Every year we receive a formal review on our previous year’s performance.  Countless hours are often spent gathering information, writing, conducting and filing performance evaluations.  Whether your organization conducts all reviews by a certain date or if they are conducted for each employee on their anniversaries, supervisors, managers, employees and HR do put a lot of effort each year into ensuring their timely completion.  Reviews are often addressed as just one more requirement, another task with a due date.  Contractors are not alone in this.  Federal employees face a daunting review process, requiring much time from both management and staff.  Rather than question whether our collective time spent on performance reviews is wisely spent, this article will outline how a review, with minimal effort, can be beneficial to the organization and employees.

Human Resources

The role of HR in performance reviews is to ensure that all employees are fairly reviewed and that there is no discrimination.  Review artifacts are provided to HR for filing and future reference.  HR will also dictate the timelines for when performance appraisals are due and how they are to be presented, both verbally and in writing.  HR is also an integral part of compensation and salary adjustments.  If the performance of an employee is deficient, HR may be involved in establishing and overseeing the steps that will be taken to put the employee back on track to satisfactory performance or eventual dismissal.

Executive Management

It is executive management’s responsibility to define corporate messaging.  Unless you are a small business, Directors and executive level management do not have the luxury of one-on-one sessions with each member of staff.  Executive leadership must identify key focus areas that supervisors can convey to staff during the review session.  This could be corporate strategy or direction, explaining corporate structure changes, company policies, and division goals.  The most effective staff are those who understand and have buy-in on corporate and department initiatives and goals.

The Reviewer

In addition to passing on corporate and departmental messaging, the reviewer must discuss each employee’s performance against objectives, establish new objectives for the coming year, and ensure that each employee is thanked for their efforts.  Make certain that the employee understands how his or her performance has benefited the organization.  The discussion should also include personal development goals.  What does the employee need in terms of education, certifications or experience in order to master their current position or to qualify for the next level?  Are there cross-training opportunities?  The end result should be that each staff member knows that they are valued, appreciated, on board with department goals, and have a plan for personal growth.  Document as required by your HR.

The Employee

Have a look through your emails, reports, projects, etc., and make note of your contributions and successes throughout the year.  If you fill out a self-assessment form provided by your company, put the details in to ensure that your supervisor knows about your contributions.  If there is no formal self-assessment, compile your accomplishments and provide them to your supervisor prior to the review.  The thing to remember is that you are in charge of your career and the performance review is the best opportunity that you have to sell yourself and your value to the organization.  Be prepared to discuss the value of your accomplishments and contributions to the organization or customer’s mission.  Is your organization providing you the environment and opportunity to achieve your career goals?  Discuss your goals with your supervisor and devise a plan that complements your career aspirations.  Your salary is something else that you can discuss with your reviewer.  If you are underpaid, then discuss it.  Again, you are in charge of your career and the only party that you know has your best interest at heart.  Perform some research before you discuss your salary.  There are resources online such as salary surveys from ClearanceJobs where you can check your position and salary against others in similar positions.

Worth doing well

The employee performance review process is lengthy and time consuming, seemingly always coming at a time when we already have more than enough on our plates to keep us fully engaged.  However, if the process is approached with care and forethought, the review process can be a vital tool for keeping employees engaged and on-board with company and/or departmental plans.  As the saying goes, “If it is worth doing, then it is worth doing well.”  No matter what your role is in the review process, make this time meaningful to your organization, department, staff, or career.

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Todd Keys is a Program Manager at Cantada, Inc. He has been in the intelligence Community for 30 years, as a member of the military (USAF), and as a contractor for top 100, top 10, and small business federal defense contractors. He has held multiple roles, CONUS and OCONUS, ranging from technician to executive, providing site O&M, system administration, engineering, supervision, contract management, and Capture/BD for the DoD and multiple intelligence agencies.