Annual reviews are a time to touch base with employees. They can sometimes be awkward if you're not prepared, but with the right approach, they can be constructive for everyone involved.

1. Set Goals Between Reviews

At the beginning of the year (or other designated time period) give employees goals to work toward. It's great to reflect on these goals during the reviews and see what progress has been made toward achieving them. Your team should always know what they're trying to accomplish, and when the time comes to conduct an annual review, you can use these as a measurement of success. Be sure, however, to listen to what they say in cases where goals were not met. The employee may not be at fault. Not all goals will be met, and they aren't the only thing to take into consideration.

2. Begin With the End in Mind

Think about your goals for the review before you start the process, so you have a clear idea of what to do with the information you obtain. Then, as you conduct your reviews, keep in mind why you're doing them. Is it to evaluate a single person's performance? To get a piece of the bigger picture for your company? Do you intend to give performance-based raises? Is this an opportunity to figure out if people should be taking on different roles? Your goals for the review process should drive the actions you take.

3. Make the Time

Schedule certain blocks of time for reviews and feedback. Depending on how big your team is, this may be time-consuming, but if you're giving reviews on an annual basis, you need to make them count. Ensure you're able to get uninterrupted one-on-one time with each person. This will help keep you focused, and your team will feel that the meeting matters.

4. Be Prepared

Be ready ahead of time so that you have your thoughts organized. Look back on the work the employee has done and review related data to determine how well they have performed. Have specific points that you want to mention, including things they did well and areas where you would like to see more from them if possible.  

5. Make Expectations Clear

Be clear with your employees about what you expect from them. This will help them be able to focus on achieving what needs to be achieved and determine how to measure performance for the next review. Ask them what they see themselves doing a year from now and five years from now.

6. Be Encouraging

Employees want to know that they are appreciated and that you are pleased with their work. They also want to be reassured when goals are not met. Offer encouraging words to keep them motivated all year round, not just during the annual review.

"Even the smallest words of encouragement go a long way," suggests Blair Thomas of eMerchantBroker at Forbes.1 "Anything and everything you notice that is positive, make note of it and let your employee know. For example, if your employee is setting a great example, let them know at that moment that their support of your new technology, campaign, plan, etc. is appreciated. If you see them develop and follow good habits that benefit themselves as an individual and/or your business, encourage them to continue and include them on future projects. When an employee overcomes a challenge, congratulate them on persevering and ask them what you can do to help them manage everything moving forward. In short, just a few words on a daily basis can make a huge difference."

7. Use the Right Language

Think about how you address your team during the review. While professionalism is key, it's also a time for understanding.  

"Your words carry a lot of power," says Jocelyn Stange at Quantum Workplace.2 "They can be motivating to your employees or completely deflate their work and value. When meeting with your employees you’ll want to be thoughtful, considerate, and take the time to prepare. While there are many ways you could approach a performance conversation, what not to say in a performance review is just, if not equally, as important as what to say."

She goes on to recommend using specific, "measurement-oriented" language, and staying positive and constructive while focusing on solving problems.

8. Listen to Their Feedback

Annual reviews are primarily a time for you to give feedback to your team, but they can also provide a forum for them to give you feedback about their personal work experience without having to worry whether anyone else is listening. These can be great honesty sessions that can teach you more about your own company. Ask them what improvements you can make or what they would do to strengthen your company and make it a better workplace.

9. Don't Wait for the Next Review

While you don't want to waste time by going overboard on meetings, it's a good idea to check in occasionally, even if for a brief moment from time to time, to see how things are going with the employee. Ask for a quick update or provide feedback and advice on a project they are working on. This can be the nudge of encouragement and motivation they need to stay on track or feel valued when they're doing a good job.

Think of annual reviews as an opportunity to improve your business by focusing on goals and increasing efficiency through constructive feedback.





The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank. Nevada State Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC