At Lyftoff, we know we aren't the smartest people in the room, we like to think we are but nobody's perfect after all! That's why we have some very smart people do some writing for us and this time that person is Adrian Rothwell, CFO/CSO at Kore Mining. Adrian has decades of experience building teams, working with hundreds or thousands of employees and being on both ends of the annual review. Here's what he had to say about them.

Can We Kill The Annual Review Already?

When the term “annual review” is spoken many of us just groan and head for the door. Although a good excuse to procrastinate and get that long awaited filing done, performance evaluation is necessary to motivate and mentor your staff. Yet, the process is often abstracted from the business and fast-tracked (or eternally deferred). By the time an annual review rolls around, the events in question have often already been addressed and solved. Dwelling on problems in the distant past is counterproductive and can be seen as punitive. 

To encourage employee growth and development, reviews should be timely and regular. Feedback should focus on the development of strengths, improvement of weaknesses, and provide clarity over career growth and competency to mentor and motivate employees.

My preferred alternatives to an annual review process that keep the best employees engaged, motivated and productive are suggested below.

Meet Frequently, Habitually Block off Time

  • Schedule regular touch points with your employees. Of course, constructive advice should be provided in confidence. Rather than an annual 2-hour slog that requires one to remember cause and effect from the distant past, schedule meetings with your employee/s monthly (more often if necessary). Block off the time. Set an agenda. 15 minutes is sufficient. Sometimes you will need more time, sometimes less.

Open Communication

  • Leave an open door. Too many times managers have an “open door policy”, but show little willingness to engage in open communication. Remember, employees are your ticket to success. You need them to be engaged and you need to provide crystal clear guidance to empower them to succeed. Granted, an “open door policy” may not be possible all the time, and does not apply to gossip, discussing weekends and drama (the water cooler is perhaps the better place … or not at all), but your employees should feel heard and valued.

Performance versus Mentorship

  • Segregate discussions about performance from discussions about potential and future career plans. These are very different animals. Although one depends on the other at times, the latter is more of a counselling session versus feedback and each require a different agenda and mindset. Also, as performance issues are seldom a result of just one individual make sure you understand their role completely, including others that may influence success.

Document, document, document

  • Document key incidents. Key performance gaps and proposed actions need to be documented, with clear specific examples of positive and negative behaviors. I know this sounds simple, but documentation is often one sided. If necessary, use a neutral individual (even a consultant) to document your meetings and raise “to-do’s” for the next one.

Self Assess

  • This is the one I am going to get the most heat over. I will be honest. I hate scoring competencies and fit. In my opinion, most reviews also do a very poor job of highlighting root causes of success or failure. Whether you eliminate all check boxes or numeric scales is a function of your organizational maturity, leadership preference and available resources, regardless of what the studies say. Truthfully, however, scores can only ever be a small part of a performance appraisal. Be more holistic in your employee reviews. Personality (fit) and intangible behaviours (ability to motivate others positively, or to collaborate) are all difficult to score. Allow your employees to provide their own opinion as to how they performed. Although competencies at each level must be known and evaluated, often employees will know exactly where they fall short and where they excel. Focus on the positive. Rather than score these behaviours, use your regular meeting material (that you documented) to assess performance. Which competencies can they control and need to improve? Did they act positively (or negatively) on feedback provided?

For many, it is now that time of the year to discuss performance and achievement. These tips have certainly proven useful in gaining the confidence and respect of my team in the past. I hope these prove useful in preventing your team from running to the doors in the future!

- Adrian Rothwell, CFO/CSO at Kore Mining Ltd

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