According to a recent survey by the staffing firm Accountemps, more than 90% of North American executives think their performance reviews make employees more effective.

When conducting a performance review, managers should avoid criticizing an employee in general. However, that doesn’t mean they should avoid discussing problems. The trick is to keep the review balanced, fair and metric driven. Following are six tips for managers.

1) Be specific. Provide constructive feedback on particular performance issues so employees know exactly what they need to improve. Managers should also be telling staff members what they are doing well in order to recognize achievements and reinforce positive performance.

2) Be direct. Be honest about areas that need improvement. Failure to have difficult conversations early on can lead to big headaches down the road. Many successful companies actually provide feedback throughout the performance cycle in the form of ongoing dialogue—not just during the formal review—in order to tackle issues head-on and drive new initiatives faster.

3) Have real conversations. When discussing the performance review, managers should engage their employees by asking questions. It should be a two-way conversation.

4) Use self-assessments. Employees who are required to conduct their own self-assessment as part of the review are often better positioned to review goals and achievements since the questions they need to answer help them refocus on their performance indicators. Also, this approach helps employees come to the review meetings with the details they need to help them get recognition and rewards.

5) Get the full picture. Managers should also seek feedback on their own performance from subordinates, peers, mentors and—in the case of small companies—everyone else on staff. A wider feedback base can help managers receive a more well-rounded and realistic picture of their own performance.

6) Plan for the future. Apart from judging past performance, evaluations should include future goals. When employers set goals in a formal manner, employees will better understand the objectives they must meet to get positive reviews moving forward. Employees should be asked to provide input into their development plans— which need to include milestones and incentives—so they feel more empowered.

When you get performance reviews right, employees will no longer dread them—and you’ll get an engaged team.

Do not…

  • Use a review as a gunnysack for storing up negative feedback over a period of, say, a year and fire it all at your poor employee at review time. Both negative and positive feeback needs to be given throughout the year. The review itself should hold no surprises.
  • Use negative phrase such as “You should try a little harder since you tend to be a little lazy” or “I’m cutting you some slack since you’re approaching retirement.” Such phrases could be subject to negative interpretation later, and it’s your responsibility to offer constructive feedback.

Jilaine Parkes is president of Sprigg Talent Management Systems.

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