One of the most important and impactful duties of any supervisor is conducting employee reviews for direct reports. Review policies vary by company, but many businesses require at least annual employee reviews, with some requiring 6-month or quarterly check-ins to supplement.
The main purpose of employee reviews is to provide feedback and constructive criticism to employees to ensure they continue growing within their position at the organization. Reviews also serve as a formal time to check-in on goals or to follow up on criticism given at an earlier date. To foster the most productive employee review sessions, consider the following:
1. Create a template.
Most companies will have some sort of template to structure employee reviews. For those of you who have this asset already, disregard this bullet. For those of you who don’t, seriously consider this step. Creating a review template helps ensure fairness and consistency in your review process. It’s legally and ethically important that employers are grading employees on scales consistent to that of their coworkers. Critiquing employees on a consistent scale means you can compare performance year over year to ensure employees are continually improving.
2. Document goals early on.
By meeting with employees when they are first hired or at the start of each calendar year to discuss and document goals for the coming year, you accomplish quite a few things. You’re offered an opportunity to get to know your employee on a more personal level. You’re also able to identify their interest areas to better serve them as a leader and can document this information to provide an area for follow up for future reviews. During employee reviews, reference documented goals to see what progress your employee has made, what plans they have to eventually reach those goals and what help or support they need from you to make it happen.
3. Set calendar reminders.
Appointments have a way of sneaking up on you. Since employee reviews require thought and preparation time, it’s best to remind yourself far enough in advance to plan for it. Set a reminder two weeks before the review to solicit feedback from your team for the upcoming review, and give them enough time to complete the request (I suggest asking at least a week in advance). Also remember to set reminders for the review meetings themselves – quarterly, bi-annually, annually, etc.
4. Solicit feedback from coworkers.
How will you be able to provide compliments and constructive criticism to your employee if you don’t have a clear picture of how they interact and work with other employees? Consider emailing other department directors or co-workers who frequently interact with your employee, and ask some basic questions like: What does he/she do very well? What could he/she improve upon? As people send in their responses, compile the notes in a master Google Doc to sort through as you prepare for the review.
5. Compile notes, and look for themes.
Create a space where you can drop notes and compile feedback on your employees throughout the year. If you don’t document thoughts and ideas as they happen, you likely won’t remember them when it comes time to prepare for review sessions. Additionally, after soliciting feedback from coworkers, compile all responses in this same document. Finally, once all thoughts and feedback are compiled, skim through the information a few times to look for common themes. Revert back to your review template, and source feedback and examples to address each question or section on your template. If there is an area where you need further information or clarification, go back to your team, and ask specifically for that information.
6. Clear your surroundings.
Reviews are extremely stressful times for employees, no matter their performance or accomplishments. To create the most stress free environment, clear your desk space of all mess and other distracting work, and create a comfortable area for your employee to sit. Make sure you are in a private room with the door closed, and provide desk space for your employee to take notes.
7. Leave time for questions and discussion.
As a supervisor, your most important job is to train, grow and lead your employees. While reviews are a requirement and opportunity to provide feedback to your staff, the most important time of any review is when the employee does the talking. Are they facing challenges with co-workers that make it hard to get their work done? Is their motivation waning because they haven’t received a raise or bonus in a while? Do they need mentoring or monetary support to pursue their professional goals and interests? You can learn a lot about employees by giving them an outlet to express their concerns and desires.