Do you hear a collective sigh from managers in the corridors as the annual performance review cycle draws near? Alternatively, are you that manager who approaches staff performance reviews with foreboding? It is not the commitment of time required in the planning, preparation and performance of reviews that causes this stress, but a manager’s utmost desire to avoid having difficult discussions with their employees. It is the thought of a review with staff, whose performance levels are less than adequate, that is a cause of many a sleepless night for management.
The reason for this anxiety is that many Line Managers are not formally trained in the management elements of their role. They have often risen up the hierarchy due to technical prowess or length of service but they have not had the requisite investment in developing their leadership and management skills. They often lack the tools to manage and particularly lack the soft skills to motivate and lead a team well.To assist in the lead up to performance review discussions I would suggest five tips to add to your arsenal to make for a better experience for both parties:

  1. Have a prescriptive position description

If an individual is made aware of their responsibilities and deliverables as early as possible; stemming right back to the recruitment and selection process, the document can accompany employees from their commencement date onwards. The position description should also be reviewed formally at annual reviews to ensure it remains relevant to the duties and tasks undertaken.

  1. Institute a solid induction program

Staff are often called to task because they are not delivering a certain key feature of their role. I am intimately aware that many staff members are baffled as they never knew that this formed part of their duties. Core elements of a position can and should be communicated at induction.

  1. Undertake weekly one-on-ones

We are all busy and employees can sometimes go off on tangents in their work duties. Instead of cutting them off at the pass, weeks and sometimes months can go by before an employee is reined in. Scheduled weekly one-on-ones are a two way dialogue to keep you abreast of your employees work. It also allows you to redirect activity if a team member is going wayward. One-on-ones also give insights to any issues early and the opportunity to respond with training and assistance as required.

  1. Mentally prepare for the Performance Review

To have mental resilience is key particularly if you envisage awkward discussions. It is vital to rise above petty disputes, criticisms and personal attacks a staff member may have against you or the company. Picture a child having a meltdown with their parent. It is important the parent (the mature person) control their emotions and correct the child appropriately. This is also true for managers. While every emotional fibre is saying “fight” (as part of our fight or flight instinct), it is paramount to take control of your emotions in such discussions.

  1. Tap into a Professional

Sometimes to be a natural facilitator of performance reviews may be beyond your skill set and comfort zone. After all, you are employed by your company for the skills and strengths you bring which may not be strongly oriented towards human resources. If you have the resources in-house, ensure the performance review is a 3-way dialogue, with yourself, the employee and the human resources staff member whose expertise is people, performance and management. If you don’t have an in-house resource engage a human resources professional. They can assist you navigate your way through the process.

With the above elements in place you will be more informed going into the appraisal and will be better prepared to respond in a professional manner to delicate discussions.

The performance review can be a fantastic opportunity to gain the commitment of your employees or reignite passion if it has been waning. Alternatively, it may be the time for a “difficult employee” to move on and out as they may be holding you, your team and the company back.

Article written by Maree Herath, Director of Harvest Human Resources.

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