Organizations large and small are replacing annual reviews with ongoing performance dialogue. Irrespective of your organization’s performance review cycle, it’s a good idea to foster an ongoing dialogue with everyone on your team. This helps prevent unpleasant surprises, addresses confusion early, and provides opportunities for continuous improvement over time.
However, not all ongoing performance dialogues are equally effective. Here are five traits of a good performance evaluation dialogue:
It is candid. Everyone involved must be candid and honest throughout the process. If there are difficult questions that need to be addressed, do not shy away from them. There should be no hidden agendas. This is the most important characteristic of an effective ongoing performance dialogue.
It is conversational in nature. This is as much a performance evaluation as it is asking for specific support to deliver the performance. Just as the employee’s job is to deliver high-quality performance, it is the responsibility of leadership to create or provide an environment where high-quality performance can thrive. One can’t happen without the other. Hence the responsibility for effective conversation is on both.
Make clear the specific behavior being discussed and what good performance looks and feels like. It is extremely frustrating to not know exactly what is expected of us. There is no surprise if the team doesn’t achieve their peak performance if they don’t know what peak performance looks like.
This is like expecting football players to score goals when the goal posts are hidden and penalizing them if they don’t score—it simply doesn’t work. It also is a sure way to eliminate any employee initiative and turn them into zombies who do as little as possible to get by.
It is constructive. The objective is to help employees improve their performance without assigning blame. Once you are clear on this objective, you can focus on identifying areas of improvement and discuss ideas to improve. These improvements need to be observed and acknowledged over time.
There is nothing better than getting constructive feedback that helps one get better at their jobs. Everyone on the team should also learn how to give and receive constructive feedback. It might sound simple, but is one of the most difficult skills to master.
It is continuous. Any lasting change in performance takes time, so focus on a few performance attributes for a period of time and do this consistently. This tells whether you are improving over time. The progress also keeps the morale high and helps everyone feel good about the work that they are doing.
If you are able to have an ongoing dialogue with these characteristics with all of your team members, you are already ahead of the game. This strategy creates a nurturing environment that has the potential to deliver great improvements to the entire team’s performance and productivity. An added benefit: It improves employee engagement and drives employee satisfaction.