If you think, from the title of this post, that you’ve already got this topic covered off because you do annual performance appraisals, then think again.
If you’re only meeting with employees once a year to discuss their career progress, you’re not doing enough to truly engage your employees.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be doing annual performance reviews, but one problem with doing these once a year is that employees don’t have a lot of faith that the process is intended to help them in their careers and that the annual performance review is just “management’s” way of controlling salary increases.
An annual performance review is also very stressful for both employee and manager. Employee’s hate to get them; Managers hate to do them. Sounds like a process gone wrong.
The Gallup Q12 questionnaire has one question that addresses feedback: “In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about My progress?” Notice it’s not in the past year; it’s in the past 6 months.
Sometimes, it might be as simple as a quick Post-It or note written on a document that said something like, “Great job!” or “You can do better than this”. Note this isn’t used to only deliver positive feedback.
Something I used to do with my sales team was, when they landed a new account, I’d go see them, shake their hand and say something like, “Nicely done!” or “Way to go!” Usually, I’d also ask them how they managed to win over the account and what they expected to see in sales revenue.
With either of these approaches, there’s no monetary reward or punishment, simply some recognition and honest feedback – and it’s done close to the time the action was taken by the employee. I call it Management in the Moment.
The feedback doesn’t have to always be positive. It’s OK to criticize, but do it constructively. You’ll be helping your employees correct behaviours or processes so they get things right sooner. And you’ll see positive results in company performance.
Something else my best bosses did was periodically take me out to lunch. Sometimes, it was to discuss a project I’d been working on or to talk about an issue at work. Other times, it might just be to have a friendly chat about how things are going. What’s special about this approach is that it’s informal and done in a relaxing environment.. But it’s still Management in the Moment.
When I had a sales team, I promised I would take them out to lunch every month that they collectively exceed quota. The business portion of our lunch was simply saying, “Way to go, everyone. Thanks for exceeding quota.” and an unwritten rule was that we wouldn’t talk business over this team lunch. It was really a team building exercise because everyone got to go to lunch, and nobody wanted to be the one who was below quota. I think we only missed a few lunches in my time, and never two in a row. I think this was part of the reason our Division was the top performer in our company.
One of the best people I know who used lunches effectively was a colleague, Misha Sivan. When we were working on a data warehouse project together, if we had a stretch goal, Misha would say to the development team we’d take them out for lunch if they delivered on that goal. That project was completed inside 16 weeks from concept to live and the lunches were not just ways to rewarding goal achievements, they also served as a way to build team cohesion and spirit.
The underlying principle through all of this is the delivery of feedback on a regular basis, not just once a year. I think most people appreciate acknowledgement of their efforts and achievements and sometimes it’s the little things, such as those notes or lunches, that they appreciate the most. And, when the time comes to do the annual performance review that HR wants on file, there should be no surprises because feedback has been delivered. It’s just a matter of collecting and summarizing in the performance review report.
What You Can Do
- Get out of your office on a daily basis to interact with your staff. It also signals you’re approachable if they need help.
- Catch them doing things right, and let them know you’re pleased with the job they’ve done.
- When an employee has done a nice job on a report, send back a copy with a handwritten note or even just some comments written in the margins.
- Even if the report isn’t great, write in some comments to show where they could have done better and maybe suggest other ways they could have done things.
Giving informal feedback on a regular basis has two very positive effects: you reinforce good behaviours so employees keep doing them and you help them change negative behaviours sooner than if you waited a year for their next performance review. By making your employees feel they are valued, you really help them become engaged in their work.