We often joke to people that we would be able to work in a corporate environment for a while, but that employment would quickly come to an end when we got our annual reviews. Needless to say, we’re not big fans of the corporate annual review.
Here is why we loathe them. First, they aren’t a true representation of the work that your employees do. Often times they are a means to an end to justify the raise or the performance matrix that you HAVE to put them in. It is what we like to call smoke and mirrors. They will often give employees a little above average score so they can give them a little bump in pay. Basically, corporations make reviews all about money and they try to equate the money your employees are getting with their performance. The last thing that corporate annual reviews do is to encourage and challenge employees.
There are three things we believe Uncommon Annual Reviews should be about -Edify the employee, Encourage the employee, and Challenge the employee. We believe if annual reviews are done correctly, not only will people walk out on fire for their company, but they will also work harder and want to make the company look better, and they will want to stick around and keep working for the company!
Let’s talk through the three important parts of an Uncommon Review.
To begin with, you need to listen and ask questions. This will be foreign to the employee, and initially, they won’t be honest because they will think that you are setting them up to fail. We add this part about listening and asking questions because it will help with each step of the Uncommon Annual Review. If you listen and ask questions, one of two things will happen. If they are doing well it will be fun for you to hear their passion and enthusiasm, and it will reinforce your edification of them. If they aren’t doing well, chances are they will voice their concern about the challenges, and you can address it with your edification of them.
Edify them: After you have a good idea of how the employee feels they are performing in their role, it is now time to edify them. Give them examples of how they performed well. When you are edifying someone, think of ways you can push them forward in their thoughts and ideas. The more examples you give the better. This is the time to show them that not only did you hear them, but you noticed them and you want them to be the best they can be.
Now, what if their perception is not your perception? For example, what if they are excited about their job, they love it, and they think they are great at it, but you don’t. Now is the time to talk through these things! If their attitude really sucks, then you can give them a couple of examples where you noticed they were upset or frustrated and let them speak to that specific example. If they aren’t good at the job but they think they are and they have a good attitude, that is a mentorship/training issue. We are sure there are scenarios that get a little tense, but for the most part, people are pretty honest and if they see that you are there to support them then they really do open up.
Encourage them: This is the easiest for people whose love language is “words of affirmation”. You get to point out details about their character that you and others value. Even if the employee is the worst employee in your experience, there has to be something that you can encourage them on. This is what good leaders do, they see things in people and are willing to encourage them to keep pursuing those things. Examples are huge, so the more documentation you can create throughout the year when you see things you are excited about, the easier this step will be.
Challenge them: Once you have edified and encouraged, you can now challenge them to take their skills to the next level. Ask them what they could see doing differently and more effectively? How can they push the organization to the next level? How can you help them in this pursuit of their passion? What are things that you see that could help them? How can you point out things they could work on or give them little tweaks to get a better result? Honestly, each person is different so each challenge you give has to come by taking into account the person you are challenging. Done correctly, this can be the most powerful and effective part of the review!
LASTLY, the money part, this is where the rubber meets the road and where the whole thing can break down. This part of the review is the worst because the employee is thinking their worth or their work is somehow attached to a number, so your first priority is to make sure they know that the dollar amount has nothing to do with how you value them as a person or as an employee. First, tell them how much they and their skills are valued. Explain that the company is going to pay them a certain amount for next year, but their worth is so much more than an increase in pay. Also, give them an opportunity to verbally process what they are feeling after the compensation portion of the review, so you can address any issues or concerns they may have.
In most corporations, the HR department will not let you conduct annual reviews as described above. They will want you to give reviews based on compensation. To that we say, do your reviews this way and throw your company under the bus. Be the leader that leads how you feel led. The people under you are way more important than the money they receive. Give them a review that shows them that.