This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
"Have you ever had a formal performance review? Tell me about your last one." That's one of the questions I ask when interviewing candidates applying to work at my company.
Responses vary from person to person depending on the environment and corporate culture they came from, but one theme remains the same throughout: everyone wants to receive regular, meaningful feedback from their supervisor that will help them to grow and better contribute to the company.
This is especially true for young professionals. As PricewatershouseCoopers recently outlined in a strategy piece on the future of work, How to Manage the Millennials, this fresh talent "want and value frequent feedback. Unlike the past where people received annual reviews, millennials want to know how they're doing much more regularly."
As Kelly Allder puts it in a piece for Benefits Canada, "it's the instant gratification and learning that pushes them to improve." Needless to say, this idea doesn't have to be reserved for your millennial employees; employees at every level can benefit from this style of feedback, so it is worth exploring and implementing.
Here are the key elements to facilitating a performance review program that your employees will appreciate.
Be clear on performance measures
In most organizations, everyone has goals and objectives that they are expected to meet. These goals could be customer satisfaction targets, production volume levels, or sales quotas. Communicating how a role is measured during the interview process and referenced in the employment agreement helps the individual know what defines poor, average, good, and excellent on-the-job performance.
Track performance in real-time
Empower both your managers and staff with personalized performance dashboards in your human resource information system or performance management system. The dashboard I am suggesting is a visual representation of reports, displayed in the form of charts, graphs and gauges, and are personalized to the goals of an individual employee with data being refreshed in real-time. Make tracking their progress visual by empowering employees to see their own results, in real-time, with graphic-rich dashboards on their computers. For example, Salesforce.com has the option to track progress with personalized dashboards via a customized customer relationship management system. This is worth looking into.
Use business dashboards to summarize the activities in each of your departments. I also suggest setting up a CEO dashboard where you can see in real-time how the company you are leading is meeting its overall objectives.
The benefit of real-time tracking in this way is that team members know where they stand at any given moment, not once per quarter or only at performance review time.
Take a multi-faceted approach
Consider doing a 360-degree review. This type of review allows an employee to do a self-assessment and an upward review of working with their manager. They can also receive a review from the manager about their performance as an employee and member of the team. Have the employee submit the review to you ahead of time to glean useful tidbits and insight as to how the employee sees things. Their completed self-assessment should provide you with critical information to help guide the conversation during the formal performance review.
Loop in the whole team
Peer recognition means a lot to people. That being said, you might want to start giving your staff opportunities to show gratitude for a job well done, to thank their co-workers for assistance on a project, or for being a customer hero. You can do this verbally or by using an internal messaging system that all team members have access to. Many options are on the market, including the Chatter app which allows a user to publicly acknowledge the work of a co-worker. The beauty of this is that the feedback, acknowledgment, or praise is documented and then fed into a separate channel where you can review individual examples of a job well done and acknowledge the peer kudos when you sit down with an employee.
Feedback features are a positive way to acknowledge individuals for their hard work and creative ideas.
Conduct training so everyone knows what to expect
Running people through a mock performance review (when they are not in the hot seat) will put their mind at ease when it comes to the real deal. Changing up the way your company has traditionally given feedback will be an adjustment, and there may be some hesitation or concern. Show your team the value of frequent feedback and a comprehensive review in a fun and engaging manner, such as during a company retreat or training meeting.
Stick to a schedule
In most organizations, formal sit downs or performance appraisals may occur quarterly, perhaps annually. The longer you wait to do a performance review, the more ground you have to cover and the more details you have to remember. Leaving a performance review too long can create anxiety for both the employee and their manager. In this scenario, the days leading up to a performance review tend to be filled with frantic data collection and scrambling on both sides to remember exactly what happened over the last quarter or year. These conversations generally turn out to be stilted, uncomfortable, and rarely take into account all of the wonderful things an employee has done in between reviews.
While this is by no means desired by either party, it is unfortunately something that is all too common. The frantic, uncomfortable performance review can be combated by working out a process and schedule with your leadership team and committing to obtaining feedback from a variety of their co-workers along the way.
Tracking progress in this manner helps to keep your eyes on the prize, as it's easy to articulate straightforward, meaningful goals, and then measure a team's progress as everyone collaboratively works to meet them. This becomes critical when you go from a small team to a larger one. As a manager, you need to have a full view of an employee's strengths, weaknesses and level of engagement. No one is omniscient and you can't be everywhere. Crowdsourcing feedback internally to gain perspective can be a huge win, especially if done in a fun and purposeful manner.
Celebrate promotions together
Quarterly or annual performance reviews are typically also the time when, after a successful appraisal, a promotion is granted. While the employee should know during the meeting what the outcome was, be sure to seize the moment and announce the promotion to the rest of the team. This can be done verbally at an "all hands" meeting, such as a Huddle or during a monthly, internal Town Hall meeting. If verbal announcements aren't your thing, you can congratulate the employee with a department or company-wide e-mail highlighting their successes and explaining why they've been promoted.
Performance reviews should be perceived as an opportunity to calibrate and align everyone's efforts alongside corporate strategic goals. It's a special time to dive deep on individual achievement and encourage people to reach for new heights in the months and years to come.