How to get the most out of an annual review

Writing and giving reviews can be a daunting process for many managers, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips that will simplify the process and help make review season less painful for you and your direct report:
Take notes throughout the year on each of your employees. I keep a word doc on each person and make notes throughout the year when they do something fantastic, receive a customer or employee compliment or just impress me in the moment. I also note any constructive feedback that I give so that I can keep track of improvements (or not). I date my notes in order to monitor progress or regression throughout the year.

Provide candid feedback throughout the year and document it. You never want to sit down to write or give a review and provide information they have never heard before.

During an annual review nothing should be a surprise. If you are providing feedback that is a surprise to the employee, then you have failed as a leader. If you find yourself in this position, I would recommend delaying the formal review and instead having a feedback session with the employee so that they have time to fix any issues prior to their annual review.

The form of the review is less important than the time you spend preparing and giving the review. I am not a fan of reviews that have calculations and rankings. I prefer using the annual review as a time to reflect on the prior year and setting goals for the coming year. Whatever format you use, take time and be thoughtful. I like to provide the form to the employee a couple of weeks ahead of time and allow them to self-evaluate so you can both see how close or far apart you are.

When you actually meet, pick somewhere private so you can share openly and honestly without others listening. Share your thoughts and ask for confirmation of understanding and also for the employee’s feedback and thoughts.
Reviews may feel like a chore to the reviewer, but they can be incredibly impactful to the employee so commit the time and energy needed. It will benefit you, the employee and the productiveness of your team.

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