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Employee Hiring, Development, and Retention

Informal Performance Review Best Practices

Mike Poskey | December 1, 2012

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Managers can be effective coaches to assist their employees in achieving desired outcomes and increased performance. They just need to know how. A good avenue to do this is in the informal performance review process.

Informal reviews serve several purposes, including the following:

  • Provide feedback for a specific job or how the person responded to a situation
  • Set and reset goals
  • Provide clarity to the employee
  • Help reinforce good habits and point out bad habits
  • Identify special skills and accomplishments
  • Provide specific recognition
  • Provide clarity and encouragement to the employee

The three steps of an informal performance review include:

  1. Acknowledge the good the person did and thank him or her for it.
  2. Address any areas that need to be corrected or improved.
  3. Speak specifically about your hope that the employee will be successful in the future because of the specific strengths and abilities you have seen.

Use the Review to Make Headway

Take time to think about the employee's contribution from his/her perspective. Almost all employees try to do a good job and consider their work a personal reflection on them. If you analyze or criticize an employee's work without seeing how much he/she wants to contribute and without acknowledging how much the person did contribute, then you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Keep in mind that the key to getting the employee to hear what you have to say is for you to value and honor what is most important to that employee.

Informal reviews are significant opportunities for encouragement and support. Use the completion of projects and tasks as opportunities for you to encourage, point out successes, and give your direct reports real and concrete reinforcement of their strengths and weaknesses. People continue to do things for which they get desirable rewards. Informal reviews are a great opportunity to reward wanted, productive, and useful behaviors.

Lastly, if you are like many leaders who place the bar very high for themselves, watch out for the tendency to set unrealistically high demands for others. Try to determine the unique motivators and skill sets of your direct reports to establish realistic expectations for each.

See the article "Formal Performance Review Best Practices: Turning a Judging Act into a Coaching Process" for more formal review techniques.

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