The annual performance review stinks. It’s one of the most dreaded and inefficient uses of time that I can think of.
The manager has to scrounge up his recollections of specific good and bad things to discuss. The employee – or agency, if it’s a client review – dreads the thought that he’ll be told he did a lousy job and there is a pink slip in his future.
Quantum Workplace, an HR consulting firm, published a post not too long ago suggesting questions to help measure and boost employee performance. But in my view they were still too generic.
There has got to be a better way – and there is.
Give Immediate Feedback
In my entire career working for companies and agencies I had exactly one performance review. And that was with the consumer bank where I was SVP-Marketing and also in charge of training.
The bank’s CEO put training under marketing because he felt that employees who had direct contact with customer were also marketers. He also felt the most important relationship within the organization was between employee and her immediate manager.
Bud (the CEO) had a system he called “the yellow lined page.” He believed in giving an employee immediate feedback about the good and the bad.
If you messed up an assignment, your manager would discuss it with you right away. What went wrong and why and how can we fix it? Then, the manager would pull out his yellow lined pad, after the meeting, and jot down notes to jog his recollections for the annual review.
These meetings weren’t only to discuss what went wrong but to give praise where it was due. How, together, can we replicate your success with other employees?
In this system, the annual performance review simply becomes a discussion based on all the conversations recorded on those yellow lined pages. The focus becomes setting goals for the following year. No surprises for either side.
Today, you would probably jot those notes down in your computer. It’s also a good idea to shoot an email off to HR so the mini-review is recorded in the employee’s record.
What’s My Job?
It might surprise you to learn that many employees don’t know what their job is. A recent Gallup poll Many Employees Don’t Know What’s Expected of Them at Work revealed that only 50% of employees strongly agreed they know what they’re expected to do.
Another Gallup report stated that when employees know what’s expected of them, a company could achieve productivity gains of 5-10%.
If employees don’t know what to do, how can you properly engage them in giving their all to moving the organization forward? How can you appraise them?
That gets to the job description. Most of them are pretty awful, filled with tasks and no overarching statement of what the person is supposed to accomplish.
The CEO’s job description would read something like this: “John Bigshot’s job is to earn a profit for shareholders.” It wouldn’t go into all the details of how he’s going to do that.
As you go further down the org chart, the authority for deciding things gets narrower, and the responsibility for tasks becomes greater. For example, a person in the mailroom doesn’t have much control over the decisions made but does have a long list of tasks, such as sorting and delivering the mail.
About Consultants and Agencies
I’ve worked as an account manager in PR and advertising agencies. A client’s expectations for the consultant or agency may not be well understood. In my experience, the client always expects more than the agency has promised.
Budgets are never big enough and the agency is afraid to tell the client for fear of losing the account. Thus, the agency falls short of the client’s expectations. You know what happens after a while – boom, the agency is gone.
When pitching new business, I would always say, “There is a continuing loop of information flowing between the client and agency. When something goes wrong within that loop, the relationship breaks down. When you hire us, we’ll work together as a team with responsibilities agreed upon for members of the team.”
No, the client can’t just delegate everything to the agency, or consultant. Both sides need to agree on the work to be done for the money being paid. The agency needs to understand the full extent of its responsibilities. Once the consultant has his “job description,” he can implement the plan.
The consultant needs to be asking for continuous feedback — in effect, on ongoing performance review. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch became famous for walking the streets and asking everyone he met, “How am I doing?” People laughed, but it worked.
On a Personal Note
I’ll never forget my first job as a reporter with a Long Island daily business newspaper. After a couple of weeks, I asked the managing editor for feedback. “How am I doing,” I asked.
He replied, “You don’t have to worry about how you’re doing. If you aren’t doing well, you’ll just be fired.” Some performance appraisal! I was never fired – I eventually left for another job.
I learned over the course of my career that responsibility and authority aren’t conferred — they’re assumed. If you don’t have an accurate job description, then you’ll need to figure out what your job is and then do your best. Keep track of your successes because chances are your boss won’t remember them all when it’s annual review time.
How do you give and receive feedback?