Welcome to LarkApp's How to Run a Great Performance Review series! In this post 4 (of 6), we’ll help you prepare for your review by going over what should be shared with your company, how to best prepare employees pre-review, and a suggested timeline.
Designing the review is only half of the equation — the other is implementing it. A successful pre-review process creates an environment where people aren’t surprised or stressed and sets up this process for the least amount of work added to your team’s already busy schedules. Our checklist of pre-review steps will help you pave the way for a painless process that gets results.
(1) Introduce the review to the org
This can be in whatever format works for your company — meetings, emails, maybe even a Slack message. We recommend communicating in multiple formats — for example, introducing the review at a company all-hands meeting and then following up via email — to reinforce the point. Giving employees further context here is optional, and can include sharing:
- Performance review goals
- Any messaging on culture (i.e., if the review is meant to kickstart a culture of feedback sharing) — this is best if it comes from a company leader (i.e. CEO, founder).
HR can then be a resource for employees to follow up with any questions. Ensure that you’re not cutting it too close — ideally give everyone a high-level heads-up 4–8 weeks in advance, and then introduce the specifics 2–4 weeks before kicking it off. If this is your first time running a performance review, then err on the side of more time and not less, as you want to give your team enough time to internalize this change.
(2) Share review format and general logistics
Sharing the format ensures that clear expectations are set. This means a number of things:
- What does the process look like? For example, are people writing peer assessments? Is there an opportunity to give anonymous upward feedback via HR-only questions?
- What are the potential outcomes of this review? While the high-level context will inform this step some, concrete outcomes should be addressed as well — will there be compensation changes? Bonus distribution? Promotion decisions?
- What metrics (if any) are being used to evaluate performance? For example, if you’re using rating scales, each component of the scale should be clear. You want everyone to have the same understanding so that your review results are consistent.
- What’s the timeline of the review? This gives time for people to plan around their schedules and figure out how to meet deadlines.
(3) Help individuals prepare by addressing any questions or concerns
What’s more stressful than a performance review? A performance review that you’re not prepared for.
To prep managers…
- Equip managers to answer any questions on the goals of your review. (We suggest giving managers bullet points of company messaging on the topic.) Whether it’s creating a culture of transparency, or introducing your company’s first review ever, you want to make sure managers have the tools to respond to their direct reports’ questions and concerns — 1:1s are a good setting for this.
- HR should provide managers with materials to help them prep, including prior review and feedback data and goal updates (if relevant).
- Suggest managers to hold 1:1s with their employees before the start of the review, if they’re not doing so already. They should be positioned as a way for employee to ask questions about the review process — expectations, format, anything they need clarified. Nothing should come as a surprise during the actual review period.
- Hold manager training sessions on how to finesse tough and sensitive conversations and navigate potential biases.
To prep employees…
- Encourage employees to proactively ask their managers questions about the review process in 1:1s.
- Make sure you are addressing their questions — both HR and managers can be a resource for them.
- Keep a list of FAQs and send out clarifying emails if needed.
A timeline suggestion
Our best-practice schedule below outlines the main steps above. It assumes that the prep period begins 6 weeks before the start of the review:
- Week 1: Give a heads-up to managers that the review cycle is coming.
- Week 3: Introduce the topic at a company all-hands meeting.
- Week 3: Send follow up emails and share the review format/logistics.
- Week 3: Send managers bullet points of company messaging on the review process; ask managers to discuss the topic (as well as expectations, goals, and any other relevant information) in pre-review 1:1s with direct reports.
- Week 5: Check in with managers to see if they have questions or if there are any commonly-asked questions by employees.
- Week 6: Send out a list of FAQs with detailed answers, as well as any suggestions on preparing for the review, to all participating employees.
- Week 6: Start review
We hope that this blog post helped you create an action plan for the pre-review period! Next up: Review Implementation II: Running a Seamless Review.
If you want to learn more about the best way to put this into practice, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.