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January 21, 2014

Dreading your performance review? You’re not alone.


It’s the time of year again. HR just announced the kick-off for the annual performance review process. Managers and employees alike relentlessly complain about having to go through what they consider a tedious and unrewarding process, and without fail, they procrastinate to the very last minute to complete the task.

I, too, have dreaded this time of year. I’ve expressed my frustrations about the performance review process and I have been one of the people who put off my own self-evaluation and waited too long to get through my employees performance reviews.

However, over the years my attitude has changed. It was one event in particular a few years back when I suddenly realized that these dreaded performance reviews and goal evaluations have some really powerful results. Let me take you back…

Like many people in management, I was working with a small team and doing a lot of heavy lifting on my own.  Right after the performance review process had been completed, the group expanded. Responsibilities shifted and I had to change the way I worked and managed. The new team was a mix of people and personalities — some of whom I had worked with for a long time, some of whom were very experienced, but newer to the group, and others who were completely new to the team, industry and business environment. One day, as I sat in a team meeting discussing everyone’s work activities,  I was asked what I was working on and how people could help and get more involved. With the performance appraisals fresh on my mind, I suddenly realized I didn’t know enough (if anything!) about the competency levels of my team. It became painfully clear to me in that moment that I had no idea how to delegate certain work, who to collaborate with on projects, or even what we needed to plan for with the next set of goals, because I didn’t know my team’s strengths and weaknesses. 

I voiced this concern and we spent the rest of the day talking openly about what our core competencies were as a team, where people felt they had strengths, what goals they had and what they wanted to achieve in their careers. That was the day I stopped looking up the organizational ladder for guidance and support and started looking to my team to understand their point of view and ensure we were all on the same page. 

From that point on, the performance process was easy. My team members and I knew what we set out to achieve and we jointly maintained our goals with ongoing discussions. We managed updates in the system, and were able to quickly adjust our goals and objectives as the company shifted priorities. We invested time developing desired skills in real-time through work assignments and peer collaboration. We no longer made annual performance reviews about the technology or the process. It completely evolved and it became something we did often. We communicated and worked together to set and keep OUR goals and OUR career development aligned.

Looking back, I realize that, ultimately, employees want to feel they are part of something bigger, have a shared sense of purpose, and responsibility. And when you’re a manager of people, your priority should be to engage those people – coach and develop them, involve them in achieving the goals of the organization – from revenue targets, process improvements and innovation initiatives. We all know engaged employees perform better, in fact according to Gallup Business Journal, business with engaged employees outperformed others by and 21% in productivity. If you take the time to leverage your performance process as a tool to engage your people, you may find the same results.