The end of the year brings many traditions and celebrations to employees’ lives with holiday parties and gift exchanges, but one tradition that is most often dreaded is the process of an employee performance review. So often, employees sit through or fill out performance reviews worried about what they say, and in some cases, hearing the same questions they’ve heard for years. This year doesn’t have to be like the past though. Here are a few ways you can change up your performance review and offer new challenges to your employees.
You most likely have goals that you and your team have set for the year, but how often are they being met? Are they even achievable or are they too broad? This is why it’s important to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely, also known as SMART goals. In your upcoming reviews, work on finding one or two SMART goals with each team member that has to do with their job function for them to achieve next year. Start by challenging each employee to come up with several general goals they’d like to achieve in 2012 to bring to your meeting, and then use that time to make their goals fit the SMART goal format.
When you create an open environment where employees can think both critically and creatively about what they want to achieve, you are likely to have increased employee buy-in to the organization. Dr. Edwin Locke, a psychologist and Dean’s Professor (Emeritus) of Leadership and Motivation at the school of business at the University of Maryland, developed his goal setting theory in 1968, and it still holds true today. Setting specific and challenging goals generates a higher level of performance from employees and will ultimately lead to a more successful team and organization.
Next, find out how team members feel about their current work/life balance. Today’s business climate calls for more from employees, often with fewer resources. That can easily lead to more time in the office and less time at home with family. “A lot of people are having a more difficult time finding balance in their lives because there have been cutbacks or layoffs where they work. They’re afraid it may happen to them, so they’re putting in more hours,” said psychologist Robert Brooks, co-author of the The Power of Resilience: Achieveing Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life.
As a leader in your organization, it’s up to you to talk with your employees about their stress level and find ways you can help them better manage everything they need to do. In a recent Express Employment Professionals survey of more than 17,000 current and former clients, effective communication was chosen overwhelmingly to be the most important trait of a good leader. Communication is more than just e-mails and phone calls about deadlines; it’s the key aspect in whether or not employees feel motivated to work for your organization. Finding out how your team members feel about their time spent at work and home is one of the most important ways you can be an effective communicator in the office, and lead your organization to success.
If you expect your employees to show signs of improvement at work from year to year, discussing training and educational opportunities during your performance review should be a priority. President John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Encouraging your employees to advance their knowledge and education in their field increases job satisfaction and innovation, reduces employee turnover, and could lead to more profits for your business. The Open Standards Benchmarking Collaborative (OSBC) survey from 2008 suggested companies that invest in more training for employees may produce more revenue than those that invest less in employee training. Radio show host and best-selling author Dave Ramsey’s blog post from May this year properly summarized professional development. “It’s a short-term sacrifice with a long-term gain that you’ll be able to measure in both dollars and improved corporate culture.”
As you begin looking at performance reviews and preparing for 2012, remember that this doesn’t have to be a time of paperwork and standardized questions. Communicate early on that this year’s reviews will be a little different from years past, and that you expect more from yourself and your team members going into the reviews. The performance review is a great tool to help your employees celebrate their successes and will help your business stay a step ahead going into the new year.