Time is money.  It is also true that time can save money.  An example?  Taking the time necessary to prepare for and conduct annual performance reviews can save your organization both time and money.  

Annual performance reviews, also called performance evaluations or appraisals, are an essential and inevitable component of the relationship between employee and employer.  That said, supervisors, managers and executives (perhaps especially executives) usually hate the thought of conducting reviews and would just as soon skip the whole process.  Combine this perspective with the fact that the manager or supervisor puts off this responsibility as long as possible and the performance evaluation meeting is often awkward, uncomfortable or even contentious. The employee appraisal process is so stressful that it may even trigger termination of the employer-employee relationship.   

Although the necessity of conducting a performance review is well documented, a stressful process and negative outcome is not.  To help alleviate the pain, here are a few annual performance review tips. 

1. The first tip relates to time.  Before you actually review the employee’s performance and certainly before you discuss the results of your review with her, you should set aside sufficient time to fully prepare yourself so that you are able to conduct an honest, objective and complete performance review devoid of emotion.  

2. Re-familiarize yourself with the purpose of the appraisal.  Review the employee’s personnel file, her past reviews and her job description to be sure that what you’re evaluating is what she understands her job to be.  

3. Remember, this is an annual review, not disciplinary action. And by that I mean that waiting until the annual evaluation to carry out corrective action is not only unwise, it is inappropriate and counterproductive.  Although conducting disciplinary or remedial action is beyond the scope of the present discussion, we would be remiss if we didn’t issue a reminder that corrective action should be taken proximate in time to the incident(s) of inadequate performance or unacceptable conduct, not weeks or months after a non-performing incident.

4. No discussion of annual review tips is complete without reference to honesty.  In order to conduct a performance appraisal productive for the company and employee alike, it is critical that the written review and the meeting to discuss it involve direct, clear and honest language.  Failure to do so will only create problems down the road.  If there are specific areas in which the employee needs to improve, he needs to be advised what they are and what he is to do about them if your intention is for him to remedy any shortcomings and improve his performance.  (That is the purpose of the performance appraisal, right?).  

5. Another important tip that your appraisal should be specific, both in written and spoken word.  Quantify whenever possible.  “Tardy 14 days in the last quarter” is objective; “always late” is not.  If there is a behavior issue, use specific scenarios and facts to describe the behavior, not subjective statements such as “aggressive”, “short-tempered”, or “always in a bad mood.”   For example, what you consider aggressive, someone else may find to be initiative.  

6. If your review includes some negatives, you must do everything in your power to converse with, rather than confront, the employee during the meeting.  Refer to strengths and provide a clear path to improvement.  Again, speak honestly, but with an eye on the big picture.    

There are, of course, numerous other annual review tips.  Regardless of which ones you incorporate, the bottom line is to do it and take the time to do it well.  After all, avoidance disguised as expedience will not serve the process, you or your company.