“If my future were determined just by my performance on a standardized test, I wouldn’t be here. I guarantee you that.” —Michelle Obama
By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM
It’s that dreaded time of year. If you’re in management, you struggle with how to rank your employees. What areas can you give them good marks for? What area can you tell them they need to improve in (because you can’t let them think they’re good in every area)? So much time is spent preparing the review for your employees, and then more time to dreadfully sit down and go over the review with them.
If you are an employee you dread the waste of time, the uncomfortable energy, the feeling of being placed under a hot interrogation light. And, to what end? Just to walk out of your manager’s office having no better understanding of your value, expectations, or performance than before you walked in.
As Michelle Obama expressed in the quote at the beginning of this article, using standardize methods for determining performance can often leave talent overlooked and contributions undervalued. So, how can you make sure that employee reviews individualized and are not a waste of time for you or for them?
Conversations are vital
Relationships are the key to any successful venture that requires the cooperation of more than one party. And, your organization falls into this category. You need the cooperative efforts of every individual in order to achieve your goals. So, how are these relationships developed? Establishing an atmosphere where conversations can take place, not just once a year, but on a daily basis is vital. Sitting face-to-face with your employees at the ritualistic employee review is a great place to lay the foundation for informal, unscripted, trusting conversations throughout the year. Use this time to express, and demonstrate that each employee has a voice in your organization. Show genuine interest in their perspectives and ideas. And, prove that you are willing to communicate openly with them.
It’s about the future
Use employee reviews as an opportunity to focus on the future, not the past. The past has been carved in stone, no changing it now. So, let’s focus on the upcoming year. What can the employee do to make it a great year? What do they need from you in order to be successful? This is not a competition; every employee should be tasked only with improving themselves based on where they are now, and where they want to be in the future.
You need to inspire employees to give their best in the coming year. There is no better way to inspire someone than to give them something meaningful to work towards. Why is what the organization does important? What inspires you to come to work every day? Your answer to these questions must not be the superficial, financial bottom line. This will never provide incentive that is meaningful to your employees. Financial bottom lines as a ‘why’ will get employees to perform out of fear. Employees perform for successful leaders because they are passionate and inspired. How does each employee specifically contribute to the big picture? Help them to find something meaningful in their work.
This is more about you than them. What obstacles do they feel are standing in their way? Sometimes the obstacle may even be you. It can be a difficult conversation for a leader to genuinely listen to employees share their perspective on the obstacles they encounter in the workplace. But, you must listen, ask questions, and make sure you get a clear picture of their concerns. As the leader, it is your responsibility to eliminate obstacles where possible.
Value their contribution
And last, but definitely not least, make sure every employee feels valued. We don’t employ people we don’t need. So, if they are there, the task they perform must be important; just as important as any other task, including yours. Therefore, their contribution is of great value, and they need to know that you recognize them as individuals for their contribution to the overall success of the organization.
Stop treating employee reviews like a standardized test in school. These are individuals, the individuals that spend a big part of their waking hours in the service of your organization. If the employee review process is not valuable to them, it’s not valuable to the organization and it is a waste of time and money. Make employee reviews beneficial. Focus on developing a comfortable atmosphere for daily conversations. Keep it about building a great future not concentrating on the past. Share what inspires you and give them something meaningful to believe in and work towards. Recognize that it is your responsibility to remove the obstacles that employees feel they are encountering, even if you disagree. And, leave no doubt about the value of their individual contributions.
Stop wasting time!
© 2015 Elizabeth Stincelli
Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.
Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, stincelliadvisors.com and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.