When a company hires me as a consultant, I ask to see their performance review plan. If there is no plan in place, then this is where my work with the organization begins. A performance review plan must be tied to performance objectives. In other words, if there are no clear performance objectives, then there is nothing to which to tie your employee performance review. The employee, in dialogue with the manager, should direct their activities to these predetermined and mutually agreed upon set of objectives. You cannot evaluate employee performance without a clear link to the objectives of the organization.
Performance objectives evolve from the initial job description. For example, an account manager or a sales manager may have similar generic objectives including familiarity with client needs, communication with the client, delivery of services/products and customer satisfaction.
Such performance objectives can then be evaluated by looking at specific assignments, projects or tasks. For each of these assignments, there would be milestones set out along the way. The manager has clearly established a set of criteria on which to base performance review. In the example of the account or sales manager, one area of the review may focus on client satisfaction and the review could include simply what the manager has observed. Alternatively, it may include more complex data such as direct feedback from the client or peers on the manager’s team.
Although the minimum timeframe for a review should be annual, ideally it would be shorter. For example, if the period for a task to be completed is four months, then feedback should be tied to this timeline. The communication is based on the milestones that have been set out over this period of time.
For a new employee, the first part of their employment time is spent in orientation and training. Once this immersion period has been completed, the employee is then assigned a task. Some employees will need more or less feedback along the timeline. Employees who are more self-motivated will obviously require less feedback. Others will need the congratulatory pat on the back or note of thanks more often.
The most important element in performance review is making certain that the review criteria are tied to clearly stated performance objectives and that the review is modified for each individual. The refinement of the review process is one of the hallmarks of an effective leader.