Posted on March 7, 2014

How to Avoid 3 Common Performance Review Pitfalls

Did you know that 42 percent of the time, high-performing employees are less engaged than low performers? That makes successfully reviewing, developing and rewarding your associates critically important to your business’ future.

In a recent webinar, Paycor HR Business Partners Becky Falvey and Lauren Ammon described three major review pitfalls and offered their insights on how to avoid these costly mistakes.

Pitfall Number 1: Overemphasizing negative feedback

The trick is to find a balance of both past performance and future potential. Highlight an employee’s wins, note opportunities for the employee to grow and clearly address the impact of any negative outcomes. Don’t avoid difficult conversations, but do describe what success looks like and outline the path to get there.

The goal of the review is a candid conversation with give and take, not a one-sided speech that could feel like an attack. Ask the employee what challenges he/she faced throughout the review period and try to gain a full understanding of the context of the work the employee was doing.

It’s important to acknowledge how teams and circumstances can play a role in an employee’s performance.

Pitfall Number 2: Focusing on personal characteristics—not on skills or behaviors

Keep your emphasis on results, in both positive and negative situations. That helps remove the personal angle and lets the employee know you’re judging outcomes and not playing favorites.

Be as specific as possible. Cite projects or instances and describe their results and the impact the employee had on those outcomes. When a manager is too general, employees either tune out the message completely or internalize it as a reflection on their personality.

Managers can diminish their credibility if they don’t root their feedback in actual events. Make it a point to explain the situation and then discuss the result, using language that demonstrates the impact of what you’ve observed.

Pitfall Number 3: Assuming employees know what to do next

Whether you’re trying to correct problematic behavior or encourage great work to continue, naming the action steps is a must. It’s not always obvious to an employee what worked or what didn’t.

Again, be specific about what you want the employee to do and why, by describing the business impact you want to see. Connect all the dots for your associate. If she was successful, tell her what steps led to that outcome and how she can repeat that process or behavior. If she has room to improve, explain exactly what needs to be different and how you’ll judge success or failure.

High-level HR leaders must ensure that front-line managers are properly trained in coaching and delivering effective feedback that includes positive reinforcement and constructive comments.

Want to learn more best practices for performance reviews? View the complete webinar.

These tips aren’t the only things that can help make performance reviews easier and more productive: Paycor’s HR application provides a user-friendly interface for employees and supervisors to manage performance reviews, access employee files and foster open communication. Learn more by speaking with a Paycor representative.