Susan Templeton

Opportunity Knocking: Annual Performance Reviews

Susan Templeton, Training and Organization Development Consultant

All too often annual performance reviews are an exercise in futility—a chore we complete because we have to; paperwork that gets filed away, never to be seen again. Some managers and employees look forward to the process as if it’s dental surgery while others are entirely apathetic. I, on the other hand, am sort of a performance review geek; I anticipate and actually enjoy this yearly ritual. The way I see it, when else does opportunity knock so clearly, even being so considerate as to let you know it’s on the way? I encourage managers and employees alike to seize this golden opportunity for themselves and their teams.

Tuning In to Your Team

One incredible opportunity that performance reviews provide for managers is the chance to tune in to what’s going on throughout your entire organization. It’s like an annual checkup, with you as the doctor and your team as the patient. Through the performance review conversations you have with your employees over a few days or weeks, you have the opportunity to take the pulse of your team in its entirety. Managers should take full advantage of this time and truly listen to the heartbeat of your organization.

Since the annual review process requires you to consider each individual on your team, once the check-up is complete, you can consider your team as a single body. Which areas of strength can be further enhanced and leveraged? Where might strength training—targeted to individual or organizational development—be needed? Where do you see challenges? How about opportunities?

Finding the Sweet Spot

In my work, I often talk about the sweet spot for job satisfaction and success—where skills, strengths, and needs align. Or, in other words, that point where key factors intersect: what an employee is good at, what an employee loves to do, and what an organization needs.

In a time of limited monetary rewards and promotional opportunities at UW, we at POD are seeing a greater emphasis on career development—not just moving up or out (although that happens, too) but how employees can better contribute, be more valuable to their managers and organizations, and find work more rewarding. This means that now is an especially fruitful time to find your employees’ sweet spots.

If, as part of the performance review process, you require your employees to set goals and complete a self-evaluation, both of these provide a starting point for finding those sweet spots. By studying your employees’ words, you can gain valuable insights about what, for instance, Hong really enjoyed helping with last year, what gave Maya the greatest sense of accomplishment, or what kind of work Irene feels most passionate about. Then, in your performance review conversations with your employees, commit to truly listening.

The more information you can gather about your employees’ hopes and successes, as well as their needs and frustrations, the more likely you’ll be able to uncover—and leverage—previously hidden sweet spots. Finding a sweet spot is always a win-win. You meet an organizational need while bolstering an employee’s sense of enjoyment, reward, value, and success.

Forming New Strategies
Performance reviews provide managers with a periodic opportunity to learn, evaluate, and strategize. As you tune in to your team and look for sweet spots, you may find yourself looking at your workforce in new ways. If you remain open during the performance review process, it can often spark ideas about how tasks, workloads, or systems can be organized differently or approached in a new way.

Performance reviews can also provide a prescription for development opportunities. In addition to reviewing employee accomplishments, managers should also look for potential areas for professional development. What regimen can you recommend? Are there training opportunities, experiences, or assignments that a person might benefit from to better contribute to the workplace and grow in their career?

Managers might also consider using performance review season as a time to assess their teams in a more formalized way. Although the overall process allows you to tune in to your entire team at a single point in time, the performance review process still focuses on individual evaluation. POD offers a variety of assessments for team development, including a newly acquired Team Performance Survey that can help you assess and better manage various aspects of your team.

Spring 2012 | Return to issue home