This is the sixth article on my experience coming into a small company as their first Human Resources leader.
It’s that time of the year when many companies put together end of year performance reviews and feedback sessions, and there is constant debate about what kind of conversations should be taking place, if these conversations should be tied to salary increases, and what kind of format should be used.
In our company, we use the following cycle for formal employee feedback: January is goal setting time after financial projections are locked in. We do a Mid-Year Touch Base to review progress on annual goals, discuss what road blocks are getting in the way, and what the plan is to meet their goals by year end. In December, we have an End of Year Review, and talk about what worked, what didn’t and what we need to do differently in the coming year.
January starts the cycle over.
Setting Initial Goals for the Year.
The financial goals that are set by the end of the year determine where we are going to invest or cut back. If we see opportunity in a certain segment of our business to deliver higher sales results, then our investments of people, and resources will reflect that. So should the goals that each person establishes for themselves. We call them Accountabilities.
The number of goals can vary, but 3-5 is optimal. Keep them simple. Each goal should be S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound), and sometimes it takes several tries to get them right.
Once everyone has agreed to their Accountabilities, we publish all of them on the public drive to increase visability and transparency. We all should know what each other is focused on.
Mid Year Touch Base
In July and August, we do a sit down to review progress on Accountabilities. If there are roadblocks or resources needed to move them forward, we strategize and re-align on tactics. Sometimes Accountabilities are changed or updated if business needs have shifted.
In this update, we also spend time on the career plans of each person. Where they want to go and what we can do as organization to support them. As we retain employees, the conversations are not so much about discovery, but about checking in to see if their direction and goals have changed.
End of Year Review
As we get into December, we sit down with each employee and have them update where they are on their Accountabilities. We do a post-mortem on the results, and discuss the reasons why they were met or not. We also ask people what they accomplished outside of their Accountabilities that we should recognize, and continue the career discussions. We also ask what they need from their boss to be successful.
You will notice at no point have we tied any of the performance reviews to salary. Our philosophy here is to formally review salaries in January and July for adjustments. We usually promote people at that point as well. We have found that separating performance discussions from salary appraisals helps keep everyone more honest, less defensive and much more open to talk about what did or did not work over the past year.
I also want to stress that these are not the only conversations that take place about performance. Those happen all the time in a more casual manner. The three times we meet formally insures that we never go too long without having one-on-one conversations with each member of our team.
Performance reviews do not have to be complicated and painful, as they often are. Make them simple, but meaningful and talk about them often. The more transparent you are with this process, the less room there is for surprises when it comes time to deliver feedback.
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