The employee performance review -
what do we want?

by Caroline Fische, Dossier Ambassador

We all do employee performance reviews in different ways. Are we conscious of what we hope to achieve with it - and are we getting the desired effect?

While being at the receiving end of much well deserved critisism, most companies engage in employee performance reviews (also known as employee appraisals).

Those who understand the connection between how it is done, the effect it should have, and how results should be assessed are few and far between.

Has the employee review process in your organisation suffered the same fate as other concepts that we surround ourselves with, where content and definition have become worn and diffused, where we uncritically follow what others have done, and it easily becomes a false sense of security that legitimises that we are doing the "right" things?

The review process: What, how and why?
The employee review process is a fluid concept - a social construct where content can mean and entail different things. What we put into it must be defined and clarified.

What will this mean for us? How will we do it and why? What do we wish to achieve? We need to be able to see or measure that what we are doing is obtaining results in different ways - if not, interest will begin to wane and it becomes prioritised down in a busy day.

One way to define the employee review process, is "the process of facilitating that the individual will succeed every day in delivering to the customer and organisation's expectations". With a definition such as this, there is a requirement for both quality and direction.

What is important in order for us to fulfill both the customer and organisation's expectations together? Does it require particular attitudes or behaviours, or other ways to collaborate? Does it have a connection with what is known as external and internal efficiency, where the external efficiency is defined as doing the right thing, and inner efficiency is doing this thing right?

As known, it is of little help to be effective in the development of new products and services, if it falls far from the customer's wishes and requirements.

It requires an agreement and acceptance of what it means to meet expectations in our organisation, which needs to work as a framework for appraisal and facilitation. The review process must affect the results - both what needs to be delivered and how, but also the organisation's culture, the individual's motivation and sense of achievement in a workday.

Address both sides of the table
Employee reviews require involvement in different ways, on different levels. Motivation and wellbeing are often connected with seeing ones own contribution in relation to a common goal. The experience of making a difference, and the feeling that we work as a unit, inspires one to contribute. It requires that the manager is able to communicate goals and overriding guidelines in such a way that the individual can relate it to his own workday and work tasks. It is the basis for setting ones own goals, and successfully expressing the need for development and support in order to achieve them.

But involvement should be more than this; what are the department's challenges, how does management itself wish to contribute? In order to work towards a common goal, an openess and involvement, which goes both ways from management and employees, is needed. It is necessary in order to work as a unit, and in order to work well together during the workday. It is a shared responsibility.

It requires the prospect of an open, two-way communication. Performance review conversations are important meeting points, which could advantageously have a slogan called "involvement - both ways", where mutual requirements and expectations are clarified in such a way that what they commit, can be monitored and evaluated.

Be clear
The necessity for clarity does not only apply to what you need to deliver, but also how. What are your core tasks, what characterises quality with us, how should our core values be made apparent in what we deliver?

How do you best dispose of your time in regard to the organisation's requirements and expectations?

A shared understanding of mutual expectations create a sense of security, which is important in order to work independently, take responsibility and make decisions. For the individual, it provides more space to maneuver, and strengthens the experience of achievement. For the organisation, it is a requirement in order to use employee review conversations as a tool to reach common goals.

Work systematically
A lot happens during the workday, with continuous ad-hoc tasks and requirements for changes. Therefore, follow up and continuity is a challenge. New technology provides greater opportunity to work systematically and with commitment. 

Technology needs to support, clarify and simplify the process for both management and employees.