Yearly review season is upon us once again. Ah, what manger does not dread the hours and hours she has to spend summarizes the last 365 days for each of her direct reports. It’s such a drag to have to solidify a complete year in some canned HR form that “must only be a page” or “in this specific format.”
The yearly review is a golden opportunity to provide needed and valuable feedback to your direct reports. It’s also a way for you to get feedback from them.
The reason most managers dread the yearly review is that they don’t properly prepare for it. For most, it’s an afterthought and that’s a shame.
Yearly reviews should just be a matter of documenting what your direct reports already know and a vehicle for planning the year ahead. They should never be a surprise nor a means of “getting back” at an employee.
Prepare Year Round
The best managers prepare their yearly reviews constantly. They do one-on-ones with each of their reports and give constant feedback on performance and weaknesses.
This is the ideal case because any issues can be addressed when they happen instead of letting them fester till the end of the year.
I have found it effective to have mini review every quarter so that the yearly review is just a recap of each quarter. Doing quarterly reviews ensures that each of your direct reports gets constant feedback and there will be no surprises when it comes to the yearly.
Have Them Review You First
Most bosses miss the perfect opportunity to get feedback on their own performance because they don’t ask their direct reports to review them first. This may seem odd but it serves a dual purpose.
First, it allows your staff to feel what’s it like to have to prepare a review. By preparing a review of you, they get in the mindset of the challenges you face.
Second, it primes your staff for their review by showing them that reviews and feedback are important to you.
The second point is important to remember. It may seem trivial to you but by setting their attitude about the review as being something valuable and constructive ahead of time, it will make it a more productive experience. They will also appreciate the fact that they get a say in how you are doing and running the group.
Request a Self-Assessment
Self-assessments are a great way to understand where your staff thinks they are at. Most companies require them and that’s a good idea. If your company is not one of those, I would highly suggest that you have each person on your staff fill one out.
These self-assessments will give you valuable insights into how each of your direct reports feels they performed over the year. This will be a valuable resource to jog your memory since it’s sometimes hard to remember an entire year.
What to Prepare
A well done review will take time to prepare. Again, there should be no surprises contained within it if you have constantly given your direct reports feedback. Even if you do that, it will still take time to prepare the written review. As you prepare, consider these points:
Carefully review the self-assessment: Strongly suggest that each of your direct reports do a self assessment. That way, you know how they feel about their performance.
Look at the whole year: Most managers only remember the last couple of months simply because it’s the freshest in their mind. This can skew a review if the last couple of months were tough.
Write down concrete examples: Being vague is not a good. Give specific examples of behaviors, attitudes and performance that defines how the year went.
Focus on accomplishments: Like the examples above, focus on what got done. It’s important to be accomplishment focused since those are concrete.
List opportunities for improvement: Everyone can improve at something. Make sure that any improvements suggested can be worked on and time is set aside for that work.
Develop the groups goals for the next year: As the boss, you need to know what the next year will bring. Doing this ahead of the reviews will make it a lot easier to both communicate and get feedback.
By focusing on these points, you can make the review a productive session where your direct report can feel confident that you spent the time to really ponder how they did.
Strength, Weakness Then Strength
Once you have prepared the review, it’s now time to give it. Typically, you should set aside at least an hour to discuss the years performance.
One really good technique to follow is the strength, weakness, strength model. This allows you to start and end the review on a positive note. Doing this will give it the most impact and make the weaknesses discussion feel more like an opportunity for improvement than a “this is how much you suck” discussion.
If you do have to give your employee a bunch of bad news (or rather corrections), try not to be overly harsh. It’s tremendously demotivating and frankly ineffective to solely focus on the negative without giving the person a few examples of where they excelled.
Define The Year Ahead
Another critical factor in the annual review is to define the year ahead. This allows you and your employee to define their growth goals as well as the overall goals for the group. By doing this, you show that the future is full of promise and that you are considering what your direct report needs in terms of personal and professional growth.
Being on The Receiving End
The annual review can be a valuable career development tool if you come at it with the correct attitude. Even if your company is awful at them, it’s best to think of them as your time to get the feedback you need for success. To foster this type of positive attitude, take a look at the items below:
Prepare ahead of time: Make sure to prepare at least a list of notes on how the year went. This should be in addition to the self review (see below).
Write a self review: Even if your company does not require it, do one. Use the same format as the real one and send it to your boss ahead of time.
Correct inaccuracies: Have all the facts straight as to situations that were either good or bad. Make sure to give credit to others that helped you achieve success. It’s also vital to get the story straight on challenges or setbacks.
Clarify weaknesses: If you boss lists a bunch of weaknesses, make sure to get clarity on what they are and how you can improve. Ask for specific examples and ways to get better.
Remain calm: Emotion is not your friend during a review. Be fact and data driven but firm when it comes to false information. Don’t get upset if you start to get attacked. Rather, politely correct inaccurate information and calmly ask for clarification.
Strive to be constructive: A yearly review is your chance to improve. Come into it with an attitude of being constructive and for you — not your company or boss.
Growth and Reflection
It’s common to marginalize the yearly review as just another HR requirement that makes you fill out paperwork. That’s a shame.
Yearly reviews are golden opportunities for both the manager and the employee to reflect on the past year and embark on the year ahead with clear goals for performance and growth.