Performance Reviews Provide Employees Better Feedback

Business People Discussion Laptop Technology Togetherness Concept

Kloeckner Metals has begun a new process of performance reviews which will be expanding in 2020 and beyond. The 2019 pilot involved a small group, less than 300 employees, including employees at the corporate office and senior leaders in the field. As the program expands, the benefits of the new performance reviews will be felt across the company.

“We know that right now about 35 percent of our employees wish they had more regular feedback from their manager,” said Manager of Training and Development Amanda Middendorf. “Performance reviews are a tried and true process to help ensure that every employee is getting some regular feedback about their performance both positive and constructive and also development feedback as well.”

The structure of the performance review system involves setting goals in January, evaluating and adjusting goals at mid-year, and then a final evaluation at year’s end. Individual employees write their own goals, using the overall company goals as a starting point. Managers then have the opportunity to add or adjust to the list of goals. Employees and managers then sit down together and discuss the final contributions and agree on them.

“It helps us communicate the organization’s strategy to all employees in a clear way and helps us translate those strategies or big ideas into individual action that particular team members can execute,” Amanda said. “We may all know that we have a 2022 strategy to grow digitalization, but not every employee may see exactly the role they play in that. By doing the performance review process, it grants us the opportunity to specifically define how we are individually impacting the strategy of the company. It also helps employees know in advance what the expectations are of them.”

Having the reviews done every six months instead of once a year helps to keep goals from getting stale. In a business that changes as quickly as Kloeckner does, some goals set in January might not be relevant by December. At the same time, performance reviews do take some times and effort, and employees are busy. Having the mid-year review strikes the right balance so that employees can keep their goals relevant without having to constantly readdress them.

“The system itself is pretty flexible to allow for whatever your work may look like,” Amanda said. “That is why we have the midyear period, where you can add completely new goals. You can cancel goals that fizzled out for whatever reason beyond your control, and you can just copy goals from the beginning of the year for year’s end if it is just status quo.”

Performance reviews also give employees a chance to be proactive about their role and their careers moving forward. While most employees have frequent contact with their managers, daily or more, most typical conversations are reactive. That is to say, a typical conversation with a manager usually is very tactical and focused on solving specific problems.

“We’ve all been there,” Amanda said. “We knock on our manager’s door and say, ‘hey boss, do you have a few minutes? I have a problem.’ We talk to the boss about whatever issue we have on our plate. They help us figure out a way to resolve it, and we go back to our daily work.”

Performance reviews, on the other hand, give employees a chance to sit down with their managers and take a big-picture approach.

“Rather than waiting for an assignment to come down the pipe, or waiting for a problem to arise, we can sit at the beginning of the year with our managers and together plan the work we want to achieve over the course of the next six months to a year,” Amanda said. “It is a chance to talk about bigger or longer-term metrics, projects, or deliverables, whereas they may get overlooked over the course of a very busy couple of weeks by all of the very pressing, but small tasks that are on our plates.”

Christopher Myers
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