Tips for Conducting a Performance Review

Most organisations have some form of performance review process. There’s been some debate about the effectiveness of certain aspects of performance reviews, particularly more traditional models. But when done well, they can help set your team up for success. Here are our tips for conducting a performance review.

What is a performance review for?

Performance reviews can vary across different charities. They’re usually run annually and are sometimes called appraisals. But some organisations do them more regularly, or use less formal language such as ‘conversations.’

Whichever format you use, conducting performance reviews gives you a chance to reflect on your team members’ progress to date. Just as importantly, they’re a way to check in on their goals and plan their future development together. In this way, they can be a useful and motivating exercise. Recognition and two-way feedback are important for staff retention (though of course, these shouldn’t be limited just to performance reviews).

Performance reviews are sometimes linked to promotions and pay rises. It’s important that employees are clear about the purpose of performance reviews at your charity, and their relationship to rewards and incentives.

Prepare well

Preparation is essential to making sure you both get the most out of the performance review. Send your team member the conversation topics ahead of time and ask them to come prepared to the meeting. Ideally, they should send you their reflections in advance so that you can process them and prepare responses.

Spend time preparing your own feedback too. Consult their previous performance review (if available), and consider to what extent the person’s goals have been met since then. But remember that an organisation’s priorities can change significantly over the course of the year. Go beyond simple box-ticking and really think about the quality of the person’s overall contributions to the team.

A common criticism of performance reviews is that evaluation often comes from just one person, the employee’s line manager. To counter this, consider gathering feedback about their performance from the wider team. This is sometimes called ‘360 degree feedback.’

Tip: it’s good practice to keep notes on an employee’s key achievements as the year progresses, rather than trying to remember it all whenever the annual review comes around.

Ask useful questions

Conducting a performance review isn’t just about telling a team member how they’ve done. It’s a way of finding out how they’re getting on, gauging their view of the role and their job satisfaction. This means actively listening―an effective performance review is a two-way conversation. You can create talking points and prompt feedback by asking productive questions.

Here are a few examples:

  • How do you feel the year has gone? What were the highlights for you?
  • Which aspects of the job have you found most challenging?
  • Do you feel you’re getting the support you need to do your job?
  • What are your priorities for the coming year?
  • What would you like to be doing more of?
  • Are there areas in which you feel you’d benefit from training?

Give constructive feedback

Be as positive and encouraging as possible. Take time to recognise the person’s strengths and praise their achievements.

If there’s room for improvement, be specific about which area it’s in and give examples. Your feedback should always be constructive and geared towards development―as a manager, it’s your responsibility to offer support. Ask what they’d find helpful. You could give them tips, agree an action plan or arrange for them to take a training course.

Frame it as an opportunity for professional development―research shows that employees find training and development motivating.

Agree SMART objectives

Clear, actionable goals are the key takeaway from a successful performance review meeting. Good objectives can help give employees a direction of travel and a renewed sense of place within the team.

These should be SMART objectives (i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). It’s best not to take a top-down approach here. Instead, working together, agree projects that they could take on to further their knowledge and skills.

Keep a record and follow up

Despite best intentions, there’s a risk that these objectives become lost as everyday work takes over again. But it’s important to keep them on the agenda. That’s why you should make a clear record of them and have them to hand throughout the year.

Revisit the objectives during your regular catch-ups. You could also put in mid-year or quarterly reviews to discuss progress and make sure your team member feels supported. Having frequent check-ins can relieve the pressure that can build up before an annual performance review, making it less daunting.

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Tags: HR practices, management tips, running your charity, staff retention, supporting your team

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About the author

Tomas René

Tomas is Senior Content Manager (maternity cover) at CharityJob.