By Philippa Webster, HR Consultant at Croner

Performance review is paramount in helping to ensure that organisations have a high-performing workforce, but often managers see this only in terms of the annual appraisal. The question to answer is: “What is a performance review?”

A performance review is much wider than an annual appraisal and all staff, at all levels, should have their performance measured and reviewed from the day they start to the day they leave.

To ensure a high-performing workforce, two questions need to be asked: “How will they help?” and, “how can they be carried through?” and two areas considered: the informal and the formal performance review.

It is crucial that any employee does not get a nasty shock at the formal review. Staff should understand how they are performing at all times and this is where the informal review is important.

How can this be done? An informal review might take place every quarter with the manager and employee having a chat about how the work is going, any issues and, for example, any ways to improve the way a project can be carried out. This allows either the manager or the employee to raise any areas of concern and to explore any solutions.

It may be that external factors such as the loss of a client or a change to employment law have had an impact on the employee’s objectives which mean that these have to be reset, altered or scrapped completely because they are no longer relevant.

Internal factors may also have an effect e.g. a cut in the training budget may mean that an employee is no longer able to have the training required to carry through a particular work objective.

Despite the informal nature of this review, it is advisable to record the meeting so that decisions, outcomes and new objectives are clear to both the employee and the manager. Some organisations use a form while others rely on an e-mail from the manager to the employee outlining what has been discussed and agreed.

Recording the informal review also prevents any misunderstandings from arising at the formal review.

The number of times this process should be done will depend on the culture of the company and on the need of the employee. If an employee is underperforming, the manager should meet with him or her regularly, on an informal basis, to discuss issues and determine the solution.

The informal review will help to keep both managers and employees on track, not only with their own performance, but also in terms of working towards the overall performance of the organisation and meeting the business objectives.

Formal review

A formal review should also run on a pre-determined timescale. Several processes are covered:

- induction

- probation

- interim review

- annual review

All four should measure and improve performance. They should be a similar format and, measure against a competency framework of behaviours, skills, knowledge and, possibly, potential. Carrying out this measure with a view to improving performance will also result in a happier and more motivated workforce.

At induction, the new, recently promoted or transferred employee should have objectives, goals and targets set for the period until the end of probation. These should be specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-bound (SMART). As well as actual work objectives they may include developmental targets to ensure the employee gets up to speed quickly.

Between the induction and the end of probation, an informal review might take place to reassure the employee that the way he or she is working is acceptable. Equally, if he or she is struggling and not working to full capacity, then this should also be dealt with informally. At the end of the probation period, a formal review of performance should take place.

Provided the informal review has occurred during this period, there should be no surprises for the employee. Where the employee is confirmed in post, the measure of that performance should be recorded formally. Where further development is required, this should be discussed and agreed.

It may be that an employee’s probation period needs to be extended if they are under-performing. In this case, further development needs to help bring them up to the required standard, which should be discussed and agreed e.g. formal training or coaching.

Once the employee is confirmed in post, they will have their performance assessed via the annual and interim performance review processes. The interim review is usually at six months and, again, performance and any development needs will be discussed with a view to improving work and, therefore, meeting the end goal of ensuring a high performing workforce.

Finally, the annual review will pull together a measure of the year’s performance.

Find out more at www.cronersolutions.co.uk

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