Engaging Managers in the Performance Review Process

I’m pleased to present a guest poster today.  This was written as a follow up to a previous post I shared on performance reviews, and Sean felt strongly enough on the topic to want to share his thoughts.  Plus, I’m a sucker for anyone who opens by saying they agree with me.

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software. They make products to automate your performance appraisal and other talent management processes. For more of his thoughts, read his posts on Halogen Software’s blog.

I completely agree with Dwane’s thoughts on how to better engage managers in the performance review process. As HR professionals, we definitely need to design and implement processes and tools that provide benefits to managers and address their needs in this area. Too often, performance reviews are viewed as something that HR needs and imposes on the organization.

What I often see missing from discussions about performance reviews is the fact that managing employee performance is really what management is all about. We tend to promote people based on their competence in their current role. As a result, managers often view their role as primarily continuing to do what they do best, and secondarily managing other people who do the same kind of work.

I think this is backwards. Management is primarily about getting work done through others, not doing it yourself. So a manager’s job should be to communicate expectations, set goals with their employees, provide the required tools/training/support/resources, and give their employees ongoing coaching and feedback on their performance. Isn’t this what employee performance management really all about?

So how do we get managers better engaged in our performance management process?

Make Performance Management an Ongoing Process

If we view performance management as a once a year chore that is accomplished by completing a performance appraisal form, we’re missing the point. Performance management needs to be a year-round process; the annual performance appraisal should simply be a vehicle to collect up and summarize what’s been going on all year. HR needs to communicate that to managers and employees in everything that we do. If HR treats it as a once a year event, managers will too. Managers should be discussing performance with their employees on an ongoing basis. But since many don’t, it can help to have HR implement a process of quarterly or even monthly mini review meetings, just to formalize and encourage the ongoing dialogue about performance that should be taking place. These don’t need to be long, time-consuming meetings that generate a lot of paperwork. The point is to get everyone talking about performance.

Provide Managers with Support and Training

Most of the managers I’ve met and have worked with have never been formally trained in the art of managing the performance of others.

So if you want to better engage your managers in your performance management process, and make them better people managers, train them. Train them on the process and how to use your forms. Train them on how to give effective feedback. Train them on how to set SMART goals. Train them to be better coaches. Train them on how to develop their employees. Train them on how to deal with poor performers. Train them to deal with conflict. All of these are essential management skills. If managers don’t feel comfortable and proficient at any of these skills, they won’t be engaged with your performance management process. (And they likely won’t be very good managers either.)

Give Managers Helpful and Easy to Use Forms and Tools

Have you ever really looked at some of the performance appraisal forms we expect managers to use. They’re long. They’re complicated. They require a lot of time to complete. What if we made it easier for them? What if we focused on what was really essential, and gave them forms that were short and simple to use, and really helped them manage their employees’ performance? Designing this kind of form takes more time and effort on HR’s part; but it tends to result in better quality reviews and more engaged managers.

And why not give managers tools to help them fill out the forms, like:

  • lists of the development activities available to help develop a specific competency
  • sample comment text they can use to give consistent feedback
  • sample coaching and development tips text they can copy and paste into their forms
  • descriptions of the different levels of performance for a competency so they don’t have to subjectively guess what rating to choose
  • journals where they can make notes on employee performance year round
  • access to organizational goals to which they can link their employees’ goals

These kinds of tools make it faster and easier for managers to fill out their appraisal forms, and tend to result in better performance appraisals for employees.

If HR is serious about engaging managers in the performance management process, we need to stop thinking of it as a once a year event, and implement a complete program that helps managers better manager their staff all year round.


  1. I agree – Make Performance Management an Ongoing Process, here is employee performance tool CreateSmartGoals that helps keep managers engaged by setting & tracking employee goals.

    • I’ve always been a big believer of the ongoing two way performance process. Much of what Sean has to say aligns very closely with that.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful replies employee and Dwane!

    Goals setting and management is of course part of the day to day management tools organizations need – it’s about a lot more than goals management of course, but that is one key item. Goal management is often a good way to get executive buy-in to talent management as they can clearly see how this aspect of talent management impacts the bottom line.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Halogen Software, Dwane Lay. Dwane Lay said: Pleased to present guest post -> Sean Conrad of @HalogenSoftware on performance reviews at LeanHRBlog.com -> http://bit.ly/f15Ojv […]

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