With companies like GE, Adobe and Accenture revamping the way they do performance reviews, many others are now jumping on the bandwagon. But how do you make your new process truly work for your unique work environment? The best way is to start by asking your team.
Beginning a new policy with a survey gives employees ownership of the process and ensures you’ll get the information you need to make it successful. The main issue you’ll have to watch out for is how to get answers that you can then use to shape your new process.
This starts with asking the right questions. Rather than simply asking “What do you think about the way we do performance reviews?” Ask questions with a specific goal in mind. To do this think about the most important components that make up the process for your company and make a list. For example:
Employees: Development & Engagement
- Employees should receive sufficient information about what their strengths are and areas for improvement.
- Top performers should receive recognition for their contributions.
- All employees, even top performers, should be encouraged to continue improving and receive support in creating development goals for the next quarter.
- Those who are struggling should be provided with extra coaching by managers or peer mentors.
Managers: Improving their team
- Improving communication and engagement by having discussions with each individual about where they are, where they want to be and how you can help.
- Being able to use the information to plan and delegate more accurately.
- Knowing where and to whom extra coaching should be directed towards.
- Identifying top performers and possible peer coaches.
Company: Having a dynamic workforce
- Having an efficient system that engages and develops your workforce.
- Everyone from the CEO to the new intern should be receiving development advice on different aspects of their performance.
- Having a high learning capacity that enables the team to quickly meet new industry trends and challenges.
Asking the right questions
Now think about how these objectives can be broken down into solid questions. For example:
- How long does it take on average for managers, HR and employees to complete the process?
- Do the results provide them with enough information and insights into their performance?
- Does HR feel the results are accurate?
- Do employees receive regular coaching and follow-ups from managers after the review period?
- Are employees able to translate the information into goals?
- Do they understand how these goals will contribute to their personal development and reaching our company’s objectives?
Your questions can follow two different formats
Multiple choice questions are the most common and allow you to gauge likes and dislikes with a range of responses, such as: Strongly Agree; Agree; Sometimes; Disagree; Strongly Disagree. Examples of this type of question include:
- You have sufficient time to prepare for your review
- I receive actionable information about my performance in my annual review
- Your manager regularly follows up with you after reviews
Qualitative questions for more detailed information. You should leave space for employees to write in responses to qualitative questions. Examples include:
- Did you feel the results of your annual review reflected your performance?
- Do you feel you get enough coaching to improve?
- How many hours a week do you have to dedicate to your personal goals?
What to avoid
To keep your questions as neutral as possible be conscious of your word choice. Leading questions can sway the reader towards a particular answer. For example, “Why are annual performance reviews burdensome for you?” The word burdensome already denotes a negative connotation for the reader, influencing their response.
Putting too many thoughts into one, or a double barreled question, can confuse them. For example, “Are stretch assignments and leadership opportunities you’re given helpful for your professional development?” When in doubt it’s best to split them in two. At the same time remember that too many questions will make participants weary of filling out the survey and lead to less and incomplete responses.
Send out a first e-mail explaining the importance and impact of the survey. It’s essential that you explain your intention to overhaul the company’s performance management process and would like their feedback to create an effective new strategy. It’s possible that a number of people will not respond if they think it will take up too much valuable time. It’s therefore important to emphasize how this transition will impact them specifically and the opportunity it provides to have more input into the new performance management system.
Keep in mind that a long e-mail may be ignored. The best strategy is to keep it short and to the point: why they should participate in the survey. Provide links to further optional information to learn more about real-time feedback and case studies. If it’s possible to hold workshops or talks this would be a great way to be certain employees are informed about the changes you want to make before participating in the survey. If not be sure to spread information about the survey on all of your company’s internal communication channels. Once you’ve sent the survey be sure to give sufficient time for employees to answer and send reminders. After the survey is completed, share the answers with the rest of the company.
Put your results into action
The most important rule of conducting an employee survey is to never ask a question about an aspect of the workplace that you don’t intend to change. For each question you ask you should already anticipate possible fixes. If your employees don’t feel they get enough follow-up, encourage your managers to implement weekly or bi-weekly 1-on-1s with each team member and provide extra management training. If employees feel the results are not always accurate consider introducing 360-degree reviews to get a more diverse range of perspectives. If you find many employees get demotivated by what tends to be a long and arduous process, consider adopting a tool that can simplify your review period.
Steffen Maier is co-founder of Impraise a web-based and mobile solution for actionable, timely feedback at work. Based in New York and Amsterdam, Impraise turns tedious annual performance reviews into an easy process by enabling users to give and receive valuable feedback in real-time and when it’s most helpful. The tool includes an extensive analytics platform to analyze key strengths and predict talent gaps and coaching needs. @stgmaier