How can we turn backward, negative annual appraisals into regular, positive, forward-thinking performance discussions?

You might have heard that in order to make performance discussions productive and useful they should constructive, informative and positive. Such forward-thinking conversations do wonders for performance and they go a long way to lessen the sense of dread employees generally feel when confronted with an annual appraisal. But what are the tangible benefits of positive performance reviews, and how can we make our one-on-one discussions more meaningful?

Such forward-thinking conversations do wonders for performance and they go a long way to lessen the sense of dread employees generally feel when confronted with an annual appraisal. But what are the tangible benefits of positive performance reviews, and how can we make our one-on-one discussions more meaningful?

The first thing we need to recognise is that human beings thrive on praise. We are conditioned to respond positively to praise, and our fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in when confronted with negative feedback. Despite our best efforts, the average human has a fragile ego and high expectations. When we continually perceive ourselves to fall short of these expectations, we become unmotivated and our sense of identity is damaged. As such, positive feedback is much easier to take in.

When we’re paid a compliment or receive positive feedback, we experience feelings of pleasure and pride, due to the release of dopamine in our systems. In turn, dopamine makes us more innovative and creative, which improves future performance at work.

But how can we put this into practice and adapt our performance management systems to deliver forward-thinking, positive feedback during our one-on-ones? Below are some tips on how to put this into action and explain how modern employee appraisal software can help.

Discuss recent successes and milestones

Each time you and your employee meet, cover positive employee moments. Discuss recent successes, milestones they have accomplished and skills they have improved. This is known as employee recognition and if you want your workforce to perform above and beyond expectations, it is something you need to start incorporating today.

Recognition is critical as appreciation is a fundamental need to all of us, and the delivery of recognition shows employees that what they do is valued. When it is clear to employees that their efforts are being acknowledged, this encourages them to work harder and to be more productive, and at the same time, the employee experiences an increased sense of satisfaction. The delivery of positive feedback promotes engagement and boosts performance when given regularly. So keep an eye out for individual successes, great displays of effort and real enthusiasm. Don’t let your employee’s work go unnoticed.

Make performance discussions regular and casual

Positive feedback is essential and effective, but it needs to be delivered on a regular basis. Feedback should be timely and relevant, and for this to happen, you’ll need to introduce regular performance discussions. These one-on-ones are the perfect opportunity to cover progress, discuss objectives and give employees the recognition they deserve. If you’re looking for evidence to support the need for regular performance discussions, you can look to the Gallup poll which shows that employees who receive regular recognition are three times more likely to remain with a company.

When performance discussions are more regular, they become more informal and employees are less apprehensive. If you’re looking for guidance on how to effectively conduct these regular meetings, we have a free one-to-one meeting template that you can use for inspiration.

Make feedback actionable and helpful

So does a focus on the positive mean that we completely ignore the negative? Do we refrain from pointing out areas the employee can improve, and why? Of course not, but there is a way we can phrase constructive criticism without damaging employee morale and affecting motivation levels. Rather than the focal point of performance discussions being areas for improvement, have an optimistic conversation about how the employee feels about their performance.

If an employee needs to improve in a specific area, you need to give feedback that is both actionable and helpful. Refrain from vagueness and judgemental comments at all costs.

Feedback that is negative or vague will frustrate and confuse employees, meaning that progress won’t be made. Instead, when things haven’t gone well, focus your feedback on what can be learned and what could be improved next time. Agree on specific actions for improvement where relevant.

Keep track of personal development objectives using performance management software

Sometimes it’s not enough to get praise, enthusiasm, and positivity from management. Sometimes, employees need to see and track their progress for themselves. To do this, manager and employee should collaborate on agreeing on personal development objectives during one-on-ones.

Place the employee in the driver’s seat and encourage them to consider what skills, knowledge or behaviours they should be developing and what specific learning activities they can undertake. Using this information, employees can write specific development objectives and log them onto modern performance management software, where HR, management, and the employee can monitor progress and achievement. When employees are able to tick an objective as successfully completed, they’ll experience a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Whether you want to learn more about how performance management software can be used to recognise employee accomplishments, or if you’d like to book a free performance management software demo, get in touch today and our dedicated HR team will be happy to help you out.