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Performance Review Mistakes That Send the Best Employees Packing

Performance reviews are excellent spaces for managers to reflect on an employee’s performance, provide suggestions and receive feedback. In these one-on-one meetings, business leaders can learn more about what drives an employee, what their career ambitions are and how best to lead them to higher levels of performance and greater shared success.

Unfortunately, many organizations do not see the potential of performance reviews. Worse, it is typical for managers to make several mistakes in how they communicate with their staff, which can directly lead to higher turnover, especially of a company’s most valuable employees.

Performance reviews do not need to be difficult or nerve-wracking, but to keep workers happy and productive, they should avoid the following major mistakes:

Creating a Boring Atmosphere

Many organizations only have time for an annual performance review, but this means that managers have an overwhelming amount of performance to cover in a brief amount of time. Instead of searching through the past 12 months for instances of high and low performance for every employee, plenty of managers opt to read the review guidelines from HR as though they were reading a script. Worse, because many managers must perform dozens of performance reviews, they can start to feel like a slog, though each employee is only experiencing one meeting.

By investing time into each employee’s review, managers can make each meeting more interesting and engaging for everyone. Managers should do plenty of research on individual workers’ past performance and provide constructive feedback to help the worker achieve professional and organizational goals. 

Focusing on Negative Feedback

The only way for workers to improve is to recognize and improve weaknesses, and performance reviews provide an excellent space for managers to identify and discuss weaknesses with their team members. Yet, pointing out all the things a worker has done wrong over the past year is a good way to erode employee morale and cause performance to plummet. One study found that 30 percent of employees are so disengaged by overly negative performance reviews that they immediately begin searching for new jobs.

Managers should keep track of the negative feedback they want to inform workers about — but they should sandwich criticism amidst plenty of praise. Then, employees will feel appreciated for their effort and incentivized to strengthen their weaknesses.

Ignoring High Achievement

Organizations rely on top performers — sometimes, so much so that managers are not even aware how much of their team’s productivity is the result of just one or two employees. It is critical that managers research and understand the performance of every individual worker, so they can appropriately recognize the achievements of their top performers and keep those employees happy and engaged.

What’s more, managers should pay attention to milestones that are not directly related to performance. For example, recognition of employee anniversaries can go a long way toward showing workers that their loyalty and commitment are valued by their employer. It might be worthwhile for managers to bring up these milestones during the performance review, but other celebrations are also warranted.

Being Vague About Advancement Opportunities

Performance reviews are rare opportunities for employees to understand where they are in their career and where they are about to go. Top performers tend to be especially eager to climb their career ladders, advancing to the next role with more responsibility and better rewards. Unfortunately, many managers do not realize the importance of using the performance review to develop a clear picture of an employee’s upcoming career path — and as a result, workers can become confused and frustrated about their opportunities to advance.

Managers should already have a good idea of what their workers hope to achieve in their careers, and prior to performance reviews, managers should consider how they might help their workers take the next step. This might mean connecting workers with other business leaders for coaching or mentorship or recommending that a team member focus on the development of specific skills before applying for available positions elsewhere in the company.

Neglecting Personal Concerns

An employee is first and foremost a person, and it is critical that they are treated as such. Managers should recall details of each worker’s personal life and ask about them during performance reviews as a means of recognizing that there are more important aspects to their team members’ lives than how they are doing at work. This also provides employees with the opportunity to talk about personal difficulties that may be affecting their performance temporarily, providing managers with insight into recent behavior and attitude.

An employee’s performance review is among the most important meetings an employee will experience all year — and it is vital that managers get the review just. With research into performance and consideration of a worker’s hopes and feelings, everyone can leave the review feeling engaged and ready for work.

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