Speak Candidly and Stick to Objectives During Performance Reviews
Workspan Daily
January 06, 2021

Editor’s Note: Workspan Daily will be reproducing a monthly Compensation Café blog post for the benefit of our readers and to encourage further discourse on topics vital to compensation professionals. New to WorldatWork? Please feel free to join the discussion in our new online community, Engage, or send your thoughts to workspan@worldatwork.org.




As organizations begin their 2022 journey, a look back on 2021 is required. It is significant as it creates that one defining moment each year when we reflect, revaluate, and reset, or (simply put) conduct the annual performance review. 

This is a typical process adopted by most organizations and, for some, seen as another administrative task, begging for a checkmark response. Despite whatever internal performance management regimen is in place, it takes a personal and vested interest between a leader and subordinate to conduct a review that is meaningful, productive, and hopefully inspiring.

The rapid evolution of where and how work is done leaves moments of actual interactions more or less fleeting. This year’s impending discussion is the one instance to uncover and level up on what worked, what didn’t, and how to effectively improve and settle into another renaissance year. I prefer a simple approach, sticking to the facts, the objectives, and speaking candidly. With that in mind, I give you my “SPEAK” acronym — five pointers to consider when having your next performance conversation.

S — Be specific. Discuss actual examples that describe scenarios on which performance is being measured. Having illustrative cases makes the behavior and evaluation more tangible. Specific events and situations should be relevant to the recipient, not a comparison or a conversation of others. Document examples throughout the year, so you can easily draw upon them during next year’s review meeting.

P — Point of view. These conversations are twofold, as colleagues you equally deserve and play a participative role in the conversation. Allowing enough opportunity to present your perspectives will be instrumental in understanding the context and overall construct of what each participant experienced. This cannot be more true than now when, having gone through a pandemic, our personal and work lives quite literally flipped more times than once.

E — Lead with empathy. Empathy became somewhat of an HR “buzzword” this year. It was a call to action by management to elevate their leadership style with an increased aptitude towards emotional intelligence. Dissecting someone’s ability is awkward and already a sensitive topic to pick apart. To ease the emotions, create a space (remote or in-person) that is inviting and lends itself to be engaging, comforting, and leading towards productive critique.

A — Organization alignment. As a people leader, you have the responsibility to create a direct line of sight for your employees. Quite often, frontline staff find themselves too far removed and or lack the understanding of corporate measures, KPI’s and objectives. This lack of understanding affects engagement, sense of purpose and hinders the perception of what one’s contributions would be towards business success. Alignment requires leadership to set out clear directives, which link performance to desired expectations and overall objectives.

K — Knowing the move forward. Having the knowledge of what is to come in the days or year ahead is a means of setting one up for success. Dispel any sense of ambiguity by taking the final moments of the conversation to debrief and establish the next steps. Whether this means setting up one-on-one reoccurring meetings, officially signing off on this year’s review, or confirming next year’s goals, knowing each's expectations of the other ensures a fair chance of starting the new year on the right foot.

Regardless of the connotation performance reviews tend to get, it’s really what you make of it. Speak with conviction, purpose, and the right intentions, and one can only hope that the results too shall follow. 

This article was first published at Compensation Café on Dec. 30, 2021.

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