In the early ‘90s I was working for a design firm as part of the administrative team. I remember my mentor Barb year after year procrastinate the annual performance review process. Writing reviews for all 30 employees was a struggle – her least favorite duty if I recall. She would finally just lock herself in the office for a week and crank them out. I used to think, “How hard can it be?” and also thought, “Who cares just show me the money”. We would do the formal review and get the accolades of our performance, goals for the following year and of course the money. I still have a folder with reviews in it, letters of recommendation and many ‘atta girls’. 

It is very important to have an official process established. This takes time but is so important. The performance review is an opportunity for you and your employee to annually have a concentrated connection point. Even if you regularly offer your employee praise and thanks,  the one-on-one focused evaluation is an opportunity to openly converse together when your full attention can be at the task at hand. Some important things to consider in giving a performance review include:

  • Know your employee and what motivates them. Not everyone has the same style, and you need to make sure you do not approach this in a cookie cutter fashion.
  • Never bring up issues that you haven’t addressed with your employee previously. This is a process to evaluate the successes of an employees and set goals for the next year. If you have problems with performance of an employee don’t save it for the review and blindside the employee with negative feedback. Address problems as they occur, or your employee will not know they have made mistakes.
  • Offer examples of great performance. Maybe you received positive feedback from clients or coworkers. Share this with them.
  • Set goals for the next year that are measurable. Remember to revisit the prior year’s review and goal setting. Use this to evaluate the successes of the past year.
  • Consider having the employees complete a self-evaluation first. You can garner a lot from their own assessments which will often be more critical than you see things.
  • Do the review outside of the office if possible. Make it a celebration of their year of serving you and the company. The big scary closed-door meeting is not celebrating.
  • Be prepared to show the money at that year end review. Do your research on industry salary levels and cost of living increases. In today’s tight labor market, you can’t afford not to be proactive to keep good employees.

If you are unsure how to start, there are many resources that can be found online but make sure it can fit your culture. You want it to be specific to what your employee does and what you want as the result for that celebration. My parting advice is to develop a process that is sustainable and can be built on year after year. You want your employees to be excited to get feedback from you in the form of appreciation. 

— B