While some performance reviews are a piece of cake, others can be a truly stressful experience – and as the reviewer, it can be difficult to know how to prepare for what might be a difficult review. In my career as a dentist and former CEO of Heartland Dental, I've given plenty of performance reviews in my day, both easy and difficult. I've found that preparation is key to a productive performance review, and there are some simple tips you can incorporate to help make your next review a growth experience for everyone.
It's Not a One-Time Exercise
Without a doubt, the easiest and most common mistake to make when giving a performance review is to start preparing only a week or two beforehand. The problem with this is obvious: a performance review should be an appraisal of the employee's performance over the entire year, not just during the month of December. Treat performance reviews as a year-long task, taking notes and recording employee performance over the course of the entire year. Turning it into a year-long process will help you build an accurate, defensible, and actionable appraisal of your employee.
If you're making the performance review a year-long task, then nothing should be a surprise to you once you get to the actual review. But equally important, nothing should be a surprise to your employee! If your employee is falling behind, hold meetings with them throughout the year to give them feedback about your expectations and their performance, and give them as much support as you can to get back on track. Holding these regular check-ins will make sure that you both know what to expect when it comes time to give the full review.
Have Your Employees Prepare
Chances are, your employees will do some prep work for the review, but you can help them by providing a specific framework. Ask them to gather records of their results and achievements for the year, and ask them to complete a written self-evaluation of their work for the year. Asking open-ended questions about what they're proud of having done during the year, where they feel they fell short, and how they're working to improve can help get both of your thoughts in order for the official meeting.
Preparation Makes Perfect
These tips are a great way to prepare for giving performance reviews, but there are plenty of other effective techniques and strategies. If you have great ways that you prepare for reviews in your own organization, feel free to share them with me here. And for more insights on business leadership, management, and the dental industry, feel free to subscribe to Dentistry Leaders.