Chances are, you get a yearly performance review. After some standard process, you sit down with your supervisor and find out how you did for the year. That evaluation may have all kinds of consequences, including affecting your compensation and your eligibility for a promotion.
The most effective organizations use performance reviews as a key part of a process of continuous improvement. When used in this way, performance reviews become a driver of personal development and organizational growth.
Here are key qualities of these great reviews:
THEY IDENTIFY STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
An effective performance evaluation starts with the key tasks and job responsibilities of the position. Ideally, an employee has an opportunity to self-evaluate first by providing their own assessment of how the past year has gone related to each of the key responsibilities they have. Then, the supervisor can add their observations of this assessment.
It’s valuable to have the employee start their own evaluation so that the supervisor can get insight into whether the employee is well-calibrated about their strengths and weaknesses. While some employees are spot-on about what they do well and what needs improvement, others have systematic gaps. Some may fail to recognize key strengths. Others may be blissfully unaware of deficiencies.
A crucial part of this evaluation, though, is that everyone needs to identify both strengths and weaknesses. Often, people are reluctant to point out things they do poorly, for fear that this will have a negative impact on compensation or prospects for promotion.
In a healthy organization, though, getting an A+ on your yearly evaluation doesn’t mean that you did everything perfectly. Instead, you should identify an area for improvement and then spend the year making those improvements. The A+ comes when you successfully address a limitation identified in the previous year.
THEY INCLUDE A PLAN FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
In order to turn weaknesses into strengths, it’s important to incorporate a plan for professional development into the evaluation process. Once weaknesses have been identified, the employee and supervisor should identify the knowledge and skills that are the root cause of the gap in performance.
From there, a plan for how to address those gaps can be constructed. Sometimes mentorship from people who have expertise in that skill will be helpful. Sometimes, a class or microcredential is needed. Sometimes, the weakness may relate to readiness to take on the next role in an organization, at which point a degree program might be needed to advance. (Of course, more than one of these may also help.)
A good plan for professional development will both identify the right ways to address the gaps in knowledge and skills as well as a specific time frame for achieving them. This kind of specific plan is called an implementation intention, and research suggests that it’s an important way of ensuring that the goal is achieved.
THEY CLOSE THE LOOP
Great performance evaluations also have a place for the employee and supervisor to note the steps taken to address the weaknesses identified the previous year. The employee should have the chance to discuss what they learned and how they acquired the new knowledge and skills. The supervisor should then provide evidence from what they have seen that the employee has improved.
This aspect of the performance evaluation is critical for ensuring that there is accountability for the issues identified. Organizations that are serious about learning recognize that everyone has areas of growth. Rewarding people for being clear-eyed about their opportunities for improvement and taking steps to address their weaknesses provides incentives for employees to take steps that enable the organization to grow its capacities. It also helps employees to feel like the organization is committed to their growth, which is an important factor in retention.
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