The Human Element
Professional growth, much like physical growth, tends to come gradually. This can blind us and our staff to the changes that are happening. It’s important to regularly reflect on developments that have occurred and opportunities that the future holds. The quarterly review provides that conversation.
For the quarterly review to be effective, it needs to be a non-threatening experience. If the quarterly review is directly tied to compensation changes, disciplinary action, or other obvious cause/effect consequences, it would be natural for a person to be guarded in what they say (e.g. how many articles are there on “12 things to never say in your performance review”). If we haven’t put in the effort to build trust, it will be difficult for the person to open up. This is especially true when it comes to challenges they’re facing, which is one of the most important areas we can help.
The quarterly review should be a review, in the sense of covering topics that have previously been discussed, and not in the sense of a point in time judgment of whether a person is meeting expectations. Performance evaluation and feedback is important and should not be delayed until a quarterly review. Instead, it should be a continuous discussion with feedback given in context.
This means the quarterly review is an extension of our 1on1s. It will be near impossible to have an effective quarterly review if we haven’t been consistently holding meaningful 1on1s. Being a review, this should be a no-surprises conversation, at least from your end as the manager.
As part of this no-surprises approach, the quarterly review should be documented and explained to new hires as part of the Onboarding process.
The Business Obligation
A quarterly review is a safety net to make sure we, and any managers that report to us, are following through on our responsibility to our staff.
A Humane Approach
The review process consists of:
- Asking staff to provide written answers to the review questions.
- Discussing those answers together with them.
Even with trust established, some will struggle with low self-worth or fear that mentioning a weakness will come back to bite them. These questions are thus intentionally left open-ended to allow staff to answer in ways that are comfortable to them.
- What are you most proud of last quarter?
- What was challenging?
- What makes you anxious or worried thinking about next quarter?
- What are you excited about next quarter?
- What support do you need next quarter?
You’ll notice the above questions all focus on “What”. I recommend using that as a starting point and then seeking to understand the more meaningful questions of “Why do they feel that way?” and “How can I help?” as part of the discussion.
As part of the quarterly review, additional topics to include are:
- Review of positive accomplishments or progress you’ve noted.
- Review of any ongoing performance issues.
- Review any upcoming business goals and how they can support those.
- Why Quarterly?
As time passes, it becomes difficult to remember what happened since the last review. Furthermore, since a key purpose of the review is to provide staff with a milestone of growth, an extended time between reviews increases the chance of staff developing feelings of stagnation. For this reason annual or bi-annual reviews seem less beneficial.