12 Tips for Effective Performance Reviews
By Doug Hinderer
Senior Vice President of Human Resources
National Assn. of REALTORS
6 Tips for Conducting Effective Performance Reviews
- Maintain an employee log throughout the year, including accomplishments, missed deadlines, and high and low motivation.
- Strive for balance during the review, noting strengths as well as development areas.
- Maintain the employee’s self-esteem by not being overly critical, but be honest. Don’t sugarcoat the tough performance issues in an effort to spare the person’s feelings.
- Confine your comments to observable behaviors, not personality traits.
- Use examples and facts to support your performance ratings.
- End on a positive note.
6 Mistakes to Avoid in Performance Reviews
- Don’t wing it. Prepare for the review well in advance.
- Don’t assume an employee understands the review process. Explain the purpose, expectations, and process of the evaluation.
- Don’t do all the talking. The review should be a dialogue.
- Don’t assume that just because an employee is very good in one aspect of the job, he or she is good in all aspects of the job.
- Don’t assume that long-term employees are automatically good at what they do.
- Don’t assume an employee is very good at his or her job just because he or she is very likable.
Many managers would rather walk over burning coals than conduct performance reviews. It’s a process often characterized by tension and conflict. Even a glowing review can leave employees demotivated, if they feel the review wasn’t taken seriously or they’re not given reason to improve further.
Although there’s no way to entirely eliminate the angst associated with performance appraisals, you can reap a great deal of good from properly conducted reviews. Remember: the review process ensures that the employee’s performance aligns with the association’s goals, thus ensuring that the organization functions at maximum effectiveness.
Why Conduct Performance Appraisals?
- To help employees continue to develop their strengths. The key to getting the most out of your staff is identifying each employee’s strengths and harnessing them for the good of your members. The performance review is the perfect vehicle for officially recognizing and reinforcing unique talents, such as problem solving or customer service skills.
- To identify and address weaknesses. We’re all loaded with imperfections, most of which, fortunately, don’t need to be addressed in a review. However, some weaknesses, such as poor communication skills or difficulty managing conflict with co-workers, are so significant as to keep people from doing their jobs successfully. This can inhibit the association’s ability to succeed.
- To protect the association from lawsuits. Occasionally, it’s necessary to terminate or demote an employee. These decisions can become subject to review by a third party, such as the U.S. Department of Labor or the courts. In these instances, it’s critical that you can show that your decision was based on specific job-related performance deficiencies and not on a reason prohibited by law. An accurate, detailed, employee-signed performance appraisal is your best defense.
Guidelines for Effective Appraisals
- It’s called a “review” for a reason. The appraisal should be a summary or recap of important performance issues throughout the year, such as projects accomplished, goals met or missed, or specific problems. It should be conducted at least annually, and more frequently if possible.
- Keep a log. We all have short memories. If you can’t remember what you had for dinner last night, how will you remember work an employee did 10 months ago? The effective supervisor maintains an ongoing, written record of each employee’s accomplishments and failures. Keeping an up-to-date performance record makes putting the performance appraisal together a snap.
- Keep it behavioral. Often we think we know why a person behaves in a certain way, but in reality we don’t. For example, you may have an employee who’s chronically late for work. You may think that the person just doesn’t care about the job anymore. But it could be a sick child, difficulty with a spouse, or a medical condition that prevents the employee from getting a good night’s sleep.
Observe behaviors and evaluate whether the behavior was at a level required for satisfactory performance on the job. By focusing on the behavior—being chronically late—during the review, you avoid the possibility of making an erroneous judgment and keep ownership of the problem where it belongs, squarely on the employee’s shoulders.
- Tie the review directly to the job description. If the job description adequately defines the duties, skills, and competencies needed to perform the job, it’ll serve as an excellent template for conducting the review. When the review includes a critique of skills and duties not in the job description, the employee may feel the review is unfair. If an employee takes on new responsibilities throughout the year, be sure to update the job description and performance goals, and have the employee initial the change.
- Use an established form to guide the discussion. (See examples of association employee review forms in the REALTOR® Association Resource Exchange at REALTOR.org/RARE). Developing a review form can be as easy as listing the responsibilities detailed in the job description and adding other competencies you determine are important in the job, such as customer service skills or the ability to manage conflict. The review form may also include a self-evaluation from the employee, and comments from co-workers and supervisors.
The degree of pain associated with the next performance appraisal you conduct is directly related to the quality of communication between you and your employee during the year. Performance feedback shouldn’t be just an annual event. Keeping an ongoing dialogue between you and your staff throughout the year is the easiest way to ensure productive, predictable, and pain-free evaluations.
Tips for the Staff of One
If you run a one-person office, you can use these tips to evaluate your relationships with vendors. For instance, these tips can help determine if your long-distance company is offering you the service level you signed up for, or whether class instructors are living up to their agreements. Such annual, semiannual, or quarterly reviews let you know when it’s time to find new vendors.
Also, if your board of directors reviews your performance annually, provide them in advance with the tips in this article and a detailed self-review form.
(Originally published in REALTOR® AE magazine, the business journal for REALTOR® association executives, a publication of the National Assn. of REALTORS®.)
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