Saturday, June 9, 2012

On performance reviews - from manager's standpoint

This posting is Part 2 of my posts on performance reviews. These two postings are easier to read as a sequence because all of us are the recipients of  a performance review, but only managers have both experiences. Before I became a manager, I thought of performance review as a time and effort consuming but very rewarding process for a manager. I have seen a few managers doing it really well and helping employees with assessing their strength and opportunities for improvement, and coming up with a solid plan to work on those. This is a direct opportunity to develop your staff and make a positive difference in their professional growth.

I've heard from some managers that they provide ongoing feedback and if their direct reports need performance review, it means that a manager is not doing a good job. Take a pause for a second and reflect on this thought. Do you agree? As nice as it sounds, I personally do not. Ongoing feedback does not replace the need for detailed cumulative feedback which will then provide direct input into development goals and planning for this employee for the coming year, as well as into promotions and increases (or lack of those) for this employee. This does not have to happen once a month, I personally found out that once a quarter is a good frequency, but it is different from immediate feedback.

What are the inputs into performance review?
1. Last year's performance review and list of development and performance goals (if applicable).
2. Company-wide guidelines on the process and any pre-defined skills in the appraisal system for this role.
3. Role description for this position.
4. Feedback from multiple stakeholders from Business and Technology (if applicable) in different categories.
5. Your data/facts throughout the period of review and your opinion as a manager.

What is the output?
1. Weaknesses and strengths defined, discussed, and agreed upon.
2. Honest conversation about opportunities for improvement.
3. You either discuss development goals at this meeting or right after.
4. For the performance goals, you will have to collect input from you team, product owner (if Agile), business sponsor, and other stakeholders as relevant.
5. Good feeling of creating self-awareness and a plan to accomplish the employees professional aspirations on an individual basis.

Does it always happen? If you are a good manager, then often.What are the challenges? I've experienced three most common ones:
1. The employee is not interested in a dialog (tired, busy, does not see value, etc.) Whichever the reason is, manager's goal is to explain value while choosing more comfortable time.
2. Employee disagrees, e.g. if a manager suggests to improve a skill, and employee responds that this is actually his or her strength while assuming the manager is just not aware of what s/he is accomplishing. In this case, I suggest that the manager takes a genuine effort to observe this employee well enough to be able to assess the value provided, and if the employee lacks self-awareness, provide open feedback or do one of self-awareness exercises, e.g.
3. Sometimes all employee is concerned about is tying performance to salary increase. Performance review is the time to review employee's strength and opportunities for improvement, as well as further growth. I do not suggest to discuss salary or promotions during performance review. It is important to explain that while there is impact, there is no immediate direct dependency, e.g.high appraisal does not immediately result in title and salary increase. Those employees have to be educated about the purpose of performance review. Manager's responsibility in this case is demonstrating value of this process for employee's development.

What do you think?

Scrum Master - Role or Profession