An Easy Approach to Employee Performance Reviews – A Practical Guide

The annual ritual of giving employees a performance review can trigger passionate criticism and fear in many managers! In recent months, the debate on the utility of performance reviews has raged on. Some critics claim this annual process is antiquated and outdated while others say its utility is essential for productivity. I’ve summarized many of the criticisms and benefits here and offer a more practical guide to performance reviews for immigration practices that can be integrated with existing daily activities, regardless of whether you are a non-profit organization, a large law firm or a small organization.

1. SCHEDULE A TIMELINE FOR PERFORMANCE REVIEWS

The biggest complaint managers have is that the performance review takes up too much time. Once a year, they have to devote X hours filling out forms about each employee and rating their performances. They must then deliver good, bad, or neutral news to each employee. Naturally, most managers wait until the required deadline to complete their performance reviews. During this time period, absent lack of regular documentation, it’s very difficult to recall from memory how productive, efficient, positive, collaborative, kind, compassionate an employee has been for the past year (amongst all the other traits and skills that are measured). A much more palatable approach is to schedule 15-minute meetings with each employee at every quarterly mark to go over goals, issues, challenges and praise. It’s time-effective and at every quarter, it’s much easier on the schedule. If you’re already doing this, documenting some of the discussions will help you when it comes time for the annual review. You’ll have conversations to draw from and actual examples to provide employees. Most importantly, there won’t be any major surprises for the employee at the end of the year if you’ve had a regular rapport on performance all year long. Your year-end conversations, by that time, will be short, brief and routine.

2. UTILIZE METRICS FOR MEASURING PRODUCTIVITY

Critics proclaim “there’s no evidence that performance reviews improve productivity.” If done properly, performance reviews can greatly improve productivity- but only if there are shared and measurable goals! In immigration law practice, productivity can indeed be measured by how many clients are acquired, how many cases are filed and/or approved and the actual revenue from each case. If you utilize a robust immigration software, running reports on each of these categories for each employee is very easy.

• You’ll have actual data from which to make an informed decision about an employee’s productivity levels.

• You can identify which employees are excelling and might be worthy of a bonus, promotion, raise, or lead training opportunities.

• You can also identify which employees may need additional training and assistance- particularly if their workload is imbalanced. (This is a great tool if your clients have negotiated an SLA with your office.)

Run the reports throughout the year. Don’t wait until year’s end. This way, you can have an open dialogue with each employee, set some metric goals and/or take any corrective actions as they arise.

3. INCLUDE YOUR EMPLOYEES THROUGHOUT THE REVIEW PROCESS

Managers dread the performance review process because there the workload rests solely on them. Yet, if given a choice, employees would probably share that load if it meant they could substantially contribute to their own performance reviews. The days of a one-side performance review are long gone. Get your employee’s input to identify reachable goals, set realistic timelines and see how they define success. Before you meet with each employee for your quarterly meetings, have them fill out a one page “survey” to see how they think they are doing in the last three months and where their challenges might lie. Because newer employees will have different input than veteran employees, getting their feedback will give you a starting point from which to have a discussion. This will certainly beat the standard one-size-fits-all performance review and give you a baseline from which to start the dialogue.

4. THE MINISTERIAL CAN BE GOOD

Critics claim that the annual performance review is a way to justify HR duties and mollify attorneys when it comes to disciplinary actions. In this endeavor, they’ll remind managers to “document, document and document!” When a manager has been faithfully the steps above, documenting requires little action other than taking additional notes.

• The appointments you’ve made each quarter with every employee are already recorded in your calendar system or in your immigration practice management software.

• The productivity reports you’ve run reside in your electronic software, printable at any time.

• If your employees are filling out their survey, you’ll have that form saved via email.

The ministerial task of documenting this process now seems very surmountable. Come year end, it’s just another simple task. By eating this elephant one bite at a time, you’ll find that it’s a very manageable process. For the practice that has already caught on to the benefits of a complete case management solution, the performance review process has never been easier.  Want more?  Subscribe to this blog for future tips to manage your immigration practice!