Below, I have listed the ways that I have found to get the best of people, ensure that you are communicating useful criticism, and dramatically reduce the stress on either side of the performance review meeting.
- Talk to them. Take every opportunity to talk to your people. Your biggest responsibility as manager and leader is your people – if your supervisor tells you otherwise, then I would suggest looking for a job somewhere else. If you are always talking to your people, there are no opportunities for small problems to become big problems, and for big problems to become causes for termination.
- Have tougher interviews. This may seem like an odd way to decrease your need for annual performance management but having tougher interviews means that you are going to be hiring people that better fit your work, culture, and business philosophy. Doing more active interview tasks – creating code, writing copy, designing a widget or web page, selling you a pen – will give you a much better idea of how they think under pressure than the stupid “if you were an animal, what kind would you be” questions so beloved by large HR organizations. This better fit may not result in reduced ongoing ‘maintenance’ but it will results in someone who will respond better to smaller course correction feedback.
- Multiple performance appraisals per year. If you can have quarterly or at least bi-annual formal performance reviews, then both you and your report will save time – you will develop routines for your discussions, and problems will be much smaller and will require less rancor and stress in discussion. The main downside to this approach is that most of the automated tools for performance review do not easily support ‘greater than one’ annual reviews.
- Additional informal performance appraisals. If you have no choice other than to do annual performance reviews due to corporate policies or overly Catbert HR people, mitigate the impact of the annual problem with more frequent feedback. At the very least, have a six-month follow up – formal if possible, informal if not. At best, monthly or bi-monthly reviews will ensure that the final annual review will be a non-event and simply part of the ongoing review process.
What do you all think? Have you found annual performance reviews useful? If so, why? If not, how have you made them more useful?
Image courtesy of AJ Cann / flickr.com