From pay increases to sales targets, some of our most crucial business decisions boil right down to our performance data.
But unfortunately, manager ratings just aren't as accurate as we'd like them to be. Here are some simple ways to help your managers improve their performance review skills, so you can make better decisions for your people and your business.
Find out what's really holding them back
If you ask them, most managers will agree that performance reviews are important. But if employee appraisals are rushed, incomplete, or not happening when they're supposed to, there are probably some very real ground-level fears holding them back.
Dealing with subjects like pay and performance takes A LOT of courage. Before you launch into your manager training program, take a minute to sit down with your team leaders and have an open and honest conversation about their concerns.
Are they worried about how the feedback will be received? Confused about how to carry out a performance review that doesn't come with a pay increase? Once you know what the gaps are in your performance review system, you can adjust your process to eliminate those concerns or focus your training on specific areas, such as how to handle difficult conversations.
Tone down the admin
We all know performance reviews serve an administrative and compliance purpose, but more often than not, a company's review process is heavily skewed toward the mind-numbing procedural elements at the expense of the performance and productivity-driving benefits managers can get excited about.
Work to remove the administrative burden of your reviews so HR can spend less time training managers on procedure and more time coaching them on improving their performance feedback. Remind managers why performance appraisals are important to them, the employee and the organization at large so they know how to frame their conversations in a way that's productive and inspiring for everyone involved.
Bring biases out into the light
Truth is, we're all a little biased. And that's ok—as long as we acknowledge it. But it's a lot easier to spot bias in someone else, than to find it in ourselves.
Train managers to become aware of their own biases for a fairer, more accurate review process. Here are five of the most common biases according to HR insider and founder of the HR Bartender blog, Sharlyn Lauby:
- Contrast - An employee's performance is compared to that of other employees instead of the company standard.
- Halo - An employee is seen as a star performer because they excel in one particular area.
- Horn - An employee is seen as a poor performer because they perform poorly in one particular area.
- Leniency - A manager gives everyone a 'satisfactory' score, usually because they're too burned out by the review process to offer thoughtful feedback to each employee.
- Recency - The employee's most recent performance colors the entire appraisal.
Create a culture of coaching
Most managers either shy away from giving negative feedback, or end up inadvertently demotivating the employee in a misguided attempt to deliver constructive criticism. But negative feedback is essential to growth and the good news is, your employees want it.
Once you've uncovered any potential biases and set a clear standard of objectivity, it's time to help managers deliver negative feedback effectively. Encourage managers to take on the role of a coach as opposed to "judge", "boss" or "critic". A great coach goes beyond the criticism to help their team strengthen their skills and work together to devise the next play—all with one eye set firmly on a winning game plan.
Craft your manager training program around your performance appraisal strategy with regular refreshers near review time. For some organizations, this may be a week-long intensive course held annually, for others it might just be a quick check-in at the end of the month.
Whatever your training program looks like, remember that by simply taking the initiative to help managers deliver performance reviews more effectively, you're leading by example to help all the coaches within your company make better calls.