Tired of Losing Employees? Give them the Annual Review THEY Deserve!
Jul 17, 2020
The dreaded annual evaluation.
If your company is like most organizations, you are mandated to complete an annual evaluation with your team members, or, each year, you fall victim to the annual evaluation process yourself.
Depending on the mindset of the organization, this is either an uplifting, affirming process, or a chore that feels both demeaning and useless.
Most employees I meet say they feel marginalized by the process. They feel that the subjective and biased rating system does nothing to recognize their accomplishments, nor their challenges. In one organization I worked for, the annual announcement was met with heightened stress among the team, distrust as to the purpose of the evaluation and the subsequent outcome. In one of my colleague’s words, “the whole process is a joke!”
Sound familiar? I wish it wasn’t so. But there are still far too many organizations evaluating workers’ performance based on an industrial-age paradigm, as Stephen Covey puts it, in a “carrot and stick” process. The process, usually mandated through policy, is used to show employees that you “care about them.” A predefined worksheet, with a multitude of questions is printed up for the manager to fill out, and once completed, will justify if and how much of a raise you get, will define what you are doing well, and what, if anything, you need to do in the coming year to get better, so you too, can get the same type of raise as your co-worker John. Are you cringing yet? I thought so.
The evaluation survey has the following questions, to be ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being “Needs Improvement”, 5 being “outstanding” (some questions may differ):
- Quality of Work
- Ability to complete tasks in a timely fashion
- Ability to work without Supervision
- Ability to follow direction with a positive attitude
- Personal appearance
- Relations with Customers and coworker
- Relations and interaction with Supervisors
Are you getting the drift? What is magical about this type of evaluation is that it weighs quality of work at the same scale level as to whether the candidate follows the dress code, comes in on time, and maintains a clean workstation. REALLY?
What makes the process even more fun – and I mean really, truly validating, is when the “manager” comes to you and says, “Hey, we have to do your evaluation. Fill this (the evaluation form) out, and get it back to me by the end of the week, then I’ll add my comments to it, and we can review it sometime next week.”
I saw your shoulders slump just now!
Not knowing what the expectation is, you fill out the form either saying how outstanding you are, or you self-marginalize, ranking everything as good, because you don’t want your boss to think you are a conceited blowhard. If you take it seriously, you invest time and energy self-analyzing, looking at what you truly want to improve on. You take pride in your past accomplishments, define new goals for the coming year, and outline how you will continue to grow.
If you take it seriously, you invest time and energy self-analyzing, looking at what you truly want to improve on.
Then the real magic begins. You have “the meeting.” Reviewing the boss’ comments you realize he doesn’t have a clue what you do every day. He sputters on about why you don’t deserve the rating you give yourself, justifying that, “if I give you “outstanding” then you have nothing to strive for next year.” Or even worse, “I don’t give “outstanding” because no one is perfect!” Are you feeling validated yet?
THERE IS A BETTER WAY
The annual review should be part of a bigger plan. A plan centred around the growth and development of the team member. No, no, wait…. hear me out! Before you tell me about the need to evaluate their performance, let’s think about it for a second.
In our knowledge-worker age, your team member is working with you because they have a passion for the work they are doing. If they are not, then do yourself a favour and get them into a role that fulfills their passion. But that is a subject for another article.
Let’s assume, your team member is in a role that they are truly passionate about. If that is the case, they don’t need to be evaluated on performance. Period. Trust me on this.
they don’t need to be evaluated on performance
As the team leader, you need to know what the team member’s aspirations are.
- Are they feeling fulfilled?
- Do they feel like they are using their capacity to their fullest extent?
- Do they feel they are contributing?
- Is there anything more they feel they can contribute?
- Do they want to build capacity in their area of expertise, or another area? And if so, how can you help?
Here’s the gist. The annual review is the beginning and the end of the overall process. In a nutshell, it is a part of a mentoring system, bent on the growth and development of the individual. In this system, the team leader takes on the role of the mentor, helping the members, set and achieve their full potential. It is based on several steps that include:
- Goal Setting (the Beginning)
- Monthly accountability
- Weekly or bi-weekly drive session
- End of Year Summary and The New Beginning
In the Beginning
When on-boarding new hires, you have a really good idea of what is driving that person. You’ve gone through the interview process (or someone has – speak with them), delving into their successes, their passions, their motivations. I would hazard to say that you probably know more about your new hire than a team member who has been with you for more than five years – but again, that’s a subject for another article.
Whether starting with a brand-new team member or starting the year, the process is basically the same. This is when you set the goals and objectives for the coming year. And I don’t mean just your goals and objectives, I mean theirs too.
This is the perfect time to take the lead and re-interview your team member. If the person is a new hire, the process will reaffirm both your commitments and will feel more like an alignment exercise. Are you (both of you) a good fit?
This is the perfect time to take the lead and re-interview your team member.
If the team member has been with you for a while, the re-interview process will give you both insights as to where you, your organization, and your team member fit in, together. In many leadership sessions I conduct, I will ask the question, “do you have team members whose capacity and capabilities exceed their current job description?” Invariably, I always get a yes. This is the time you, as the leader, can drive change.
- Have they built capacity in the last year?
- Has their passion changed?
- Are there directions either you, your organization, or the team member feels they should be going?
- Is there still alignment with the goals and objectives?
Now is the time to set the new plan.
I must say, I am a big fan of The Four Disciplines of Execution, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling. I love the transparency of saying publicly, “Here’s what I committed to, here’s what I’ve accomplished, and here’s where I’ve fallen down.” This high-trust process focused on no more than three wildly important goals (wigs), brings together the team and forms essentially a support group. I like to think of it more as a mastermind group.
In one organization, we took the first hour of our time and did a virtues pick (https://www.virtuesproject.com/), which really set the tone for the meetings and helped build trust and transparency for the group.
Weekly or bi-weekly drive sessions
As the leader, you are the coach. Can you imagine your favourite sports team’s performance if their coach only gave them feedback once a year? This time is spent looking at the objectives (or wigs), and soliciting feedback, from both sides. As a leader, this is the time you become the service provider. Asking the questions:
- What do you need…
- How can I help…
a) make you successful?
b) help you achieve your goals?
c) help you grow?
The New Beginning
This fourth step is really the first step. We’ve come full circle.
In this process, we’ve done away with the demeaning industrial-aged method of carrot-and-sticking our employees to driving excellence through shared goals and objectives. We’ve defined a process that opens communication between leaders and their team members. We’ve redefined the raison d’être of the leader to being that of a coach. We’ve taken a real interest in what drives the key assets of our businesses by being part of a solution that validates collaboration, contributes to our teams, and values growth and development.
I believe it was J.W. Marriott who coined, “Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers.” Eliminating the annual evaluation and replacing it with a mentorship/coaching philosophy does just that.