What are you good at? I mean really good at? Oddly enough, that’s not usually the focus of most employee reviews. Traditionally, these reviews focus on two things: 1) what you’ve done in the past and 2) where you need to improve.
Maybe that is why traditional annual employee reviews are not effective. Managers, employees, and HR all agree: the typical formal appraisal process doesn’t work for multiple reasons: Feedback can be limited, inaccurate, or outdated. The focus is on work done in the past, versus recent accomplishments, and the emphasis is often on areas in need of improvement. And while those aspects are necessary, a review that actually helps an employee succeed should do more.
While it provides employee feedback, a review should also encourage interaction from multiple areas. While it looks at the past, it should be firmly focused on the future. While it identifies areas of development, it should focus on employee strengths.
The concept of asking, what are you good at?, and helping employees recognize and capitalize on being their best is the foundation of our feature, the Best-Self Review. Backed by science, and incorporating this strengths-based philosophy, the Best-Self Review is a 360˚ performance management practice that gathers feedback from the employee, manager, peers, and others. The end result is a well-rounded view of your employee’s impact and gives the basis for a strengths-based development conversation.
If you’ve decided to incorporate the 360˚ Best-Self Review, the next step is creating the first review cycle. Creating and tailoring that review cycle in our platform is intentionally easy so you’ll spend more time in conversation than in customizing the review.
Our recent webinar walks you through creating your first review cycle in the actual product, but we’d like to share some key tools the product provides. You can also watch the webinar here:
Simplicity: With a few clicks, you can configure your settings to ensure the right people have access to the information, such as the administrator, the employee, the manager and any others in the hierarchy who should be included.
Transparency: You can determine who will provide peer reviews and determine how transparent you want the process to be (i.e. fully transparent, completely anonymous, or something in between).
Enhanced communication: Create a customized, kick-off email for the first—and every subsequent review cycle, giving your team insight into the review process, suggesting names of point people for questions, and giving reminders of critical dates in the process. We make it easy by filling in information on schedules and deadlines and by automatically populating the employees’ names.
Once you’ve established your settings, it’s time to look at the process for having the actual conversation. This is where some managers get stuck. They’re used to going over stats and facts—which are important—but which don’t form the entire performance picture. The 360˚ Best-Self Review helps managers have those useful conversations with their team members by:
1. Providing critical questions to ask. Question templates are included to initiate productive conversations. These are questions intended to elicit introspection and the sharing of information. You can add or delete questions, such as, What are up to three wins you want to celebrate since your last review?, What led to those wins?
(Pro Tip: Employees feel more engaged when they see how their work plays a part in the company’s overall mission. Questions like “Rate your contribution to the company’s value of X,” provide an opportunity to discuss whether that connection does or does not exist.)
2. Separating performance and compensation conversations. You’ll notice that the review cycle does not include a conversation on compensation, but focuses squarely on performance. This is intentional. By keeping the two topics separate, it provides room for authentic performance feedback. Additionally, research shows that when you combine the two topics, it negatively affects employee motivation, with employees feeling less confident in the fairness of the process.
3. Customizing questions. You may want to customize your own questions to delve into specific issues on concerns with your team. The review lets you develop those questions and determine the best format for an answer, i.e. multiple choice, rating, or open-ended.
It’s not enough to develop the input. You now have to be able to use the information from the review in a beneficial way. For many managers, the typical review process is time-consuming and complicated. The 360˚ Best-Self Review eases the manager’s burden by sending automated reminders to participants when they have input due (or overdue). The easy to comprehend dashboard gives a visual display of the progress—Who is involved in the process? Who has completed the review?…etc…
Once the information has been collected, managers can look at the results in a comprehensive way to prepare for the face to face component of the review. One of the most insightful aspects of the results is the private manager assessment, which is not intended to be shared directly with the employee, but is a set of thought-provoking questions for the manager:
• Is the employee at risk for low performance?
• Given the employee’s work with others, does the manager want the employee on their team? (This question is answered on a scale between strongly agree to strongly disagree.)
• If the employee got a job offer elsewhere, would the manager feel distressed, neutral, relieved, or somewhere in between?
These questions aren’t ones managers usually ask themselves, but they help pinpoint the employee’s value in ways many other questions don’t. This assessment helps gauge promotion readiness and eligibility for future increases in compensation (with that being a separate conversation as we stated above). With this insight, a manager can consider retention and further development plans for a highly valued employee, or conversely, begin discussing next steps for a poor performing one.
A 360˚ performance review is an important part of helping employees achieve their best, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. A Best-Self Review, done quarterly or semi-annually, provides a wealth of information, but it needs to be done in conjunction with a continuous performance management plan that includes OKRs, 1-on-1s, and ongoing feedback and recognition. The entire system creates a process that truly supports, develops, and motivates employees.
For more details on how the 360˚ Best Self Review works, watch the full webinar.
Luke Guevara is Customer Success Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. Luke works on full cycle account health and coaches customers on best practices, he also loves climbing and connecting with people.
Huong Le is Product Design Lead at 15Five, where she focuses on creating positive impact and meaningful experiences between people and the products they use. You can usually find her at a local coffee shop writing about her world travels.
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