Annual performance reviews are difficult for all involved. Employees scramble to remember their yearly goals and whether they have achieved them or not. Managers sift through a year of work and spend time summarizing thoughts and feedback for improvements. There’s a lot to cover and little time to do so, but we can help you find ways to motivate and excite your employees through a meaningful performance conversation. 

Employee Motivation Tip 1: Offer your employees a form or agenda around the review. Even more frequent performance reviews still require this structure. Employees often don’t know what their performance review will look like; offering them a preview helps them to prepare better. 

Another issue with the annual performance review is it suffers significantly from recency bias on both sides. That’s probably especially true in the current climate. However, your employees need you to evaluate their performance, even if it looks a little different this time around. 

When it comes time to prepare for performance reviews, organizations need to ensure they are allocating their time and efforts into a quality conversation and effective process. In today’s work environment, it is increasingly evident that traditional review methods are no longer the most productive or effective strategy. 

Employee Motivation Tip 2: Even if you have informal performance conversations, do your best to keep a record of these. Studies show informal performance conversations are more appreciated by employees and result in higher engagement. Suppose your company still uses more traditional performance reviews. In that case, you can collate this informal feedback in an effort to make these more comprehensive and get your employees used to discussing performance on a regular basis. 

A majority of employees believe formal reviews have no impact on their performance, and only 5% of managers are satisfied with performance reviews. Something has to change, and that’s why more and more organizations are throwing them out and rethinking their review process.

As you begin to transform your performance management strategies, questions will arise. How often should performance discussions take place? How will employees be rated, and how does pay align with those ratings? How simple or complex should they be? Should data be involved? If so, how does data play its part?

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These questions can divert you from the most critical aspect of reviews: employees need to be held accountable for their performance in a more inspiring, helpful way. By doing so, you’ll see more productive, engaged, and happy employees (and managers).

Frequent Reviews Make Accurate Reviews

Fair and accurate feedback is critical to the performance of an employee. In fact, 85% of workers would consider quitting after an unfair review. The frequency of reviews also influences the effectiveness of the conversation. As reviews become more infrequent, it becomes more challenging to remember details, increasing the likelihood of unfair or inaccurate discussions. 

Change frequently happens, whether it be over a year or a few months. Toss in leadership changes, personal and professional priorities, and varying business objectives, which adds up to a vast amount of ground to cover in one discussion.  Having one-on-one conversations once a year doesn’t allow for changing priorities and expectations to occur naturally and in real-time. 

Consistent discussions better equip both managers and employees to keep to their goals. Additionally, it offers the opportunity to align your development with your team’s objectives relating to the organization’s mission.

Employee Motivation Tip 3: Ask your employee to prepare their goal statements ahead of time. When employee goals align with corporate goals, they’re easier to map out a plan for success. Ensure you have their goals from the last review handy (if applicable) and have drawn lines between your performance notes and the company goals so you can assist in making these connections. 

Continuous conversations also ensure that feedback happens in real-time and provides an opportunity for regular documentation to refer back to in future discussions. This allows employees and managers to correctly recall details within the right context and timeframe, letting nothing fall through the cracks. 

When organizations move to more frequent performance discussions, they offer a more profound clarity to each role’s responsibilities. Employees with transparency in their performance feel a heightened sense of inspiration in their work. 

Taking it a step further, accurate reviews leverage technology and data to see how an individual’s performance stacks up against the expectations set for them. Having key metrics available to perform such an analysis makes a big difference in the employee’s efficiency and overall development.

Make Reviews Action-Oriented

Don’t hold reviews just for the sake of crossing off your checklist. While it’s an essential conversation for employee development, performance reviews should also aim to accomplish something tangible and set up future expectations. 

Creating action-oriented goals and using frequent conversations to track an individual’s progress can dramatically increase motivation to achieve their goals. Here are a few guidelines to making that happen:

  • Give both recognition and feedback. Call out what they’re doing well and encourage attention to areas of opportunity.
  • Revisit your old conversations. Acknowledge when things from previous conversations are moving in the right direction and when they could use more focus.
  • Coach and support them. Offer the guidance, resources, or tools they need to succeed.
  • Carefully choose your words. Words carry a lot of weight in motivating or deflating a person’s value. Ensure your phrases are avoiding bias and are measurement-oriented rather than personality-oriented.

Instead of reporting back to your employees everything they’ve done since your last conversation, make sure there is a clear outcome. Many people believe the best performance reviews start at the end, with clear performance metrics and objectives. During your discussions, set a task, deliverable, or short-term goal for your employee to complete. These conversations should not only discuss performance but also drive it. You want employees to feel empowered and excited about where they’re heading, and giving them small, achievable outcomes helps them feel like they’re making real progress.

Employee Motivation Tip 4: Always measure results, not people. Many managers use performance reviews in order to critique habits or personality traits. While these can sometimes impact work, they have the more debilitating effect of making the review about the individual instead of actual performance. 

Work Together for Better Performance

Performance reviews should never be a one-sided conversation. Managers and employees are a team and need to work together to achieve their goals. Viewing these one-on-one conversations as an opportunity for a coaching session, rather than merely as a performance review, is a more effective way to frame the matter at hand. Coaching is a form of training and development that fosters a meaningful relationship between a manager and an employee. 

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Employees can leverage their managers’ knowledge and expertise while accessing the tools they need to enable their personal development. By allowing individuals to contribute their input, feedback, wants, and needs, managers provide them with an environment where they feel supported and encouraged to find success.

To facilitate an open conversation with individuals, you should:

  • Ask them about their vision for themselves
  • Listen with curiosity
  • Be accurate in your reflection by showing you understand their needs
  • Be supportive
  • Provide constructive, honest feedback
  • Communicate clearly

Active listening is essential to a successful performance review. Listening to your employees allows you to learn from them and to understand their daily working environment. When it comes down to it, participating in a conversation isn’t always about sharing your view. Conversations where the employees are being talked at rather than listened to can contribute to feelings of lowered morale, decreased autonomy, and less confidence. 

Employee Motivation Tip 5: Conversation starters and prompts often help less gregarious employees to articulate their thoughts. The same holds for managers. Work with your performance review team to ensure every employee receives consistent preparation, and every manager follows a similar process.

Performance reviews should be a mutual discussion of what the individual wants and how the manager can help them get there. By working together, individuals gain a sense of contribution to and control of their development and are more likely to accomplish goals they’ve set for themselves.

With Caliper’s Essentials for Coaching, you’ll be able to motivate and engage your employees so they feel passionate about the work they’re doing. Want to take a look at how our products can help your company? Get in touch with our experts, and we can get you on the right path to developing more successful employees.

This article was originally published on November 14th, 2019.  It was updated on October 15th, 2020.