Performance reviews can be a source of stress for several employees. To ensure a smooth experience, HR leaders should familiarize technical managers with the best practices of conducting employee performance reviews.
As tech employees are responsible for continuous innovation and staying up-to-date with technological trends, performance reviews play a vital role in boosting productivity and performance. performance reviews should essentially serve as valuable tools for enhancing the employee experience rather than contributing to increased turnover rates. With glaring talent shortages in the tech industry, there is a high demand for HR professionals to retain high-performing employees. Conducting employee performance reviews in a smooth and meaningful way can help technical managers bring the best out of their tech teams.
What is an Employee Performance Review?
A performance review is a systematic evaluation of an employee’s performance, and is often conducted every year. The objective of an employee performance review is to assess employees’ achievements and areas of progress with respect to goals set by their organization.
Generally, these performance reviews are carried out by managers or individuals within the organization who possess the necessary authority to conduct evaluations and assess the performance of individual employees. The process of conducting employee performance reviews is also referred to as performance appraisals.
Let’s go ahead and look at these 8 employee performance review best practices for technical managers.
8 Employee Performance Review Best Practices for Technical Managers
Following the best practices while conducting employee performance reviews is essential to help employees understand the effectiveness of their individual roles. Ineffective performance reviews often breed dissatisfaction among employees, leading to reduced employee engagement and increased employee turnover
Let’s look at these 8 most important employee performance review best practices for technical managers.
1. Align employee performance reviews with your organization’s objective
Unfortunately, most technologists report that their managers never discuss their career goals with them. If employees are unaware of their organizational goals and individual performance indicators of their roles, meeting the necessary expectations becomes challenging. Furthermore, employees may struggle to define their own objectives clearly, leading to unexpected feedback during employee performance reviews.
Defining employee performance expectations for each role, especially tech roles, eliminates hollow and ineffective reviews. Moreover, aligning employee performance reviews with established objectives will result in the enhanced effectiveness of the performance review process. In addition, ensuring that your direct reports fully understand the criteria helps to evaluate the employee performance effectively.
2. Allocate dedicated time for preparing a performance review
Performance evaluations can be anxiety-inducing for both technical managers and direct reportees, regardless of the software tools used for reviewing performance and productivity. Sufficient preparation before reviewing performance will avoid you from delivering feedback in an unpleasant and effective manner, which will cause invariably inflict stress among employees. Prior to the performance review, dedicate your time to:
- Reviewing the employee’s goals, accomplishments, and areas for improvement, drawing from past performance reviews and one-on-one documentation as valuable references.
- Gathering feedback from peers and other team members.
- Identifying key points and topics you wish to address during the review.
- Contemplating how you will handle strong responses or reactions to the feedback.
3. Ensure to track the right performance metrics
Tracking the right performance metrics is key, especially for technical managers conducting reviews for their tech teams. Inconsistent utilization of metrics by tech managers may lead to uncertainty among employees regarding their usage and effectiveness. To overcome this uncertainty, it is essential to define performance metrics in collaboration with your team and ensure that your direct reportees will also have visibility into these metrics.
Whenever possible, prioritize the adoption of healthy performance metrics.. It should be consistently used and focused on effort, rather than on output, although output and outcome are key parameters in a performance review. For instance, tracking the efficiency of lines of code may be more valuable than simply counting the number of lines written.
Additionally, there are other work performance metrics that your teams can consider tracking, such as the number of completed projects, cycle time, lead time, and production hiccups. Metrics are valuable for providing specific feedback. So, use them as a base to initiate discussions, and seek additional context from your direct reportees.
4. Focus on continuous learning for your tech teams
The modern way of effective performance management emphasizes continuous communication and feedback. As such, many experts believe that the traditional once-a-year employee performance review model is outdated and ineffective. Continuous performance management proves to be significantly more effective than depending solely on annual evaluations.
According to Officevibe’s study, 83% of employees desire feedback, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. However, if performance appraisal or review is only provided once a year, it can have a detrimental impact on the overall employee experience. In essence, an employee’s performance evaluation should act as a summary of previous discussions rather than unexpected and unpleasant feedback.
5. Ensure performance evaluation celebrates both achievement and areas of progress
Celebrate your team’s achievements while also acknowledging the areas of progress in a balanced performance review process. Recognize not just the project’s success but also instances where employees work positively to influence customers and cross-functional teams within the organization.
Embrace the opportunity to offer constructive feedback, providing clear examples for areas of improvement. It is important to offer actionable inputs on how employees can improve their skills in identified areas. You can track the progress in your next one-on-one meeting to set further goals that address the feedback provided.
6. Utilize performance review templates for effective communication
The use of a performance review template will help you in a structured way of communication, as these templates consist of sections dedicated to accomplishments, areas for improvement, and an overall summary of performance and skill development. These sections ensure that you have adequate information for the discussion
Consider sharing the review document with your team beforehand or providing a concise overview of what to expect. Doing so will help particularly if the feedback is sensitive. This allows them sufficient time to process the information, address emotions, and arrive prepared for a productive discussion.
7. Essential questions for ensuring effectiveness of your performance meetings
It is crucial to track the impact of your efforts to ensure the effectiveness of performance meetings. Consistently evaluate the progress of your employees by addressing the following questions
- Are there noticeable improvements in achieving measurable goals?
- Has employee performance shown improvement, declined, or remained consistent?
- Has employee morale exhibited an increase, decrease, or remained stable?
- Is the employee demonstrating greater confidence compared to previous reviews?
With this approach, employees will exhibit continuous growth in their roles. If positive outcomes are not evident, you can modify the goals or explore alternative approaches to foster professional development.
8. Foster collaboration, psychological safety, and decouple salary discussions
The process of performance review can activate the instinctual fight or flight response in employees’ brains. To mitigate these negative aspects, managers must listen to employees consistently and create an environment, where feedback can be shared acquiescently.
Employee performance reviews should not be one-sided discussions, where managers convey a list of employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Instead, they should foster two-way communication. Managers must actively seek feedback from employees to ensure that their voices are also heard. Furthermore, the stress associated with performance reviews is reduced by decoupling the salary discussions from the evaluation process as part of best performance appraisal practices.