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Enhancing Performance Dialogue: 7 Systems for Reviewers in 2024

With the new year bells faded away, another bell tolls for reviewers reminding them about the conclusion of the fiscal year for some and the start of performance reviews, appraisals, and the enduring cycle of challenging conversations that seem to remain unchanged year after year. From delivering statements like “Your recent performance hasn’t met expectations” or “Expected you to perform better” to handling the appraisee’s resistance to this feedback, these dialogues often lead to disengagement, attrition, and conflicts instead of serving the intended purpose of improvement in performance and dyadic relationship.

But mastering the art of navigating difficult performance discussions isn’t merely a job skill but a strategic necessity, given human nature to avoid critical feedback. Let’s explore some systems to transform these difficult discussions into opportunities that influence both appraisees and organizational working.

1. Immersive Performance Experience :

Typically, the aura of regular Reviewer-Appraisee discussions revolves around a serious atmosphere, where both parties engage in the monotony of repeated instructions and defensive response. However, the same performance discussion can be transformed into impactful dialogues that yield productive results by incorporating visual aids and elements of gamification.

To do this, reviewers can initiate discussions through gamified elements to make the review process interactive for appraisees. By employing engaging game-based platforms such as Kahoot and others, both parties can create interactive presentations, and learn games to ensure optimal engagement in these discussions. While this activity may demand resources, it efficiently captures individuals’ genuine demands and goals, enhancing the performance review process beyond just a conversation.

2. Leveraging Storytelling :

Often, the routine of performance discussions begins with dialogues on scores, delves into KPIs highlighting what was not achieved, mentions a few positives, and outlines the next appraisal cycle goals. This repetitive quarterly/annual dialogue makes it challenging to engage and motivate appraisees and diminishes the significance of these vital discussions that impact not only job performance but also career growth.

However, crafting stories that highlight individual consequences and benefits of past performance or behavior, using relatable examples would change the perspective, helping appraisees grasp the pros and cons of their progress by immersing in the conversation. Like a story’s moral, the dialogue can end with feedback, assuring individuals that challenges are universal and it’s better to focus on what’s next and doable. This makes the conversation captivating and easier to understand without sounding accusatory or judgmental.

3. Shifting from Unilateral Communication :

In performance discussions, an assumption stays – individuals can interpret, communicate, and respond in the same way leading to delivering dialogues from a singular standpoint to all appraisees. However, ‘one shoe fits all’ approach doesn’t work for individuals with diverse preferences—some like directness, while others appreciate recognition to enhance performance.

For effective dialogue, reviewers and appraisees can appreciate each other’s communication styles. They can utilize the sandwich method that creates positivity before improvement feedback, suitable for those valuing praise, and constructive feedback with climate building for those seeking clear answers. Appraisees, too, can seek feedback by being sensitive to orientation of self and reviewer and initiate the dialogue, accordingly. Ultimately, navigating these communication challenges skillfully facilitates awareness for both, promoting their mutual relation, performance and development.

4. Appreciative Inquiry Approach :

Moving beyond the conventional Reviewer-Appraisee interaction, which typically involves starting with a greeting, discussing objectives, plans, and tasks, Reviewers might consider adopting an Appreciative Inquiry Methodology for a more efficient and productive dialogue. Recognized as an asset-based approach to organizational engagement, it utilizes questions and dialogue to uncover strengths, advantages, or opportunities within a context.

By positively framing open-ended questions (What worked for you?), and reflecting on past wins aligned with organizational goals, appraisees can collaboratively set new objectives based on successful strategies and feedback. While this is a departure from the norm, once implemented effectively, can lead to noticeable change, creating excitement during and post conversations, ultimately improving performance.

5. Seek Feedback on Feedback :

While appraisees often seek feedback on their performance, productivity, and goals, it’s uncommon for reviewers to actively seek feedback on their approach to conducting discussions and improving it.

Reviewers soliciting feedback from appraisees can break the monotony of having one way performance discussions and, when conducted genuinely and seriously, can help them reflect on their dialoguing approach, leading to better relationships, improved connection, productive discussions and heightened goal awareness. Additionally, reviewers can seek input on their managerial duties and understand the expectations their team has of them, to ensure they understand and support their team with resources and guidance as required by their teams.

6. Performance Enablement Focus :

Traditionally performance discussions have been about highlighting past wins and shortfalls. But, this often leads to a retrospective analysis, neglecting future-driven strategies for growth and motivation. Reviewers can shift focus towards performance enablement, emphasizing actionable steps to address focus areas. Instead of dwelling on ‘what we did in the past’, both the reviewer and appraisee can collaborate on drawing up “catch-up” plans post discussion, outlining steps for remedial action and future success.

Here the reviewer serves as an equal partner in fostering superior performance by the appraisee, committing to support future performance and goal achievement rather than solely acting as a scorecard holder at the end of the performance period. This addresses reservations surrounding the performance dialogue and emphasizes the primary purpose of feedback: to enhance performance.

7. Ushering Feedback Culture :

Feedback when given as part of performance dialogue annually/quarterly is associated with anxiety and issues of acceptance. What if the employee receives feedback regularly and from multiple sources via open-ended questions or using feedback platforms (FeedbackSpeaks), enabling the team to offer anonymous reviews for psychological safety.

Though initial feedback may seem subtle or face some hesitation, consistent efforts will yield results, fostering a feedback-driven culture that paves way for openness and maturity of feedback. It also emphasizes the reviewer’s and appraisee’s commitment to improve and facilitate appraisee’s efforts, team collaboration and organization’s growth. By amplifying the value of feedback, it enables the Reviewer to align their feedback with a well-rounded assessment from significant others.

Enhancing the structure of these performance discussions demands effort from all three parties: the organization, the Reviewers, and the Appraisees, as they share a common interest in achieving individual-operational goals through effective discussions. However, this doesn’t imply a complete overhaul of the process; rather, it involves taking small steps to integrate the aforementioned approaches and other unexplored strategies. The goal is to make these conversations efficient, productive, and growth oriented.

For more effective guidance in this transformative journey, consider scheduling a consultation with us.

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