It’s employee review time … and I can’t wait

Turn reviews on their head

It’s that time of year again — the time when everyone is expected to look back on the last 12 months of work and assess how well they actually did. The dreaded employee review. I say “dreaded” because I certainly was never a fan of having my year’s work judged and picked apart. Employee reviews, while important, are rarely popular. So when I took over MyCorp, I decided to approach employee reviews as the growth opportunity they should be, rather than as a box-ticking exercise.

And, over the years, I’ve discovered that if you approach employee reviews with that right frame of mind, they can be immensely helpful to the growth and development of your business.

Keep the atmosphere light

Rigid, dry, endless meetings define the review season. Members of the staff fill out a form, meet with their managers, go over a few numbers, and get their kudos and recommendations. Reviews, put simply, feel like a chore. Worse yet, they’re a chore people are nervous about. After all, once your review date is set, you are staring down a ticking clock, counting the minutes until you find out just how well you’re doing.

At MyCorp, we quickly found that a lot of our staff was putting off filling out their reviews until the last minute, and then haphazardly rushing through them. So we decided to make things a bit lighter and casual. We’ve experimented with getting rid of standard forms and set meeting times, opting instead for an easy conversation between staff and management. That seems to work pretty well, as individual members of the team don’t feel singled out, and review dates don’t hang over their heads for weeks on end.

Focus on strengths and ways to improve

This is not the time to drop the bomb that someone has two weeks to meet some arbitrary goal before they are fired. Annual reviews should be used to help your staff grow, not to tell them they are on the cliff’s edge. Tell the managers that oversee these reviews to look at employee strengths, and base their recommendations on them, rather than weaknesses.

If you, or your management team, are just rattling off lists of problems, then you’re wasting a valuable opportunity to help your team do better.

So if someone is good with customer service, but maybe lacking in sales technique, use the service strength as a jumping off point, and give them advice on how to use that strength to shore up their sales. Again, you really want to work on allaying any nerves, and if you, or your management team, are just rattling off lists of problems, then you’re wasting a valuable opportunity to help your team do better.

Ask them if they have any comments or concerns

According to, 70 percent of U.S. employees are disengaged at work, and 80 percent of those who report being disengaged say it’s because they don’t like their managers. Unproductive, disengaged employees are bad for your business, so you need to figure out how your employees feel about those leading the company.

Use these reviews as an opportunity to assess the management. Ask your staff how they feel the company is being run, and make sure they feel that their opinion is valued. Great leaders always respect the people they lead, and if you work to make sure your team feels respected, they’ll be happier, more engaged, and more productive.

Employee reviews shouldn’t be about nitpicking small, insignificant problems. Rather, they are an opportunity to look at a year’s work and growth — a chance to pinpoint just how your company can do even better next year. Keep the reviews light, focus on employee strength, and be sure to listen to your staff’s concerns. When reviews are over, you should have a solid collection of comments and suggestions to help you plan out the next year.

Image by: Andy Polaine via Compfight cc

Deborah Sweeney
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.