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Making Reviews Worthwhile for Employees and Managers Alike

BY MARKO DUFFY. It’s a new year, and if you’re like me you’re absolutely giddy over the excitement of starting another round of meaningful and impactful performance reviews of all your employees. There’s nothing like starting the process of thinking back over the last 12 months and recalling the good, the bad, and the ugly of what a employee did, and coming up with the motivational and educational tools that will help him or her improve and evolve into just the kind of home-run hitter you need!

Or…are you the “other kind” of manager? Remember, 99% of managers who do reviews give the other 1% a bad name…(get it?). Fact is, the majority of us hate reviews. We hate to do them, and we hate to get them.
Here are the truest words I’ve learned about reviews: “Two people lose sleep the night before a review, and both of them go home unhappy.”

Great news! Unless, of course, you can really dig deeper into this and find a way to make reviews what they could (and should) be. Several key questions to ponder: What does an employee or manager do well? Is there room for improvement? What would you like to see them doing a year from now? And if you can do this in a way that is constructive, positive and motivational, maybe another year will go by and you really will have a key player that has evolved into something more valuable and worthy of an increase. The best reviews I ever conducted for plating shop manufacturing employees were short, sweet and forward looking. What do they do well, not so well and where do we want to be in a year.

Every employee does some things very well (otherwise, they wouldn’t be there, right?). If you want them to keep doing those things, then you better dig deep and figure out what they are so you can write all about it and praise them mightily for it. It might be something simple like: “they show up on time and never miss a day.” It might be that they “get along great with all the other employees.” Or it might even be something more critical, such as: “they never have rejects and can be trusted with the most difficult jobs in the shop.” Whatever it is, make sure you recognize it and perpetuate it.

By that same token, ask what they can do better? If you can talk about the things that they don’t do quite as well as you wish they would, there’s great power in this. Maybe they can run the most challenging jobs in the shop, but if they could just maybe do them a little quicker? If they get that job done, but it becomes a science project that takes all day… Well, the last thing a manager needs to be coached up on is asking them what their team doesn’t do so well. Presenting this in a positive light as a way to improve and grow is the trick—and that’s on you.

Finally, where do you want them to be in a year? Giving them goals and targets is a great tool for them and you.

First of all… Think S.M.A.R.T!

Makes sense, right? Good goals that are important to the company and its future will be motivational and effective—and measurable. And here is where the double-edged swords that are reviews come into play.
If you give your employees goals that are S.M.A.R.T., in a year you will be very happy to do the next review. Happy, because it will be there in black and white as to why you can (or cannot) give them a raise. Did they achieve the goals you so carefully laid out? If they did, good for you and your employee! You were motivational and forward thinking and helped an employee make the company better! If they didn’t, well...

The conversation might go something like this: “A year ago we decided together to try and make these goals, but we didn’t. Sorry, you’re not getting the increase you wanted, but let’s set some goals for next year and work harder together to make sure you make them.”

Painful? Sure… But it was documented and referenced so that at least one of you will go home in a “slightly better” mood.

So, what’s the bottom line to all this? I really recommend reviews as a tool. Plus, you are probably obligated by a Quality Policy you wrote (remember that?), a NADCAP or ISO standard, or some other customer-driven requirement to do reviews. It’s your choice: lose sleep and go home unhappy, or make this “necessary evil” the powerful tool it can be.

Marko Duffy, CEF, is president of  Marathon Manufacturing Services, LLC, Lawrence, Mass. An industry veteran with more than 20 years experience, Duffy has expertise in the following areas: anodizing, electroplating, painting/powder coating, fabricating, machining, and plant engineering. For more information about Marathon Sales’ products or manufacturing services, please call 508-904-8899, e-mail, or visit

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Posted 05/03/2013 by Reg Tucker

Tagged under: Performance appraisals , employee reviews , continuous improvement

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