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My Thoughts on Performance Reviews

These are my ideas, and of course in the interest of continuous improvement, these ideas may change over time. It's important to communicate the value, and keep the performance review process valuable and not just something that has to happen - a chore. It should be a positive process for both the reviewer and the reviewed.



I have been on the other side of the fence for a long time when it comes to performance reviews. I've always considered them unnecessary and a waste of time that could otherwise be spent doing productive work. My thinking was still that I expected my seniors to be providing me with consistent and regular feedback, as I would with my team. 


My perspective over the past few years has changed, however. This change is mostly to do with spending less time directly with every member of my team. Sometimes, the feedback I do provide is often right in the middle of a crunch period and is interpreted as negative. Here are my reasons for placing a higher priority on performance reviews.


Regularly scheduled feedback

We don't always take the time to ensure our team members have been provided with feedback. Often the kind of feedback we do provide can be harmful and delivered in the heat of disaster. By setting aside scheduled, uninterrupted time to discuss performance we can make sure there is time set aside specifically to provide constructive feedback.


Setting expectations

As a team member, I need to know what is expected of me so that I can achieve or exceed those expectations. If I don't know what my manager expects, I have no goal, and I have no target. By setting expectations - in discussion with each team member - we can ensure a higher probability of our team achieving its goals, and we increase the chances of each person meeting the expectations of their manager.


Salary and Benefits

One of the most awkward discussions any staff member has with their manager is asking for more money or benefits. By setting aside time where performance is a discussion point, it gives the staff member the opportunity to discuss the value that they think they bring to the company. A pleasant way to start this conversation in a performance review is to prepare a list of achievements that have contributed to the success of the company. (Tip: don't wait for the company to offer a pay rise, be prepared to tell your manager why you deserve it.)


Still, nothing should be a surprise

You should never be surprised in a performance review. The discussion should be a summary of what you already know and have previously discussed through the last reporting period. I've made the mistake of surprising people with poor performance reviews in the past, and it's not a great feeling. If someone is underperforming, they should be coming to that review with the intention of discussing an improvement plan.


How often?

I try to make time every six months to review individual performance. I also consider my performance every three months to ensure I'm on track with my expectations. By doing this more frequently, you are increasing the capability to improve, but too often and you won't be able to see the improvement by the next review. I've found annual reviews are too far apart to have value.


Keep up to date

On a personal and more technical note, it's essential that learning and keeping up to date with technology is a discussion point for any performance review — technology changes at such a fast pace. You should expect to be using new, or different technology, by the next performance review. Each discussion should include how an individual keeps up to date. It should also ask that individual any new technology that they have discovered that would help the company succeed.


These are my ideas, and of course in the interest of continuous improvement, these ideas may change over time. It's important to communicate the value, and keep the performance review process valuable and not just something that has to happen - a chore. It should be a positive process for both the reviewer and the reviewed.


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Michael Lobb works tirelessly to help clients solve business problems using technology and heads up a team of developers, designers and miscellaneous nerds at Teamscāl. In his spare time, he likes long walks in the park with his dog, Chappie.



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