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The Dreaded Performance Review

Why, when you say it’s performance review time, do you get so much resistance? Typically managers cringe and employees groan. Increasingly, today’s HR professionals are expected to bring forth initiatives that engage employees and drive performance.   Maybe it’s time for “out with the old and in with the new.” Think of your current performance review program; what is the ROI? Is it based around capturing a year’s worth of accomplishments on a few pages? Is the feedback a good representation of the employee’s performance? Is it balanced and was the employee in agreement? How time consuming is the whole process and where is the focus? Is it on closing the performance gaps and developing new skills or it is more about completing the paperwork? Often these ratings drive the merit system and when deadlines are tight, a rating goes in and then the review is written. Now the review has to be written to the rating instead of to the employee’s accomplishments and developmental areas. I won’t even mention the impact of forced bell curves on the performance review program. That’s where we HR pros cringe!

How many times have you had to step in when an employee is upset with their review and surprise feedback that has been saved for the better part of year? As a consultant, I talk to many employees in a variety of industries and I’ve yet to hear: “I look forward to my annual performance review”.

As a manager writing reviews, I too suffered with tight deadlines, too much paperwork and diligently trying to get through the process while providing constructive feedback. Having been an integral part of performance management systems for organizations over the past 25 years, my belief is that the focus needs to shift more on the conversation and less about filling in forms. With early systems it was typically a one way discussion where managers provided feedback and informed employees what their rating was. Most organizations have since adopted a two way feedback system where the employee gives some input, the manager gives some input, and then the discussion focuses on the gaps between the two perceptions. Often these gaps generated an employee development plan, which gets dusted off as the next performance review approaches and employees check to see if they have accomplished the things they committed to doing. While this is a step in the right direction, a more ongoing approach should be developed.

What I suggest is a move to a more of regular coaching style of performance review. This would include short meetings that focus on current accomplishments and development areas. This type of approach is much more engaging and the feedback I have gathered so far is that the experience is more positive and constructive for both employees and managers. A one page form will keep the conversation on track, and is usually sufficient to provide a record of the meeting.   If there are goals or targets, capture these at the start of the document along with current accomplishments, providing a starting point for discussion.

Managers can use a balanced approach to provide coaching and constructive feedback that affords the employee the opportunity to improve or develop new skills long before the year end rating.   Focusing on a few things at a time allows for skills mastery and development activities to be completed faster with new goals set throughout the year. While employees drive the conversation during these coaching sessions and get what they need, managers can also use the time to constructively push development in the right direction. Where ratings are required, the summary of all conversations and the progress made drives the rating. Generally the first session runs around 30 minutes, but subsequent sessions can be done in 15 – 20 minutes.   To get started, managers can ask questions around what employees enjoy doing at work, what areas they would like to grow in, how they would like to contribute to the success of the organization, what’s not working and what suggestions do they have to improve it.

For some managers to adopt this interactive coaching style they may need additional support to provide ongoing constructive feedback but the investment is worth it. It is my opinion, after conducting and facilitating the annual performance review process for many organizations it’s time for a change to a process that is more frequent, focuses more on the conversation. Providing employee ongoing constructive feedback avoids performance review surprises and allows the opportunity to close development gaps throughout the year. This process is more geared towards engaging employees and driving performance.

Aileen Turnbull is a Director of HR Services with Verus Recruiting Consultants, where she works with organizations to develop and align people strategies that drive business results.

Refine Your Referral Hiring Experience

Having worked in staff augmentation and contract staffing for most part of my career, I understand that when it comes to hiring, employee referral scores the most among all other recruitment means for the obvious reason that it is quick and selective plus it offers candidates who already are familiar with your culture and processes.

Here’s what an employee referral program is like for most of the organizations. HR rolls out a requirement calling for referrals, screen, select and hire among them and pay the referring employee a bonus amount once the new hire completes his probation. OK, so you have the process in place and you follow it sincerely but are you actually making the best of your process? Do you feel that your employees hesitate to refer their ex-colleagues, friends and family for the job? If yes, you probably need to motivate and encourage them to participate more. But how…..More money, better rewards? Let’s get real, not every organization is ready to invest more in its employee referral program and this is where HR can contribute by improving the overall referral hiring experience for employees as well as the candidates. When I was faced with a similar situation at work with an ex-employer, I and my team decided to focus more on engagement and acknowledgement throughout the process and the outcome was remarkable.

This is what we did-

Know the referring employee

While in conversation with the candidate, we would mention (something good) about employee who referred him. For employees, there’s nothing like knowing from their friends and family that their employer values them. For bulk hiring or walk-ins, it is not easy to record and recognize the referring employees during the screening and short listing but once the initial phase is done, take time to learn about referring employees and bring them in conversation.

Keep employee involved 

Is the candidate shortlisted, when is he going to be interviewed, is he selected or not, when will you get back to the candidate about the result…it is important to keep employees informed about the hiring progress because they are constantly buzzed for updates by those they referred. When employees feel involved, they are more willing to help a next time.

Do not delay candidate feedback 

When you are hiring through employee referrals, you are more responsible towards the candidates because they are linked to your current employees. Don’t keep them waiting and guessing, selected or not just inform them. A little more of e-mail work helps to win employees trust in the process.

Say “Thank-you” 

Appreciate your employees for their participation in the employee referrals program. Don’t miss the opportunity to thank employees (on e-mails or in person) and let them know you value their cooperation and help.

Avoid struggle for reward 

For an organization, its employees are its ambassadors. Motivating, engaging and appreciating them is essential to tap the greater talent pool they are linked to.Pay employee their reward or bonus in time (as per your policy) without having them follow up or put up reminders.

In Job Search, Careful What You Post

Social Media – Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, among other sites – can be a great tool in helping find contacts and employment, but it can also hurt your chances of landing the job if not used properly.

The good news is that social media can help find jobs you did not know about previously. Since approximately 75-80% of positions are not posted, social networking can at least help tap into those positions that are advertised. One can find postings on Twitter from either companies you follow, or from employees that hear of positions within their place of employment. LinkedIn, besides being able to post your resume for potential employers to see, also allows for employees to post available positions within their company. An acquaintance of mine got interviewed, and eventually offered a position, without applying for the job. He simply put his information on LinkedIn, and the company called him for an interview. Social media really works!

One may not think about Facebook as a place to look for employment. Not only is it a place to find contacts, it also has several pages that either list jobs or give information about websites that will help you find positions. In the subject line on Facebook, one can type in various options, such as “Hamilton Ontario Employment” or “Hamilton Ontario Job” for a few options to get you started. There may also be groups you can join on Facebook that are related specifically to your line of work. Join them to help yourself keep updated and to potentially find out about companies that are hiring in your area.

Be careful about what you post on social media. What you say, as well as the pictures you post, can hinder your chances of employment before you get to the interview. Years ago, I was invited for an interview. When I arrived, the interviewer informed me he had already looked at my LinkedIn and Facebook pages, and therefore knew a bit about my personality and interests. An employer may Google your name or look up your social media pages to find out about you before you even get to the interview! Keep in mind that the qualifications on your resume may help get you the interview, but your personality and the proper “fit” for the company are still vitally important. Always assume that potential employers will look for information about you – even if it’s just through a Google search — and form opinions of you. Present yourself in a way that will not prevent offers of employment!

Social media is a great source of information, both for yourself and for employers who are considering you for a position. Make use of what social media has to offer; it is a great tool when used properly.