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How Employee Reviews Can Drive Workplace Excellence

14 Oct 2020

Employee reviews are often considered the fare of big business, met with a groan at unnecessary paperwork and wasted time. This may certainly be the case occurring in dingy backrooms across the US with a number of retail and hospitality giants, but take the lessons learned in how not to do it and you could increase productivity, improve employee engagement and boost job satisfaction.

For independent business owners, employee reviews may not be at the top of the list of priorities, but these reviews are another avenue of employee engagement, helping you to get the best from your staff. Holding regular structured reviews shows a continued interest in your employee's wellbeing and professional development.

The Harvard Business Review conducted an analysis of multiple engagement studies and showed an average of 21% higher productivity and 37% higher sales among highly engaged businesses, so it certainly pays to be interested! Employee reviews should be considered an opportunity for an honest conversation between employer and employee, not a bureaucratic nightmare. Here are some top tips on what not to do so you can design a process that best fits your business.

Don’t get distracted

It’s easy to push non-priority tasks further back as the everyday grind takes its toll on your ever-growing to-do list, but what does this say to your employees? Making time for a 15-minute chat shows you value their contribution to your business. Set a time that suits you both and stick to it.

The nature of the discussion is private and could be potentially sensitive, and therefore should be held away from the prying ears of other staff or customers. Additionally set your phone to silent as there is nothing more unprofessional than answering the phone in a meeting, (even if you are the boss!).

Don’t lecture

As stated above, employee reviews should be considered an opportunity for an open and honest conversation. A two-way dialogue is essential in understanding your business from the bottom up. If you feel comfortable you can even acknowledge the session as an appraisal of your management style. It’s an opportunity for learning and growth on both sides.

Identify key areas of improvement and discuss how this could be achieved and outline what success would look like. Coming up with a course of action together rather than merely dictating orders affords employees with a sense of autonomy. Allow your staff member the opportunity to respond to your feedback and to ask any questions they have as a result.

Don’t wing it

Understand the purpose of the meeting before you go. What is it you want to achieve? Do you want to recognize a job well done? Or coach your staff to improve their sales? Plan ahead to evidence the points you want to discuss. For example, if you want to raise tardiness as an issue, document how often they were late to demonstrate the frequency of their lateness. Having the undisputably proven your point you can then go on to discuss why this is not acceptable.

Lack of planning can come across as aloof or uncaring and mean you can omit certain questions or issues for one employee and not another which is not treating staff fairly. Having fixed criteria of what to address in staff one-to-ones eliminates this issue. Create a referral sheet with your key points to ensure you don’t miss anything out. Keeping a written record of the meeting acts as a point of comparison allowing you to track progress and measure success in future reviews.

Don’t be vague

Being vague in an employee review is a waste of time for everyone involved. Staff will struggle to pinpoint what you want from them, meaning the results will be hit or miss at best. Be clear and specific. Defining their role profile, what they are responsible for and how they can optimize their workload is a good place to start. You have to accurately relay your expectations so employees have a sporting chance at achieving them.

Additionally, If you’re not happy with their performance this should not be the first time you're springing it on them, but it is a good time to revisit any issues you have had in the past to ensure everyone's on the same page.

Professional development is a front runner in staff engagement surveys. As an independent business, the opportunity for career progression may be limited, but that doesn’t mean you should skirt around the issue. If you can assist them in achieving their career goals, such as providing them with relevant experience or teaching them a specific skill, it will forge a mutually beneficial relationship ensuring they give their all to your business. Staff who feel their employers care about them are willing to apply themselves more than those who don't. Assisting your staff in achieving their personal goals means they will be willing to go above and beyond in order to repay the favor.

Don’t set unrealistic goals

It’s great to set targets. We strive to achieve when we have something to aim for, but start setting unrealistic goals and it can be counter-productive. Failure is disheartening no matter who you are, so knowingly setting someone up for failure is unfair as it is potentially damaging to your sales figures/ employee attendance/ customer experience. This is especially poignant if you're dealing with a new recruit. Ensure they are fully trained and have had time to settle in and get a good footing before brandishing disappointing sales figures in their face.

Having said this, don’t be afraid to address failure as this may be a reflection on your training and help you identify areas of improvement. This meeting is an opportunity for reflection, so ask them how they think they could've acted differently? How will they proceed in the future? Setting manageable targets allows staff to grow. This is another chance to encourage autonomy by allowing them to set their own goals. You may find this encourages employees to stretch their targets even further.