Have you been getting ready for year-end performance reviews?  As busy as the end of the year is especially for restaurants and retailers, many businesses neglect the process of delivering feedback to their employees.  But it’s important to give employees feedback on their performance — not just at the end of the year, but all year round.

Why the lengthy performance review is outdated

Big company HR professionals often administer lengthy end-of-year summaries with the highlights of an employee’s performance. HR professionals are guilty of taking meaningful common sense feedback discussions and turning them into meaningless, time-consuming, ineffective year-end performance reviews.  If someone is a 6 out of 10 on some criteria, what does that even mean?

Where human beings are concerned, a one-size fits all approach does not work. It is a waste of time.  Trying to force employees into performance review boxes and forms rarely motivates and actually results in distrust and decreased motivation.  

I have talked to many small business owners that believe that because they have not adopted a form or process they are neglecting performance reviews.  Let the tailored approach be your process.  Even GE, the giant conglomerate where the fixation with processes originated, has moved away from formulaic performance evaluations.  


The right approach: Specific examples delivered real-time

Instead, have shorter meetings more frequently that are specific to each employee’s needs.  Communicate feedback through the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) technique developed by the Center for Creative Leadership.  This technique helps the manager to deliver feedback in a method that the employee can relate to and internalize.  

Your employee may be defensive in response to a comment from a manager like “you are frequently late” or “you need to improve your quality”.  Instead, employees are more likely to accept feedback that explains the specific situation, the behavior the manager observed and the impact it had.

For example:  

Situation: “Last week during the lunch shift…”

Behavior:  “… there were sandwiches that had not been heated enough to melt the cheese, salads where there was not an appropriate amount of dressing, and sauces that did not have the appropriate thickness or saltiness.”

Impact: “This caused the food quality to not be at the standard we expect at the restaurant.  

Wrap it up with the expectation moving forward: “In the future, please monitor more closely the quality of food before it goes out.”

You can and should apply this technique just as frequently with positive feedback as well.  Telling Sally she goes “above and beyond,” might make her feel good, but she won’t know exactly what she is doing really well that is worth repeating.  Instead, follow the SBI technique.  

For example:   

Situation: “Last month as Sally was working with customers…”

Behavior: “… she paid attention to the customers needs helping them open doors, remembered repeat customers names, and recommended items based on their interests.”

Impact: “This resulted in positive feedback online from our customers and increased sales this month.”  

This approach requires more effort as you think through each employee’s strengths and development needs.  The result, however, is meaningful feedback that improves employee performance.  And the feedback can be delivered as soon as behaviors are observed, so you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to improve your employees’ performance.