Performance Management

The Annual Review: It Doesn’t Have to Be Painful

Football is an incredible sport. I’ve watched many games and thought, it’s half-time and there’s no way my team is going to pull out a win. Then they come back on the field and everything’s changed. Suddenly, the plays make sense. Offense is working in tandem, and the defense is holding the other team off. What happened? My HR brain says, the coach got in somebody’s face and told them to get it together. The coach then talked about what happened out there during the first half and what needed to change in the second half to deliver a win. This, in the employment world, is performance management. The football team has a common goal, win the game. Employers should establish a common goal for their team, the  organization.  I’ve often said, before you start on a journey, you better have a destination. If you don’t, you’re just killing time and wasting energy. The very first thing you must do as a leader is establish the common goal.

3 tips

  1. Look Forward, Not Backwards

The annual review should only be 1/3 looking back at how the employee performed and 2/3 looking forward to setting expectations. Just like the coach in the locker-room at half time, he doesn’t spend the entire time talking about what happened. Instead, the majority of his time is spent talking about what the team must do to achieve the goal.


  1. Focus on Setting Goals

The quarterback’s job is different from a lineman’s, which is different from a kicker’s; but you can bet their individual goals all tie into the ultimate team goal. In that same vein, each individual employee’s  goals should tie in with department goals, which align with the organization’s goals. When an employee does well, the entire company does well.


  1. It’s Not About Discipline

If the coach waits until the end of the game to tell everyone where they could have improved, he’s failed his team. The same goes in the workplace. The annual review isn’t a time to pull out a secret folder that holds all of the employees transgressions. Performance issues, policy violations, poor attitude and other matters that can derail an employee’s progress should be addressed in real time when the infraction occurs. This gives the employee time to course-correct and get back to achieving their goals.


You got this

You can help your company by thinking like a head coach. Establish the ultimate goal. Give each person the playbook. Give correction when it’s needed, and praise when it’s due. With this in mind, use a review form that documents the plan. The annual review should be viewed as a usable document that is more of a road map for the next year. The review process should include regular check-ins, so that both you, the employer, and the employee can measure progress, just like those half-time talks.


We can help

Total HR has a library of forms employers can access. All of our forms can be used as-is or customized. We also have a team of certified consultants ready to answer your questions, consult on your forms or create a customized performance evaluation form that captures information that is vital to your company. Contact us, we’re here to help.