Blog Post

Motivational Performance Reviews (and other oxymorons)

Mike Carden

Vice President Small Business Operations

There is a lot of talk recently about dumping the annual performance review. After all, without it you only have tax and the dentist to worry about. But it's important to set goals and measure performance, so how can we make sure performance reviews are motivational?

Performance Happens Daily. Reviews Should Too.

Really useful annual reviews summarize information gathered and conversations held throughout the year. Nothing in them is a surprise or a reason to worry.

We want to get the best from employees, not scare them, surprise them, or stress them out so badly they go bald. We really really don’t want them so preoccupied by their impending Performance Review of Doom that they can’t concentrate on their work.

Managers and employees should be comfortable discussing performance, not having weird, uncomfortable, awkward, unnatural verbal exchanges. Do you really want to waste time endlessly discussing whether someone was effective, exceptionally effective or monumentally earth-shatteringly effective? Probably not. Move on!

And while we’re at it, use systems to capture what was talked about - don’t use them to drive the process and fall into the trap of only discussing what can neatly fit in a box on a form.

Reviews Should Have a Purpose

Why bother with reviews if all you do is fill out a form and file it away... somewhere? Motivational reviews have a purpose: they collect useful information that is put to work for the entire organization (and that means for employees, managers, the exec...) and they inspire people to improve.

Simple, frequent reviews will give you a clear, current understanding of what is happening in the business, and contribute to individual motivation positively. Great companies position reviews as just another part of business, and consider reviews in terms of what works for employees and managers.

It Really is OK to Keep Things Simple

You want reviews to be straightforward, show teams at work and enable you to focus on the person sitting in front of you, not on deciphering the form or translating HR-ese.

Simple reviews actually get done, and mean you don’t scare (and thus demotivate) your employees. Yay.

Avoid the Vicious "Performance Review of Doom" Cycle

Most of us are still a little battle-scarred after years of terrible reviews. But it’s not too late to fix reviews - to make them useful instead of something to be dreaded. It’s all in your approach...

  • Great organizations position reviews as part of everyday operations (not as an HR function).

  • Great managers talk about performance every day, giving timely (and useful) feedback to staff.

  • Great employees welcome feedback as a source of inspiration, motivation and reassurance.

  • Great performance management systems encourage everyone to collect information on performance incrementally, and return that information to the organization to assist in decision making.

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