You–as the boss–might dread giving employee performance reviews. But giving effective reviews can spark goodwill. You don’t even have to give traditional reviews. Some companies are taking a modernized approach that incorporates a feedback loop and a focus on company values. What’s most important, though, is to have some system in place. Here’s what the experts say:
How Malouf Handles Performance Reviews
Brian Blotter, Human Resources Manager at Malouf, says managers typically don’t like to do evaluations or reviews. And employees often don’t like to attend. “Everyone kind of has their guards up,” he says. Mr. Blotter says the company schedules monthly one-on-ones with employees. That way, management understands more of the employee’s day-to-day responsibilities. The monthly meetings also track the employee’s progress throughout the whole year, giving the manager plenty of relevant material for bi-annual reviews.
During the reviews, honesty is the most effective. “I even call it brutally honest,” he says. “Saying that, you should be kind, also.”
Employees receive a copy of their performance review, which shows questions based on the company’s values. The employees self-evaluate on that form, and set goals to become better. The managers also assess the employee’s performance, Mr. Blotter says, and then conduct the evaluation.
Setting unrealistic expectations is unfair to the employee, and asking better questions helps. “A lot of managers don’t understand the day-to-day tasks that their employees are doing. Sometimes we just look at the big picture and say, ‘Why didn’t that get done?’ Where, maybe, 20 other things got done before it,” he says.
One challenge is when the boss likes one employee’s personality more than another employee’s personality. When that happens, some companies rely more on a buddy-buddy system for reviews and rewards, like getting a raise because the employee is the manager’s friend–not because the employee deserved it. “You might hang out with some employees in real life after work, or not, but you still have to treat each employee the same and be fair,” he says. “That should show in your evaluation.”
How Larry H. Miller Sports Entertainment Handles Performance Reviews
Michelle Smith, vice president of people and culture at Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment, says their ultimate goal with performance management, which includes reviews, is to provide an outlet for feedback. That could be employee-to-boss or boss-to-employee. “You really won’t find a standard recipe for performance management,” Ms. Smith said.
Larry H. Miller Sports Entertainment, for example, recently adapted a review format that Netflix uses called the ‘Start, Stop, Continue’ Method. First, start with areas you want to focus on, like the employee’s personal growth. Second, stop and look at areas in your business where that process changed. For example, if an employee’s goal is to go back to school, do you currently have programs to help them out? Or did the programs change? This part of the review is also the time to get into the uncomfortable stuff, and take a moment for performance issues. Then, change something, maybe adding an avenue for your employee to get more professional growth.
“It’s a way to goal set but also a way to give honest feedback,” Smith says. “It can be difficult for some managers to be in that setting and not have it be all rainbows and butterflies. I think it’s a disservice to, not only the manager but, the employee if they don’t get feedback–even negative feedback.”
While they used a more traditional template for years, she says it’s subjective. For example, what if an employee doesn’t get a review for two years, then ends up with a different manager who doesn’t know their work? “They can’t look as directly at the specific job performance. They start to give everybody a three or a four [out of five],” she says. “So, then it’s like, ‘How did I really ever do? If everyone is going to get a four are we getting any better?'”
Plus, the traditional template didn’t pertain to unique job responsibilities. The modernized approach allows them to critique more individually, and give the employee a chance to give feedback to the boss. “What we’re seeing from engagement surveys, people just want feedback,” Ms. Smith says. If you don’t offer any type of review format, your employees will feel discouraged because they end up playing the guessing game. Ultimately, they may decide to leave.
How Pluralsight Handles Performance Reviews
Anita Grantham, chief people officer at Pluralsight, said most people leave review experiences scarred, which is why Pluralsight also doesn’t follow the traditional review process. Their new review process doesn’t have a direct tie to compensation, and it’s not a hierarchical situation where the manager has all the power, she says. It’s really just a conversation weighted equally based on both people’s feedback.
“We create psychological safety where the leader can take on any feedback so they can be stronger leaders,” she says. “People leave because they don’t like their leader–there’s no better way to get leadership competence than to do this and get feedback from their leaders.”
Ms. Grantham said everyone completes a set of five questions. Topics include delivering results, direct communication, and continuous learning. The answers serve as a conversation piece between leaders and team members. “We see that reviews aren’t as effective,” Ms. Grantham says. “What is effective is a conversation around performance. If we were doing a traditional performance review, I would have had mutiny.”