The BUSINESS CASE for being a GREAT EMPLOYER - the How To Guide Part Five

Does your company have appraisals, those once-a-year events when you set aside an hour and sit down to discuss an employee’s performance against the set of objectives written down 12 months ago, followed by a stab at objectives for the coming year?  Are they seen as productive, or as interruptions to the busy working week? Maybe they fill everyone with dread? Or boredom?
The trend today is for continuous performance reviews – regular weekly or monthly meetings designed to give time for manager and team member to openly discuss opportunities, issues, and ideas.  
Done regularly, reviews can nip problems in the bud before they become problems. There’s no need for complex forms or documents – all that’s needed is a simple record that both parties understand and sign-up to.
The annual year-end appraisal still has an important place, but its purpose changes to become a summary of the year’s regular reviews. Because you have been talking all year, there should be no surprises. If you use a grading system, your employee should know their grade before you give it to them. That leaves more time to concentrate on what you will be doing next year, and the new skills and behaviours you need to continue to grow and develop your business.

Regular reviews have a number of benefits:

1. Agreeing and delivering the right objectives
Firstly, regular reviews help keep you on track. As a manager, it makes it much easier to know what works and what doesn’t work.  Knowing an individual’s strengths and weaknesses in detail means that you can design better quality objectives that reflect the individual’s and the team’s evolving capabilities, allowing you to flex responsibilities to meet the business’s objectives.
You will also know when goals need to change so that you stop wasting time on projects that aren’t delivering what’s right for the customer and the team.  
2. Doing the right things
Miscommunication happens all too easily at work and in life - ‘I thought you were doing that’, ‘That’s not what I was expecting’ etc. Regular reviews make it easier to ensure everyone understands what they need to do by when, and the tools and skills they need. By talking regularly, everyone can be more confident that they are delivering the right things at the right time, have the right tools for the job, and are growing and developing. And more engaged and focused on delivering great work for your customers and for the business.
3. Nipping problems in the bud
Performance problems don’t happen overnight, and the majority that we get involved in here at Gazella happen because of a lack of communication – often because managers don’t like those difficult conversations or a straightforward fear of getting into a Tribunal.
Talking regularly means you get a chance to identify and solve potential problems as they arise and nip performance issues in the bud, avoiding the damaging errors that, best case, cause problems for the team and worst case, are brought to your attention by your customer.
4. Keep everyone engaged 
Being a great employer is key to attracting and retaining the best staff these days. Talking to your team about what’s going well and what isn’t shows that you’re interested in them and their success, not just in them as a body that produces work for you. 
5. Take pressure off year-end performance reviews
As we have already said, end-of-year reviews can be positive or intimidating/awkward/timewasting (delete as appropriate).  Regular meetings mean you and your employees know what to expect when it comes to their appraisal.  They also give you the opportunity to praise good behaviour often, keeping employees engaged.
A word of warning here. Reviews completed once a year tend to evaluate performance based on the most recent work, or the very good or bad (usually the latter) outcomes during the period.  Regular updates help you to evaluate an employee’s performance more accurately over the course of the whole year. 
6. Becoming a better manager
Working more closely with employees to help them achieve their goals helps your managers to develop and grow too.  They find out more about what makes their team members tick; what their problems and aspirations are, and whether they are right for your business long-term. Managers should never be afraid to ask team members how they can be a better leader and should never be afraid to challenge the wrong behaviours or performance. In our experience, failing to talk is one of the biggest blockers to progress in business today.