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It’s end of year and time for associate reviews. Like clockwork it comes, always on the schedule the same time of year with similar requirements and yet, it sneaks up on us like a shark. We scramble to throw together our yearly bests, digging through weeks of reports we already spent time on, to find the gems that represent our success.
Our manager schedules our one on one meetings to perform each review and, even with years of experience behind us, we still come generally unprepared. We are hopeful for highlights and affirmation and while they typically go smoothly and have positive feedback, we walk away with questions about what the new year looks like, what new goals we need to achieve, and wondering if we covered everything we hoped to but the meeting was a blur and will have to wait for another day.
If we know it is coming, why do we procrastinate until the last minute to schedule, document, and prepare for such an important time for each of our careers? Why do we wait for our managers to take actions we ourselves are capable of doing? And as managers, how can we make this easier on all of us to plan ahead and make use of tools and processes to make it a more enjoyable process? Let’s take a look at some ways that meeting reviews can be a welcome habit that enhances our career path as associates and becomes a tenet in our managerial practice.
The first step in preparing for yearly reviews starts at the very beginning of the year – scheduling one on one meetings! Meetings between a manager and an employee are priceless though typically under-utilized and uncomfortable. Getting a one on one meeting established at the beginning of the year provides several positive habits on a track for success, paving the way for a more natural end of year review process. While finding time for one on one meetings with each employee might be tough on the calendar, there are several purposes the one on one meeting serves to ensure a healthy team.
After getting a regularly scheduled meeting cadence on the calendar, kick off the new year with a clear set of goals. These goals should be measurable and the data behind it should be something the employee has direct access to control by their actions as well as view on a regular basis. Your first meeting should either pass on corporate-led initiatives and goals or, if your company allows it, a working session to define what you and the employee believe should be their goals for the year.
Once goals are agreed upon or understood, these goals can now be reviewed at each subsequent one on one meeting or at a frequency that makes sense to collect data and be able to discuss regularly. This serves both the employee and manager well – they can both see progress, shift or adjust workload, find useful resources, and find and celebrate both small and large wins along the way.
While many would say, “set” expectations, setting can tend to be very authoritarian in nature. If both the manager and associate are working together to define fair but challenging goals, then it more of an understanding of expectations both can walk away with.
Once goals are defined and expectations are understood, continued conversation around these goals should be mutually aligned making any obstacles, challenges, or concerns more gradual and easier to address on both sides.
Defining goals and understanding expectations may not be easily achieved immediately. What is important is that this is done as early in the new year as possible and as it is being done, concerns are being flushed out and addressed. If a goal is given to an associate that is a lofty, sales goal or requires some type of negative impact or risk, an employee may struggle to admit this for fear of weakness.
When building goals together, discuss with the employee HOW they can achieve each goal set before them and ask how you can help. If visiting 3 customers a day in a rural location with long hours is the only way they can achieve sales numbers, this concern should be drawn out and an obvious flag to consider changing the goal or having a direct and open conversation on giving it a try and adjusting their goals if it becomes more than they can handle.
Setting goals, understanding expectations, and addressing concerns as is the repetition of the one on one meetings to stay engaged in open dialogue in support of the employee and for the manager’s awareness. There is a lot of time invested in these internal sessions which indirectly make (or save) the company money so using a templated approach along the way is best in ensuring the information is consistent and easily available whenever needed. Use a meeting tool like Docket to select or create review templates and save and share them as needed for a consistent team approach.
An employee and manager can team together to create a reusable meeting template that hosts the frequently discussed topics including things like:
- The defined goals and KPI (key performance indicators)
- Current challenges or roadblocks
- Associate questions or concerns
- Achievements and career desires (training, promotions, mentoring, shadowing, etc)
While not all topics will always be covered, having them available as open topics to the employee can make them feel more comfortable in utilizing the space to focus on their career and contribution.
Prepare for Reviews
You and your employee or manager have been having regular conversations throughout the year so the employee understands expectations and their manager has a good understanding of the employee’s achievements and personal career goals. Now it is time to prepare for the review. While some companies do a mid-year review and others once a year, either way, following the above steps should make this mid- or end of year meeting review just another recurring checkpoint in a series of mini-reviews.
Whether the regular one on one meeting time is used or another time scheduled, it is important that the manager take the initiative to block this time as early as possible so the employee can look forward to and prepare for the meeting. Giving plenty of notice also shows the employee that this is important time to the manager and not an afterthought or chore.
Having an agenda for the review is critical. Agenda’s set the tone and pace for the meeting and lets the employee know how best to prepare. Given the regular one on one cadence and templates above, this review agenda should be very similar in nature and not be a cause for the employee to have to work overtime to prepare for which is typically the case. The agenda should be made up of mostly items they are familiar with or have been working towards in which they can easily refer to past meetings and KPIs on hand to be ready to share and discuss. Using a tool like Docket can simplify the process from building the agenda for each unique employee and sharing it to help them prepare for the meeting.
Any new items should be forward-thinking goals or adjustments and not result in a change to work and achievements already done in the past. Share this agenda as quickly as you can when the meeting is scheduled so the employee has time to read, reflect, and prepare.
Pre-Reads and Pre-Work
The agenda should also contain pre-reads or pre-work with clear instruction. If the employee will need to prepare stats, documentation, or anything in advance or to save time during the session, the amount of time between the schedule and shared agenda to the review meeting date should take the employee’s schedule and workload into consideration. Many employees will prepare for review meetings outside of working hours which is not in best interest for the employee.
The Review Meeting
Once the review meeting starts, following a the defined path of the agenda to keep on schedule and to ensure the employee has time to cover what they desire as well. Here are a few suggestions for the review agenda:
- Review the agenda – Start the agenda by briefly reading through it to set expectations for the meeting and put the associate at ease. If they already read it beforehand, it will be familiar and let them know the manager is not going to improvise or change the plan they prepared for.
- Stick to the allotted time – Typically the manager has many of these back to back so making sure each section or item is addressed quickly and directly is in best interest of everyone.
- Save time for questions – No matter how much the employee prepares, their thoughts may be jogged by things you say in the meeting. Giving them time to share and ask about their own work is imperative and healthy for your one to one relationship.
- Provide follow-up actions – Whether the task is the manager or associate to work on, assign an owner and intended deadline for accountability and awareness.
- Save time for Thank Yous – While appreciation should be shared throughout the year, make it clear that gratitude for work done is not lost as an assumption but as the capstone of the review.
If everything above from one on ones to templates to a shared understanding of expectations has happened regularly throughout the year, there should be no surprises for employee or manager other than potentially a reward. A consistent review process can reduce stress so even if a reward or promotion is not recognized, it can still promote and encourage a healthy communication process.
After The Review Meeting
If we could edit an arrow from this section back up to the top, we would. After the review meeting, any unanswered questions or assigned tasks for follow-up should move to the recurring one on one meeting agenda until resolved or blended with the new year’s goals. Ongoing guidance and retrospective is key to creating an open dialogue that creates a space to help both the employee and manager to be prepared for the next one.