Preparing for Performance Evaluations: How to Keep Your Team Motivated for 2015

Performance evaluations are a central management tool intended to reinforce job expectations, measure effectiveness, provide opportunity for discourse, and identify areas for improvement. On the other hand, they’re often seen as year-end rituals involving angst-ridden meetings with nebulous checklists and scoring systems.

A survey by Robert Half highlights the discrepancy between how effective CFOs find performance reviews and how effective workers find them. Ninety-four percent of financial executives considered these meetings valuable, compared to 62 percent of workers. What’s more, the percentage of professionals in general calling the discussions ineffective outnumbered CFOs by approximately six to one.

Many business and psychology experts have written books on how traditional performance reviews can actually do more harm than good for productivity and morale. So what opportunities do managers have for making the process less stigmatizing and more empowering?

Your human resource policies may dictate certain formalities for performance evaluations, especially as they relate to promotions, compensation or disciplinary action, but there are still steps you can take to ensure the experience is informative and motivating for everyone involved.

Set clear and measurable expectations

By agreeing to realistic and objective (not subjective) metrics for success up front, you and your team will be on the same page during any assessment period, no matter the outcome. Soliciting self-evaluations and constructive peer feedback can help with reviewing expectations like business maturity or analytical skills that can be difficult to distill into a concrete measurement.

Make preparation habitual

Preparing for a performance evaluation goes beyond completing annual paperwork for a one-hour meeting. If you and your team are in the habit of discussing goals, addressing challenges and recognizing successes on a routine basis, perhaps in weekly or monthly progress meetings, then a year-end evaluation will have no surprises or sensitive issues to tiptoe around. Your preparation (and your team’s) should be ongoing throughout the year.

Be candid and generous

When appraising your team, present an even-handed accounting of their results compared to goals. Discuss challenges and areas for improvement candidly, but without negative responses that might needlessly perpetuate an argument or spark defensiveness. When their performance meets or exceeds expectations, be generous with your praise. Reinforce how much you appreciate and value their expertise and contributions.

Encourage dialogue

Use an evaluation meeting as an opportunity to be present and really listen to each person on your team. Hear their perspective on their role within the company and the company’s role within their life. It’s a great time to make good on that open door policy and give each member of your team some undivided attention to discuss new ideas or problems that need solving. Your listening skills and forward thinking will do volumes for your team’s motivation.

Follow up

Don’t let a year-end meeting end there. Set date(s) for future conversations to expand on issues raised in the evaluation, from setting career goals to fulfilling training needs to developing great ideas into action plans. Let each evaluation set a positive tone for the new year and you’ll see positive results in your team’s performance.

By developing a review process that’s focused on collaboration rather than control, you can improve your team’s productivity and morale throughout the year, as well as take the edge off your preparations for mandatory year-end performance reports.