You’re responsible for conducting employee reviews for your department, and a direct reports annual or semi-annual review is past due. It’s not that you don’t want to complete the review—it’s because you’re so busy and it takes a lot of work to properly prepare for a review. You want to be sure your evaluation is fair and honest. But what message are you sending by being late, especially if salary increases are attached to the review?

The review isn’t annual or semi-annual—it’s continuous, ongoing, and constant. If it’s been six months or a year since you looked at the previous review, a year since you analyzed improvement areas, a year since you considered the employee’s pay structure—then review preparation becomes a time consuming task. And I’m not certain a fair evaluation can be accomplished when it hasn’t been looked at for so long. However, if you consider the review a process of improvement to be revisited throughout the year, preparation becomes minuscule because you’ve been preparing all year for the next review.

The review process is all year long. Look at the previous performance review at least once per month. Choose areas where improvement is needed and where improvement has been made and share these with employees throughout the year.

Set benchmarks for improvement. Continuously concentrate on areas of improvement, setting expectations and the activities required to achieve them.

Don’t surprise anyone. An employee should have an understanding of their level of performance before the review. If you’re interacting and mentoring throughout the year, they’ll know where they stand.

Now You’re Ready to Conduct the Review… Almost

Come prepared. Know the positive performance areas and areas that need improvement based on observable behavior, objective criteria—and to some extent—results.

Budget 30-45 minutes. Give the employee your full attention. Don’t allow interruptions.

Start with the good. If you begin with negatives, you take the chance of the employee shutting down. If they’ve earned a pay increase, that can be a positive place to start.

Be honest, but not negative. Use tact and professionalism, maintain a professional tone, and base critiques on facts.

Don’t horse around. This isn’t a time to be glib or joke with the employee.

Use activities based performance improvement. Goals should be activities oriented. Begin with activities to continue, improve, or stop.

In the opening paragraph, I asked what kind of message you send to an employee when you’re late on reviews. If this has happened to you, you already know the answer. The message is you don’t care about the employee, you’re inconsiderate, and you lack organization. Do you conduct performance reviews? What have you learned?

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