Discuss - But Don’t Forget to Document: The Four Elements of an Annual Review

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The end of 2020 is finally in view, and in only a few weeks it will be in the rear view mirror for good. 

Our industry should stand tall, based on how it handled the pandemic and kept essential workers’ vehicles running on the road. 

It also navigated a political, financial, and human resource minefield that will hopefully be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As disjointed as 2020 was, most independent tire dealerships will end up flat financially or slightly up. 

Demand was chaotic, with drastic ups and downs, but all 12 months combined should result in a fair year.

With December coming to a close, it is time to start looking at getting 2021 off to the best start possible. This starts with your people.

People perform best when their job is predictable and they clearly know how to define success. 

Start the new year by scheduling performance reviews and make sure they are completed by the end of January. 

Before we get into the details, there are two rules about performance reviews that are critical to making a positive impact on employees.

1. Performance reviews should never be a surprise. An employee should know exactly what will be said in a performance review. When a formal performance review is held at the beginning of the year, that document’s content should be a regular, recurring topic of conversation over the next 12 months. Many informal, private conversations about progress and some sit-down conversations about goals should take place regularly throughout the year. If a performance review comes as a surprise to the employee, management has failed. In this case, skip the review and focus on setting goals for the upcoming year.

2. Employee pay should not be a part of a performance review. If pay is brought into the conversation, the employee will tune out much of what will be said, while anxiously awaiting the results of any possible wage or salary bump. Instead, choose the employee’s anniversary date of employment to do pay reviews. This has the added benefit of making it harder for underperforming employees to go around asking what “everyone got” on the same day at the beginning of the year, which can cause problems. Using anniversary dates spreads out everyone’s pay raise - or lack thereof - over the course of the year.

Every formal performance review should contain these four elements:

Review of previous year’s document: To reiterate, this should not be the first time since last January you and your employee looked at this document. It is unfair to the employee. There should be an area on the document where you can grade each individual’s performance. It can be a number system that adds up to 100 or you can use words like “fails,” “meets,” “succeeds” or “leads.” These types of ratings scales are called Likert scales, and it’s easy enough to search the internet and find a style that you like.

Discussion of previous year’s goals. You should review the previous year’s goals line by line and celebrate success or discuss what caused failures. Identify failures as personal (employee responsibility) or structural (company roadblocks, like bad processes.) It is important to invite employee input, so differences can be resolved. One of the main objectives of a review is to get the employee back on track - not just lecture them about perceived failures. This tough discussion is the reason reviews should not be a surprise. Stay focused on the facts and the road to improvement. Don’t assign blame.

Upcoming year conversation. Goal-setting must be a shared experience. Let’s say you expect service advisor, Jane Donut, to sell 250 tires a month. However, Jane quietly thinks that 250 is simply unreachable and that she will struggle to get to 220. If she thinks 250 is undeniably unachievable, she won’t engage the goal, leading to her being correct. In fact, she won’t hit 250, ever. But if you have a conversation about it and maybe compromise to 225, imagine the excitement when she hits that target, with four more days to go in the month. What a confidence builder! 

Document the upcoming year’s plan. Once goals are agreed upon, document the discussion for future reference throughout the year and to prepare for the next review. Make a copy so both you and your employee are in possession of the goals. Use the document throughout the year to check in on progress, discover problems early so you can fix them or maybe even agree that a goal was not a good idea and revise. You’re allowed to do that.

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