Six Helpful Tips on How to Conduct a Performance Review Meeting

by Sharlyn Lauby | Posted | Performance Management

Six Helpful Tips on How to Conduct a Performance Review Meeting

Earlier this year, I saw a Washington Post headline that said, “Study finds that basically every single person hates performance reviews.” I’m sure we all understand why. No one likes negative feedback. We all want a good pay increase. Truth is, performance reviews don’t have to be a dreaded activity.

No one should go to a performance review meeting without already knowing about their performance. Managers are responsible for telling employees the company performance standard. They should also be providing regular coaching and feedback to employees regarding their performance. So, the meeting shouldn’t be a surprise.

The performance review meeting is a formal conversation based upon the informal conversations that have happened prior. The goal is to make the meeting productive and produce outcomes that benefit both the employee and the company.

To do that, here are six steps you can follow when planning the meeting.

1. Establish the purpose of the performance review meeting conversation

You already know the performance information that you will be discussing with the employee. That’s not really the “purpose”. The purpose is this:

“What message do you want the employee to leave the room with?”

It might be to discuss the employee’s future opportunities within the department. Or a specific skill you would like the employee to master. Regardless, think of the overall theme you’d like the discussion to take.

2. Outline your agenda for the meeting. And ask the employee for their agenda as well

A performance review meeting is not a one-way conversation. Employees often save discussions about their career for these meetings. I’m a big fan of having a discussion with the employee prior to the performance review meeting.

I use this pre-meeting to set a date for the conversation, give the employee their last review, ask the employee to do a self-review and find out their goals for the meeting. This allows the employee to come to the meeting equally prepared.

3. Review the relevant parts of the performance review form. Discuss challenges and successes. 

Use the meeting to cover the highlights of the performance review form. Discuss any ongoing challenges and brainstorm ways to solve those issues. In addition, ask the employee to share their successes.

The success information is valuable not just as a form of recognition. The employee has solved a problem. If you are ever in a similar situation or another employee is facing the same problem, you have a proven solution to share.

4. Discuss ideas for development/action plan

This should be a significant portion of the meeting. While reviewing the performance review form is important, on some level both you and the employee know what it says. The form represents the past – behaviors and incidents that have already happened.

This portion of the discussion focuses on the future. Find out what goals and plans the employee has for their career. Discover if the employee’s plans and the company’s plans are in alignment or very different. Talk about the skills and experience needed for the employee to accomplish their career goals.

5. Agree upon specific actions to be taken by each of you

Both the manager and the employee should leave the meeting with items on their to-do list. The lists do not have to be long and they do not have to contain an equal number of items. The goal is to have a written action plan that is achievable and valuable to both parties – including deadlines.

6. Summarize the performance review meeting conversation and express support

Wrap-up the conversation by recapping the key discussion points, thanking the employee for their participation, and showing your support for the employee. One other thing I’d suggest – ask the employee to give you some feedback. Find out if you’re providing valuable support. Ask for suggestions on ways you can improve as a manager.

Side note: Jamie Resker wrote a great blog post where she provides some example questions managers can ask to solicit feedback on their coaching and communication skills.

A well-planned performance review meeting gives both the employee and the manager feedback to be successful. And that should be enough reason for people not to hate the process.

Your turn: What other tips can you provide to help managers and employees conduct a successful performance review?

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