Dean Richard Franza’s column appeared in the Sunday, May 9 edition of the Augusta Chronicle. The post can be viewed here.
The months of April and May mean many things to me: birthdays (mine and my daughters’); my wedding anniversary and my parents’ wedding anniversary; the Masters Tournament; the start of baseball season; and the Kentucky Derby.
However, since I became an academic department chair 15 years ago, it also means it is time for faculty annual reviews. While there have been years I really dreaded these reviews – particularly a little less than a decade ago when I had almost 60 faculty members who reported to me – I actually enjoy the process and I hope my faculty do as well.
I am sure many of my colleagues and many of you dread conducting annual reviews for those who report to you. If you do, my column today is focused on making the annual review process better both for you and those who work for you.
I think part of the reason I do not mind annual reviews is that I am fortunate to supervise very good people. So, one way to make the annual review process better is to start out by hiring good people. If you do a good job of hiring, your performance reviews will tend to be easier. That being said, we all supervise people we did not hire, and there are many ways to make the performance review process better, whether those we review were hired by us or someone else.
The first important step in an annual performance review is preparation, and that preparation starts well before the actual performance review meeting. The employee you are reviewing should have a good sense of what his or her evaluation will be. You should be talking to your employees on a regular basis, particularly those who are not performing well. If an employee hears about poor performance for the first time during their annual review, you are doing a bad job as a supervisor.
When employees are not meeting expectations, it is important to let them know that as soon as possible and provide guidance and coaching to help improve their performance. For those who are doing well, you should let them know that any time you observe them doing a good job. They will be better motivated to continue to do well knowing good work is recognized.
As you plan for the annual review meeting, another good early step is to ask your employee to write a self-evaluation of job performance before you meet. At Augusta University, it is part of our process and I think it is an excellent idea. It allows the supervisor to gain the perspective of how the employee sees his or her own performance. This will identify any disconnects you and your employee might have and will enable you to better address those disconnects when you meet.
Scheduling the annual performance review in terms of time and location is another important piece of a successful review. Give your employees choices of dates and times so they have some flexibility, and make sure you schedule enough time to conduct a thorough review that allows for good conversation and as many questions as the reviewees desire. You do not want to rush through the review as you need to demonstrate to your employees how important they are to you.
Also, find a location where neither you nor the reviewee will be distracted. I like to hold it in our conference room, and I leave my mobile phone in my office. Your reviewee deserves your full attention without the possibility of phone calls and emails.
When you actually meet, here are some important things to do to increase the likelihood of a productive review for both you and the employee:
- Greet your reviewee warmly. Make sure the reviewee is comfortable. Some light conversation is a good way to start.
- Be clear and transparent with the reviewee. Make sure he or she understands performance expectations and your rating system. At many places, inflated reviews mean that people are disappointed with anything except “exceeds expectations.” I explain that we expect excellent performance, so “meets expectations” is an excellent rating and we only use “exceeds” for truly exceptional performance.
- Be sure the review is a two-way conversation. It is important for the reviewee to feel comfortable asking clarifying questions and providing input. This also means you need to be a very good listener. You should be an “active listener” and demonstrating that to your reviewee by engaging them when they have comments and questions.
- It is critical that a performance review be as much, or even more, about the person’s development as his or her evaluation. Use this time to motivate the person to do even better by praising their excellent performance and providing guidance on how to improve the areas that require refinement.
- Leave plenty of time at the end to talk about the future. Find out what can make the reviewee’s work life better now and find out what his or her goals are for the future. Use this time to help yourself align the reviewee’s personal goals with your organization’s goals. I have learned that there is a virtuous cycle between happiness and performance, so providing an environment that allows the employee to be happy will typically lead to better performance.
After concluding your face-to-face review, share a draft of your written evaluation with the employee to ensure what was addressed in the meeting is what was captured in the written review. This will allow you both to be satisfied with the conclusion of the process.
While I know many of you dread conducting annual reviews, I hope these tips are helpful to you so that when that time of the year rolls around, it will feel like Opening Day.