Employee performance reviews can be a tricky business. They’re meant to measure an employee’s performance over a certain period of time through a judicious and constructive manner. However, subjectivity can prevent this from happening.
Globoforce found that 63 percent of employees believe their performance reviews aren’t a true indicator of performance. It also discovered that 51 percent of employees see their performance reviews as inaccurate. This perception of inaccuracy may explain why many employees and managers have a mutual distaste for them.
As humans, it’s difficult to be fully objective. We can all be biased in one way or another—as much as we try to deny it. So we can’t approach an employee’s performance review without bringing in our own experiences, views and expectations to the table. Here are five strategies to help combat this subjectivity.
Separating Performance and Personality
A common error managers can make is mistaking personality for performance when, in fact, they’re two very different factors. Personality is someone’s characteristics. Performance is about results.
People have their own way of handling tasks. And sometimes you may not agree with how they handled the task. But ask yourself, did they achieve the results you wanted? Did their behavior negatively impact the outcome of the task? Just because someone does something differently from you doesn’t mean their methods are inherently bad.
Look Past One Month
Do you remember what your employees accomplished two months ago? What about 11 months ago? Sometimes it’s even difficult to recall what happened last week. So it’s only natural for managers to remember an employee’s most recent performance. According to psychology, this phenomenon is referred to as the recency effect—"the tendency to remember better information that was more recently learned.”
Take this example: If an employee made a mistake last month, the recency effect can make that flub overshadow a year’s worth of exceptional work. So to paint a more whole picture of performance, you should look at results from beyond one month ago.
Don’t Focus Too Much on the Past
Now here’s the flip side: Focusing too much on the past can also distort a performance review. The same survey by Globoforce reported that 70 percent of employees want reviews that help them develop and grow. Dwelling only on the past during a performance review may not offer up any opportunities for development.
Performance reviews can be a prime opportunity for managers to coach and mentor their employees. Find out what your employees' professional goals are, then help them get there by finding out how the organization can develop the necessary skills.
When you’re conducting a survey, you shouldn't come to a conclusion from just one source of data—you need a range. The same can apply to performance reviews.
Consider poking and prodding through every realm of your organization. Ask team leads and others who have worked directly with that employee. Seeking feedback from others can help build a clearer picture of someone’s successes and shortcomings. For example, an employee may have hit the marketing project out of the park but fallen short on a collaborative project with the sales team.
Forget Subjective Standards
How do you rate someone’s performance using a five-point rating scale? Where are the benchmark and standards? These types of ratings are extremely subjective. Each manager has their own way of interpreting what a one-star performance is versus a five-star performance.
At TINYpulse, we opt for SMART goals and OKRs like we’ve shown here in our Guide to Performance Reviews. Our managers sit down with their employees semi-annually to come up with goals. But that’s only the beginning. Each week, managers have one-on-one meetings with their employees to touch base on how the goals are coming along.
Having these frequent check-ins can let the employee know they’re not alone. Check-ins can also give managers the opportunity to figure out if there are any ways they can help their employee achieve their goals.
So when it comes time to do the performance review, managers are equipped with hard data instead of subjective five-point rating scales. Ultimately, this data can help remove subjectivity. Either someone accomplished their goals or they didn’t.
With such a high percentage of employees believing that performance reviews are inaccurate, working on ways to improve accuracy can contribute to engagement and retention in the workplace. To do so, gather feedback from various sources, coach your employees and use data to measure an employee’s performance rather than relying on subjective perceptions.
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