Performance Reviews: Learning to Inspect What You Expect

By Craig Giles
Flash back to the late 70’s – I am fresh out of school feeling pretty proud of the fact that I just graduated with a degree in Ophthalmic Optics. Now, I’m “livin large and takin charge” while down stairs in the back room of a renown upscale retail store running an edger and assembling eyewear. It’s been about three months since I first joined the company and things are going rather well. From a distance, I hear the footsteps of the boss; a highly successful entrepreneur that owns three upscale retail stores. A well respected man of our trade. He tells me that he would like to talk to me for a minute, so I turn off the edger and prepare for the worst, even though I am not sure why.

Without any supporting information, he tells me he’s going to ‘bump me a quarter.’ I said, ‘excuse me,’ slightly caught off guard and a bit confused. He goes on to tell me that he thinks I’m doing a good job and that I deserve a quarter raise. Wow, what a generous guy I thought---NOT! I felt cheated! I was angry and disappointed.

First, I didn’t know that we were going to talk about this, so I didn’t have an opportunity to prepare for this review. Secondly, I wasn’t given any basis or reason why the raise was just a quarter. If I was doing such a great job, why was he “bumping” me only a quarter?

There was no process or plan concerning performance and expectations. This was my first experience in the working world concerning performance reviews and it left a huge impression on me–a negative one. From then on I was determined that if I ever got into management I would do a much better job of reviewing people.

Many companies and management personnel ignore or slough off this very important process of reviewing their employees’ work performance. Why? I am not sure. Perhaps it is because they lack motivation or the knowledge to perform a good performance review. Or, sadly, they don’t think it’s important enough to put the time in. Besides, they may be thinking that if they give their employees a good review, they will have to “buck up” even more than they can afford or are willing to give to the employee. Whatever the reason, I believe it is a huge mistake to forego this very important process.

I believe a good Performance Planning and Review has three phases. First, Phase I, which we want to complete at the beginning or start of the year. Secondly, Phase II, which is where we complete a Performance Update and this part of the review is completed at Mid Year. Lastly, Phase III is to be completed at End of Year. The idea is to set up specific times of the year to plan and monitor the progress of the employee specific performance goals and plans.

The Performance Planning and Review should contain key elements within the process. This would include Performance Objectives, Key Development Opportunities, Core and Job Family Competencies and a section or place where both the employees and the manager can mutually assess the employee progress at mid year and year end.

The Performance Objectives are set up at the start of the year. The employee and manager sit down to discuss what objectives they want to accomplish this year. The objectives need to be set up using the SMART process of goal setting. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented, and Time based.

Mahatma Gandi once said, “A man or woman, is the sum of his or her actions, of what (s)he has done, of what (s)he can do, Nothing else.” This is the place and time of the Performance Planning and Review process where the words of Robert Collier really come into place. He says that one should, “Make every thought, every fact, that comes into your mind pay you a profit. Make it work and produce for you. Think of things not as they are but as they might be. Don’t merely dream---but create."

An organization that has employees that are challenged in a positive environment and become cross-trained, highly-skilled employees not only will motivate them, but will allow your company to become more effective and efficient in serving your customers! I suggest that no more than three or five Performance Objectives should be set.

Also, at the start of year the employee and manager should set up Key Development Opportunities. This is the section where the employee identifies key areas that they would like to develop either personally or professionally. One example is that the employee may want to further develop or begin to develop their computer skills. Should this be the case you would set up a SMART objective for getting this accomplished. I would suggest that the employer pay for this type of development since computer skills can be highly advantageous to your business in today’s computerized world. In fact, anytime an employee needs further development in areas that help your business, I would suggest that you have an employee development or education fund that defrays or pays for the cost of the training.

The Core and Job Family Competencies are nothing more than the basic skills that are required for an employee to do their job effectively. This includes but is not exclusive to Communications, Customer Service, Problem Solving, Teamwork, etc. Communication has to do with driving the free flow of timely and accurate information and communication throughout the organization. Also, how effectively an employee communicates and relates to a broad range of people internally and externally.

Customer Service covers how one strives to create the most value for the customer whether internal or external, which results in mutual long-term success. Problem Solving has to do with the employees’ ability to be analytical and practical to resolve simple or complex problems on the job. Teamwork begins with how the employee builds constructive and effective relationships with colleagues at all levels. This portion allows both of you to measure how the individual helps to develop and enhance team spirit while on the job. This section should include an area where the manager can rate the employee by using terms such as Always, Most of the Time, Sometimes, or Rarely. The employee and manager/owner can then make comments based on the rating. This should be a time of open, clear, and non-threatening communication between the employee and the manager/owner.

Job Family Competencies has to do with the behaviors related to these competencies. This would include areas in Business Management for your management personnel. Also, Innovation or Continuous Improvement competencies that has to do with how one creates new ideas or improves existing ideas, products, and services by challenging assumptions and thinking out of the box. This addresses how they value and actively promote change as a necessary business function. Other areas of Job Family Competencies could include Managing People, Industry and Job Knowledge, Results Oriented, etc. The idea is to include attributes that are important to the individual’s specific job.

Once the Performance Objectives are set and Key Development Opportunities have been identified you can now get busy toward the achievement of both. At mid year you should schedule a half hour to forty-five minutes to review your progress. This is the time to make adjustments to goals that may not have been reached by a specific time. Or, this is the time to praise the employee for reaching or making great progress on their performance objectives and key development opportunities. The point is that both of you are paying attention to the performance and development progress of the employee. This can be highly rewarding for you as a manager or business owner. It definitely is motivating to the employee to know that you are taking the time to enhance their professional life to be sure.

The end of the year Performance Planning and Review process includes reviewing all of the employee performance goals along with their key development opportunities. The end of year review should include a section where both the employee and the manager/owner can write down Year End Assessments. The Assessment Process includes ratings such as Exceeded Expectations, Fully Successful, and Failed to Meet Expectations. It is critically important that the employee is allowed to make their assessment of their own Performance Review. This is the time to address concerns for both parties based on their respective assessments. The important thing is that the employee and manager should have a “safe zone or environment” to address sensitive job related issues that they have not mutually agreed upon. In addition, this is a great time to highlight employee strengths in a section of the review called Summary of Strengths.

The end of the year review is finished once an Overall Rating has been completed by the reviewer.

Considering the performance plan, objectives, key development opportunities, demonstration of strengths and competencies, I would rate the employee’s overall performance as (check one):

Rating Descriptions, Suggested Raises

Exceptional - Consistently exceeds requirements of the position. 3 to 5% raise

Exceeds Expectations - Consistently exceeds most requirements and meets all others. 3 to 5% raise

Fully Successful- Consistently meets requirements of the positions. 1 to 3% raise

Needs Improvement - Meets job requirements some of the time but not all of the time. 0% raise.

*Naturally, you have the freedom to vary the percentage. This is a basis guideline. Some positions top off and raises can be given every two years in these cases.

This portion of the review should include an area to allow both the employee and reviewer to sign off where they both agree that they have discussed the document and contents. The signature means that the employee has been advised of their performance although it does not necessarily imply that they agree with the evaluation.

I encourage and personally challenge you as a manager or business owner to continue on or put in place an employee Performance Planning and Review process so that you can facilitate your employees to grow and thereby enrich their environment, and most importantly for both of you-------your business.


Labtalk June 2020