Tips for Making Sure Your Performance Reviews Are Productive

Tips for Making Sure Your Performance Reviews Are Productive

Performance reviews are a staple of many company’s management strategies, but they aren’t always helpful. If not properly done, they can become homogenous and their insights insignificant. If you’re in human resources or management, here are five tips that will help make sure your performance reviews are useful for both your company and its employees.

Make Time for Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are often neglected because there’s not time to complete them. They’re another task that managers must complete, but time is rarely devoted specifically to them. Managers are forced to fit performance reviews into already hectic schedules. What should be meaningful conversations become five-minute meetings that take place between (or even during) other tasks.

A year, or even six months, of work can’t adequately be assessed in five minutes. If performance reviews are to provide individualized insights into employees’ performance, there must be time specifically set aside for them. Consider giving managers a half hour to an hour that’s solely to meet with an employee and discuss how they’re doing. If managers will still be tempted to shortchange the time, give them funds to go out for lunch with each employee. Conducting a review during a meal will ensure that there’s adequate time.

Speak About Specific Situations

Just as you want to hear about specific instances from interviewees, managers should speak of specific situations when conducting performance reviews. Every item on a review should be supported by a specific example. What employees do well should be precisely detailed, along with the exact things they can do to improve.

Keep Ongoing Notes to Reference

Performance reviews are meant to cover a specified amount of time, often either six months or a year. Many times, however, only the weeks immediately preceding a review are assessed. It’s too difficult to remember everything an employee did over several months or a year, especially when managing multiple employees.

In order to accurately assess an employee over the entire duration of a review, managers should keep ongoing notes on all of the employees they oversee. While employees in your company may already be written up for serious errors, managers should also keep notes on the good things that employees do. These notes will help form the foundation of a comprehensive review, and they can provide specific examples for the review.

Suggest Ways to Improve

Performance reviews shouldn’t just be about what the employee has done in the past. They should also give the employee ways to improve in the future. When critiquing, don’t just be critical. Be constructive. Help employees identify ways they can improve, and offer to help them as they strive for those goals.  Although there may be some negative items on a review, offering constructive ways to improve will give employees hope that they can get a better review in the future.

Have Two-Way Conversations

Performance reviews are much more productive when employees are actively engaged. To encourage employees to take part, turn reviews into two-way conversations rather than one-way monologues. Even if you don’t want to debate an employee’s review with them, they should at least have an opportunity to ask questions and explain their personal goals.

Don’t let your company’s performance reviews become a mere formality that managers squeeze in. Instead, make sure they’re a valuable part of your company’s management strategy by making time for them, speaking about specifics, referencing notes, being constructive and having a conversation. These five actions are simple, but they’ll have a profound effect on how beneficial your company’s performance reviews are.


step-by-step conflict resolution Shannon Cassidy

Step-by-Step Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is a primary human resources function in nearly every organization. While this task is rarely an HR professional’s favorite to tackle, conflict resolution is necessary for a positive work culture, improved productivity, risk management, and limited turnover. The good news (or the bad news) is that the outcome of conflict resolution is largely based on the mediator, who is often the HR professional. The HR professional has a responsibility to conduct a productive, meaningful conversation, keeping both employees on task and producing results that satisfy each party.

Even with the most difficult personalities, conflict resolution doesn’t have to be hard. Following these steps can eliminate the chaos and transform conflict resolution into a calculated science.

Choose a Private, Neutral Setting

Conflict resolution should never be done in front of other employees, clients, or guests. Selecting a private, netural location such as a private meeting room, a human resources office, or a small conference room prevents humiliation and promotes honest conversation.

Always Schedule in Advance

When employees are caught off guard, they tend to show increased defensiveness, anger, and frustration. Always schedule a conflict resolution meeting in advance, and whenever suitable, tell both parties why the meeting has been scheduled. This prevents the defensiveness and other negative responses that come from a surprise attack and allows employees to gather their thoughts in advance.

If numerous employees are having interpersonal issues with the same person, schedule multiple one-on-one meetings.

Define Clear Goals

Once the meeting has started, the HR professional’s first order of business is to define goals for the meeting. Defining goals establishes purpose for the meeting, which is vital for a meaningful encounter. Without established and clear purpose, conflict resolution often evolves into a never-ending merry-go-round of insults and accusations. Some possible goals for a conflict resolution meeting include:

  • To establish a plan for completing a project together despite differences
  • To overcome differences to better provide for our clients, guests, patrons, or patients
  • To complete specific tasks that have been a point of conflict, such as scheduling vacations, defining roles, or making decisions

Overcoming differences between employees ultimately provides a more positive experience for clients, guests, patrons, or patients, so the second goal should be included in nearly every conflict resolution meeting. It draws their attention to the bigger picture and provides clear direction for the meeting.

Give Each Party an Opportunity to Share

Provide each person time to share their viewpoint and concerns, following basic ground rules:

  • Conversation must be respectful at all times
  • Each party speaks in turn only
  • Yelling, swearing, name calling, or any other display of disrespect or aggression will end the meeting immediately and result in discipline.
  • Conversation should stay on task, addressing specific situations that have brought issue and not personal character

Limit this time to 5 minutes each and don’t allow response following statements. One person speaks, the other speaks, and then the meeting moves forward.

Brainstorm Solutions

While most employees who have a tense working relationship will never agree on every point, focusing on solutions can encourage them to look past disagreements to perform to their full potential. Take ample time to discuss solutions, and request ideas for resolution from each party. If either employee is quick to shoot down ideas, request a better suggestion.

Establish a Plan

Establish a clear plan going forward. Which employee will take on which responsibilities and when? All parties should know the plan and their specific role in it when the meeting is concluded.

Conflict resolution doesn’t have to be hard; stick to the steps, remove personal feelings, and work to accomplish defined goals and and stay on task, and conflict resolution will no longer be laden with dread.

5 Tips for Transitioning to a Mobile Workforce Shannon Cassidy bridge between photo

5 Tips for Transitioning to a Mobile Workforce

Virtually commuting to the office is becoming more and more popular. Working remotely has advantages for both employees and employers, but it poses unique challenges for managers. Effectively managing a virtual team requires both traditional management skills as well as an appreciation for long-distance professional relationships. If you’re a manager in a company that’s transitioning from a physical office to a remote setup, here are five tips for managing a mobile workforce.

Set SMART Goals

SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-oriented, are used in many managing situations (including traditional offices). They’re especially useful in virtual settings, when you aren’t able to physically monitor employees’ work. As your immediate oversight diminishes, the role goals have increases.

As your team transitions to a remote setup, adjust by relying on quantifiable goals more. Focus more on project completion and meeting deadlines, and less on how a project was done.

Insist on a Schedule

One of the primary reasons employees want to work remotely is so they can integrate their professional and personal lives. Having flexibility to arrange professional work around personal interests is a significant benefit, but it also is a potential danger. Some employees struggle to stop working and enjoy their free time, which can lead to burnout. Other employees have the opposite struggle: They procrastinate and have a hard time working, which leads to rushed work and missed deadlines.

As a manager, you have a duty to make sure your employees don’t burn out and meet their deadlines. Insisting on a schedule can help guard against the two risks. Give your employees the freedom to create their own schedule, but insist that they stick to the schedule they create.

Check In Often

Virtual environments aren’t conducive to two-minute conversations that often happen at the water cooler or on the way to the restroom in a traditional office. While most of these conversations revolve around insignificant small talk, they also provide you, as a manager, with an opportunity to address minor issues. Without these short conversations, small issues can balloon over time into major problems.

In order to address small things before they grow to be serious problems, schedule regular check-ins with your employees. You might try:

  • having a weekly team meeting
  • seeing how each employee is doing weekly
  • switching from annual reviews to shorter monthly reviews

Pick Up the Phone

Working remotely is primarily done online, using computers and tablets. Phones can also play an important role in your management strategy, though. Phones let you communicate more efficiently, and they make it easier to express yourself. Whenever a deadline is pressing or a message could be misconstrued, call your employees instead of emailing or texting them.

Remain Professional

When you don’t see your employees every day, it can be easy to forget that they’re your colleagues. While the stereotypical virtual employee might be a young 20-year-old sipping lattes in a local cafe or a stay-at-home parent still in their pajamas, your employees don’t fit this stereotype. They’re the same professionals that worked in your office, and they deserve to be treated professionally. All communication should be sent in a professional tone.

As your company transitions to a virtual office, you’ll face unique management challenges. Use the techniques you’re familiar with, like SMART goals, but adapt your knowledge for the virtual world. In time, you’ll come up with creative solutions, like these tips, that address the challenges you face and help you effectively manage your team remotely.


Are You Ready for a Big Change in Your Life? Shannon Cassidy photo

Are You Ready for a Big Change in Your Life?

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”—Leo Buscaglia

Many of us made New Year’s resolutions a few weeks ago. So many of us have been tempted by now to throw in the towel and quit. Many of us have.

It’s easy to make resolutions when the calendar says we should think about doing that. But how do we know we are truly ready to make a significant change?

Are You Ready for a Big Change in Your Life? Answer These Questions to Find Out.

Are You Going Through a Life Upheaval?

If you are experiencing an upheaval in your life, be it professional or personal, it is an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself. You can capitalize on the upheaval in one of two ways: learn while doing more of the same or take a new path. If you are having inklings that your need to find a new way, it is good to trust those instincts. A major life upheaval is nothing more than an invitation for growth while setting new strategies into place to make life what you want it to be.

Are You Tired of Merely Surviving?

Going to work, paying the bills and living day-to-day can get extremely frustrating, especially if you think there is more waiting for you. If you think this is you, you are probably ready for a change in your life.

Are You Bored?

We all get bored from time to time. But if you are experiencing boredom on a regular basis, it might be your heart and your mind begging you for a change in your life.

Lynn A. Robinson, M.Ed., is one of America’s leading experts on the topic of intuition. She has said, “Boredom is one of those messages from your intuition that change is needed. It’s a signal that your energy is being drained and that something new needs to happen.”

Do You Have Specific Goals?

A sign that says you are probably ready to change your life is that you have clearly identified your goals. You’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and you know you have goals.

So what are they? Do you have a personal interest you’d like to pursue? Are you looking to start a new career? Are you hoping to gain more skills? Are you wanting to start a small business? If you know what you want to achieve, then half the battle is already won.

Get some advice, research online, or choose a short course to introduce yourself to a network of people who might be able to inspire you and help you. If you have already identified your goals, then this is a sure sign that you are ready for a big change in your life.


5 Tips to Keep Meetings on Time and on Task

5 Tips to Keep Meetings on Time and on Task

Only one thing is worse than a long, drawn-out meeting: a long, drawn-out meeting with no structure.  A great leader understands that it is easy for a meeting to slip into a pointless wasteland of opinions and trivial information. That’s why being proactive is vital. Keep meetings on time and on task to show others that you respect their time.

How? Here are five guidelines:

  1. Be sure you need to have a meeting.

    Can you have a quick gathering in the lunchroom with just those people involved for five minutes instead of a sit-down meeting? Can the issue be handled through an email? It is frustrating for anyone to attend a meeting that affects them in no way.

  2. Start on time.

    When a leader says “Let’s wait a few minutes for those who are running late,” it immediately signals disrespect to those who did manage to get to the meeting on time. This can easily encourage everyone to wander in when they can for the next meeting. Watch the clock and start your meeting on time to communicate respect for those who are there. You will also be informing those who are late what they can expect from meetings you run in the future.

  3. Have a purpose that everyone knows.

    Every meeting should have a clear objective. Complete this sentence: Add the end of this meeting I want the team to ______. In order to accomplish this, send a written agenda of the meeting and the objective along with the invite. Your team will be able to come prepared and conserve time. An agenda helps everyone stay focused on the objective. Everything that happens in the meeting then should further that objective.

  4. Use time wisely.

    Move the meeting along based on the agenda. Don’t let people run down rabbit trails. Instead, say, “Let’s discuss that at another time.” If someone is talking too much, ask other people for their opinions. Have someone take notes. Address one issue at a time. Keep your eye on the clock and enforce the meeting’s time limit. End on time. Many companies have back-to-back meetings, so if you go over your time limit, you are messing up someone else’s schedule. At the end of the meeting summarize decisions made and tasks assigned. Leave time for this critical step so that your team knows what steps to take next.

  5. Follow up.

    Using the notes taken, write a summary of the meeting and send it out to everyone. This summary will communicate that the meeting was productive. It will also help everyone to be on the same page as to what happens next. It will help those involved to have a sense of satisfaction about the meeting.

According to a survey of U.S. professionals by, meetings ranked as the number one office productivity killer. Proactively fight this statistic by making sure your meetings stay on time and on task.