Fostering Excellence
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Four Hallmarks of Effective Performance Reviews  

Performance reviews often get a bad rap with employees, supervisors and business literature, yet we can’t seem to get away from them. They stay in our HR procedures and we implement them because we know that being able to evaluate contributions to the goals of our organization remains an important part of running a successful business.

Evaluations systems can be both well and poorly constructed.  Under poorly conceived systems, your best employees suffer and leave, poor performers find sanctuary while leadership remains frustrated and underpowered to move their organization forward. Designing an effective performance review system that rewards high performing employees, identifies mentoring opportunities for underperformers and empowers leaders to mold the organization is critical to your organization's success.

Effective performance review systems should always be consistent, transparent, predictable and fair:
Consistent - Effective performance reviews are those that are consistent over time. Employees should know that the “rules” won’t change mid-performance period, and that the criteria they will be evaluated on will be consistent over time. This is not to say that a company should not be able to make changes to evaluation criteria, but those changes should be rare and should not occur during evaluations periods. Evaluate your employees only on what you articulated you would.

Transparent - Criteria used in evaluation reviews should be published where all employees have access to them. Employees should be given advance notice of what the evaluation criteria will be so they can focus their performance on the goals you want your work force focusing on. Will employees “game the system”? Good employees won’t-they want your organization to succeed. You owe it to them to define what success looks like prior to evaluating them on it. If the system is properly constructed, the only way to game the system will be to focus on company goals, which is what you want.

Predictable – Evaluation reviews should be predictable, which is to say, that they occur at regularly and at scheduled times. If your organization conducts quarterly reviews, then they should occur quarterly. Surprise evaluations create climates of fear and uncertainty. Missed evaluations communicate apathy from leadership; both scenarios should be avoided.

Fair – Criteria used in performance evaluations should be reasonable and not expect employees to run at a sprint, non-stop. It should stretch performance-not only do we want to develop our employees, we want to grow our business-but it should do so reasonably. The criteria should also be reflective of the tasks and goals we are asking our employees to accomplish and be in line with the company's visioon.

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Performance evaluation systems that meet these criteria nurture organizations, strengthening retention, employee buy-in, and deliberate employee development. Take a moment to review your organization’s performance evaluation system to ensure it is fair, predictable, transparent and consistent.

Do you need help with a review of your evaluation program? I would love to assist you! I can be contacted at [email protected]

Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.