Strength Training: The Key to Improving Performance Reviews 

 March 14, 2017

performance reviews-working working-coffee

Performance reviews are like Voldemort. They are so universally despised that most people avoid them at all costs; they won’t even say their name.

A recent survey from Adobe found that 22 percent of respondents admitted to crying after a review, and almost as many said they had quit. It’s worth noting that more men than women stated they’d both cried and quit afterward.

Clearly, neither men nor women enjoy this dubious process. Still, performance reviews, when done correctly can benefit the individual and conversely the company as a whole.

The trick to enhancing your review process seems simple but takes careful consideration and precision to execute. To maximize your firm’s performance reviews, focus on your employees’ strengths.


What goes into a good performance review?

Before we dive into strength-based reviews, we must first define what exactly makes up a good performance review. Too many companies are stuck using an archaic review process that can do more harm than good.


1. Increase the Frequency

Much like jorts, political hot takes on social media, and the musical stylings of Pitbull; the annual performance review needs to go away.

An annual performance review is not valuable to any of the parties involved. Annual reviews are inaccurate, unfair, and stressful. For example, by occurring only once a year it is easy for the manager to fall prey to the recency bias.

The recency bias means the manager only brings up positives and negatives that took place recently. Biases, especially subconscious ones, are less likely to be an issue the less time there is between reviews.

Annual reviews are likely a large factor in workforce dissatisfaction with performance meetings. According to a survey by Globoforce, 51 percent of employees believe that these reviews are inaccurate.

Similarly, employees don’t benefit as much because they aren’t given specific and relevant examples of their successes and failures as they happen. A lack of timely feedback can cause the employee to get angry or defensive during a review.


2. Make in Unique

It is important that every employee receives a review that feels personalized for them. Customizing the process has to begin with each employee.

Make sure employees are prepared for every meeting. This preparation means that employees have to take a proactive approach to their development and come with specific examples of what they’ve done well and what they’ve done poorly.

Additionally, after the meeting is over, have employees submit a recap to ensure that there are no informational discrepancies between them and management. Leadership is also responsible for contributing to the individualization of this process.

Your company’s managers have to continually keep records of particular successes and failures by each employee. Without this record, leadership will be unable to provide advice and coaching that will benefit the respective employee


3. Make it Personal

This component is very similar to the last. To get the most out of your employee reviews, it is imperative that your managers know their employees on a personal level.

To be clear, management doesn’t have to be best friends with every employee and hang out with them after work, but they should have a general sense of what is going on in an individual’s personal life.

Personal lives matter because they affect work lives. A death in the family, a breakup, any kind of trauma will affect that individual’s work performance. Knowing these things gives your leadership context to that person’s performance.

Also, having a one-on-one performance meeting with a manager that knows you on a personal level is a simple way to ease employees’ stress with regards to the process.


4. Be Objective

Research by TINYpulse found that 17 percent of managers themselves believed that manager bias is the most significant problem with performance reviews.

Eliminating as much bias as possible is key to having an accurate and fair performance assessment. To remove this bias Entrepreneur says to, “structure performance reviews around specific, measurable metrics.”

The more concrete data you can use, the better your company can avoid accusations of subjectivity, and overall the more beneficial your reviews will be to your employees.


5. Make the Process Goal-Oriented

Whatever happens in the review, every action should be used improve that individual’s performance. Make sure that any criticism is made in a constructive manner as to further avoid any defensiveness.

Part of making the review process goal-oriented includes ensuring you are asking employees the right questions. Your questions, like your criticisms, should be in the spirit of improvement.

As an example, Workforce says instead of asking what an employee wants to accomplish in the coming year, ask employees to provide a few concrete steps they will take to reach their future goals.


Strengths-Based Reviews

All of the above points are critical to owning and maintaining a valuable performance review process. The key to radical improvement and sustainable utility; though, is using strengths-based reviews.

Strengths are what your employees do well naturally. They are each individual’s innate talents. Yet, most business’s review systems are based on an employee’s weaknesses rather than their strengths.

A majority of reviews are constructed to improve your employees’ weaknesses. To turn what they do poorly, into something they can do well. This idea is fundamentally flawed.

According to Harvard Business Review, brain science has determined that we grow the most synapses in the areas of our brain where we have the most pre-existing synapses. In other words, the real areas of growth for us are our strengths.

So, in order for your employees to grow the most, and maximize their abilities, they need to focus on their strengths. It is up to your leadership to help employees hone this focus.

Now, this does not mean that your employees should completely ignore their weaknesses. Rather, it means that your staff needs to understand that weaknesses are the areas of least opportunity for growth.

Managers must work with employees, during performance reviews, to discover and define that individual’s strengths. All goals for that employee should be focused on improving these strengths, what he or she does the best.

It is only through improving their strengths that your employees can reach their full potential and become their most productive selves.


The Wrap

The best performance reviews are simple; focus on your employees’ strengths, not their weaknesses. This technique has proven results.

Research from Martin Seligman, Ph.D., and Michelle McQuaid demonstrated that when managers focus on employee weaknesses, performance declines by 27 percent, but increases by 36 percent when the focus is on strengths.

If you want to get the most out of your performance reviews, make sure you bark up the strong tree.