The dreaded annual performance review.  This has to rank near the top of the list of necessary evils for managers and supervisors.   The reasons are obvious: who looks forward to having to assess how someone is performing and providing him or her feedback?

Many managers chose to avoid any form of confrontation. Good news gets communicated while corrective feedback remains a secret. Avoiding giving employees feedback is not only bad management practice but a terrible recruitment and retention strategy.  Unlike Baby Boomers, Gen Y (also called Millennials) demand more frequent and constructive feedback than once a year… or never as is the practice in many organizations.

To help managers improve employee management, this article offers Eight Ways to Overhaul Your Employees’ Annual Performance Reviews.

#1:  Review the employee’s job description.  Does the performance under review actually relate to the job for which the person was hired?  Have the responsibilities changed?  Are those changes reflected in the pesonnel file?  If there have been undocumented changes, formalize them now and make them the new baseline for future assessment.

# 2:  Once it’s determined which job is actually being evaluated, separate the mission-critical components from the unimportant.  ‘Score’ those areas that are key to the company’s success higher than those that aren’t.  If, for example, “cleanliness of workstation” is lacking, but the work done at that desk is stellar, stay focused on the bottom line results.

#3:  Make the review electronic.  Files stuffed with paper aren’t very user-friendly.  In fact, they’re a nightmare.  Craft an electronic form annual performance review that is easily accessible and eliminates the hassle of paperwork.

#4:  Increase the relevance of the review.  In addition to the traditional checklist and 1-5 scoring system, provide narrative feedback that addresses specific situations.  For example, if the employee is considered not to be a good team player, speak to examples and offer guidance on how the employee could have done things differently. Ratings don’t help – constructive comments do.

#5:  Have the employee advocate for his performance.  Many companies have the supervisor do one review and the employee another, each, in essence, filling out the same form.  When differences of opinion result, both the manager and employee should be ready to justify their reasoning. These differences should not serve as sources of discord but catalyst for conversation. Provide specific examples of strengths and accomplishments, the ability to take direction and so on.  There’s a difference between saying “I’m excellent” and actually establishing it.  Employees should share the responsibility of reviewing their performance.

#6:  Coach, don’t criticize.  This should not be limited to the annual performance review.  Criticism is easy.  Coaching is not.  Effective coaching provides employees a better environment within which to succeed.  If an employee receives information about her performance once per year, the company has missed a year’s worth of chances to identify areas for improvement and implement changes that enhance performance.

#7:  Have the performance review discussions be conversational, not confrontational.  Employees usually aren’t looking forward to these meetings any more than their supervisors.  So, discussing it in a manner in which a coach might address a star player will likely create a more comfortable atmosphere in which both sides can express their respective points and respond, not react, accordingly.

#8:  The annual performance review must be honest.  Rigorously honest.  Not just with and about the employee.  Managers must be honest with themselves.  Are there issues the manager has with the employee that might impact his or her objectivity?  Is the proper perspective being maintained?  Is ego playing a disproportionate role in the evaluation?  Failure to deal with these questions truthfully may doom the process to failure. 

Implementing these steps (among others) will go a long way not only towards improving the annual performance review process but the supervisory skills of the management team as well.