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Performance
4 Min Read

How to Use Performance Reviews to Motivate Employees

Shane Metcalf, CCO of 15Five

When was the last time you left a conversation feeling actually, completely motivated? Like your goals and priorities have been put into focus, your synapses are firing, and you’re excited to get to work? Got it? Okay. Now, when was the last time you felt that way after a performance review?

It’s no secret that performance reviews have gotten a bad rap in recent years. At best, they can be a time to realign personal and professional goals and priorities, and track growth. At worst, they’re seen as time-wasting busywork – an HR formality. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When done right, reviews can inspire the same motivation and drive in your workforce as that conversation did for you. Here’s how:

1. Be clear about purpose and process

Over time, performance reviews have become the catch-all meant to not only evaluate employee performance, but also, according to Gartner, to “inform compensation, promotion and succession planning decisions as well as to drive employee performance, development and engagement.” 

And as more and more companies (rightfully) shift from annual reviews to more frequent, structured check-ins, it’s important to be clear and upfront about the purpose of each meeting, and what the employee can expect. Will you be discussing day-to-day tasks or broader career goals? Will this conversation impact compensation or other organizational decisions? Removing any ambiguity will lead to more productive conversations between managers and direct reports, and prevent the frustration that comes from unmet expectations.

2. Shift from competition to collaboration

Have you ever worked at a company where you felt like your annual review was more like an interview where you had to re-prove your value as an employee year after year? That competitive culture does not lend itself to valuable, honest conversations.

“The best managers in the world are architects of effective coaching conversations. They create moments where genuine dialogue can occur, where employees feel their opinions matter and like they are cared about in a unique way,” says Gallup.

If you want to motivate employees and drive real engagement, treat performance reviews as a time for managers and their direct reports to collaborate on a shared goal: setting the employee up for success. 

3. Mitigate personal biases with data 

Even the best managers are prone to bias–we’re only human, after all. Some personalities click while others don’t. But effective performance reviews depend on objective, accurate feedback. If employees feel like their review is unfair or subjective, they’re likely to get defensive or check out entirely. 

Instead of relying solely on personal assessments, use data-driven tools to objectively track performance and create a multi-dimensional profile for each employee’s development. 

4. Connect the dots

You’ve been clear about the purpose and expectations of the review. You’ve approached the process with a collaborative mindset, and put data-driven systems in place, all of which have led to an honest and insightful conversation with your employee. All done, right? 

Think again.

For performance reviews to truly drive engagement and motivation, employees need to see the impact of these conversations. If they don’t see the value gained from the reviews (be it development training, new opportunities, or business results), then the reviews will fall flat. 

Follow through and follow up with training opportunities, continued learning, career benchmarks, or any of the action items discussed in the review. 

When managers and HR leaders show how these conversations directly impact the employee, team, and business as a whole, it makes the employee feel more connected and engaged in their own performance.

Performance reviews are just one part of a larger performance management system. Keep them clear, focused, and targeted, and they will become a valuable tool for staying connected with your teams and building a thriving employee experience.

Shane Metcalf is a keynote speaker on building a world-class workplace and one of the world’s leading pioneers in the space of cultural engineering and positive psychology. His insights have been featured in Inc, Fast Company, Washington Post, and Tech Crunch. As the Co-founder of 15Five, Shane and his team support HR Executives with data-driven continuous performance management. 15Five has won numerous awards for its company culture, including the prestigious Inc Best Workplaces award, and is ranked #3 in the U.S. on GlassDoor. Follow Shane on Twitter and Linkedin.

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