Showing someone looking out of an open window

Annual reviews are your window into the minds of your employees…

…but how do you make sure you are really seeing and not just looking from a distance?

We live in a feedback-obsessed review culture. Everywhere we go, everything we do, everyone we meet, we’re constantly asking  “how was that?” “what did you think?” “would you recommend it?” From eating lunch to going on holiday to buying a product, we solidify our decisions and validate our opinions based (consciously or subconsciously) on the experiences of others that have gone before us. 

Translating that into your work culture is critical, both from an employee engagement perspective and also from a potential damage limitation perspective. There’s no point in reading how badly your company did something on a load of online reviews. By the time you’re reading it, it’s already too late to fix it.  

So how do you incorporate an effective review system into your employees’ career journeys in a way that creates positivity, loyalty and trust? The answer is remarkably simple. The difficulty lies in how you follow it up and act on the information, but we’ll get to that in a bit. 

Creating a truly holistic review scenario 

Creating a review for an employee should be no different to a full service on a car. If you just topped up the petrol every few months then you may think you’ve got a high performing machine, but in reality, you’d have missed the fact that the tyres were bald, the lights broken, the water run dry and the oil evaporated.  So use that logic to incorporate all the diverse elements that makeup someone’s career journey with your company and build them into the review. It’s not just about hitting predefined objectives, it’s about everything from training to wellbeing to career development. For example;  

  • Are they achieving a suitable and relevant level of benefits? 
  • What training were they given and what can be put in place for them next year? 
  • Are they excited and motivated by their personal career development programme, and are there any tweaks that need to be made to that? 
  • How is their wellbeing and mental health? 
  • Is their salary at a suitable level and what incentive can be put in place for them to increase this? 
  • How is their experience of the social/personal side of work with colleagues and the overall business culture? 
  • Do they have all the tech required to do their job, and is there anything new, either training or product, that they would benefit from? 

Building a review around all of these areas will help to unearth any issues before they become unmanageable. Also, by taking the outcome away from a pass/fail financially incentivised conversation, you can create a two-way dialogue where both sides have a voice and both are heard too.  

The importance of listening to your employees 

When you go into a review with an employee, you never really know how they are feeling. Maybe they’re about to resign, maybe they are really depressed, maybe they are really proud of something they’ve done and want recognition. Whatever the context – and there always is one – you need to listen to what they say and adapt accordingly.  

A cookie-cutter approach won’t work for anyone. But if you listen to the good and bad, suggest solutions or alternatives in order to move past any negatives, recognise and reward where appropriate, and check that the human being behind the job title is in good shape as well, then you’re halfway there. 

Okay, so what next? 

The review doesn’t end when they leave the room. In fact, that should only be the beginning. Following up on decisions made in reviews, and ensuring that commitments and promises on both sides are kept to, is key to maintaining the positive environment that a holistic and multi-dimensional review can create. 

Make sure both sides know what is expected of them and by what date, then arrange a follow up meeting to check on progress, and confirm it all in writing so everyone is clear on what is to be done.  

Creating this level of in-depth and human review scenarios can only be a good thing. If it unearths any issues then good, it’s better you know now than they fester and get worse further down the line. And if it leads to a happy, engaged, and vocally supportive employee who tells their colleagues and friends how valued they feel, then that will only increase the value of your brand amongst existing and future potential employees. Surely that’s a win-win?