Performance Reviews Should be an Ongoing Process

By Donald Cooper

In most businesses, performance reviews don’t take place at all and, in businesses where they do take place, they’re often dreaded by both parties and generally ineffective. Here’s a simple thought, performance reviews should be a process, not an annual event.

If the employee’s performance is good, why wait months to tell them? And, if their work is unsatisfactory, why let the non-performance carry on for months before mentioning it?

Everyone who has ever tried to train a dog not to poop on the carpet knows that drawing this to the dog’s attention six months after the fact is ineffective and confuses the heck out of the dog.

So, performance reviews should be an ongoing, regular and immediate process. Comment on, praise and reinforce positive actions immediately and explain how this action will move the business forward. And deal with non-productive actions immediately, explaining why it’s counter-productive and how it can be, and must be, done better – but do that in private.

As I was leaving Costco one recent evening, there was only one ‘checker’ person at the exit and a long line-up of folks trying to leave the store. For you non-Costco shoppers, a ‘checker’ is an employee at the exit who checks what’s in each departing customer’s cart against what’s itemized on their bill to prevent theft.

A very authoritative supervisor appeared out of nowhere and started yelling at this poor ‘checker’ guy that this is bad customer service and when there’s a long line, he should call for backup. She tore into this guy right in front of dozens of customers. That’s just wrong.

Effective and frequent ‘mini performance reviews’ should be part of your ongoing training, coaching and mentoring process for each team member. This is a much more effective approach than the typical once or twice a year dreaded performance reviews that are either boring non-events or hysterical and dysfunctional ‘blame and rebuttal’ sessions.

Failure to regularly acknowledge, thank, reward and promote top performers is a big problem in many businesses. When good people leave because they feel under-appreciated, you lose a major contributor, it costs you big money to find and train a replacement – and if they go to a competitor, it hurts you doubly.

A simple tip for tracking employee performance over time is to create a file for each person reporting to you. Every time they have a significant success, significant failure or behavioral problem, after you speak to them about it, make a quick note, date it and place it in their file.  Then, when you’re evaluating staff for raises or promotions you have an accurate, balanced record of their performance.

When the time comes to terminate someone, it’s also essential to have that written record of non-performance and proof that they’ve been talked to repeatedly about the need to get their act together, exactly when those conversations took place and what the result was. If you get sued for wrongful dismissal, the side with the best documentation generally wins.

By the way, failure to deal with non-performance is one of the biggest problems in many businesses today. Who are the non-performers on your team needing to improve or move on? And what are you doing to deal with that?

Bonus tip: When speaking with an employee about the need to improve their performance or attitude in some specific way, the magic question to ask is, “By when can we agree that this will be done?” Agree on a clear and specific time by which the required improvement will take place and then follow up to ensure that it has been done.

So, everyone on your team is part of your value or part of your problem. What are you doing to reward and grow your value people and to rescue or dismiss your problem people? Ongoing mini performance reviews, combined with ongoing coaching, mentoring encouragement and recognition are much better than the traditional and ineffective annual performance appraisal events.

Here are a few more things to get you thinking:

Quote of the Week: “How we look, sound and perform matters! Master the discipline and the art of constantly looking at every part of your business through your customer’s eyes.”

Quick Tip: Create a professional looking e-mail signature that creates confidence and makes it easy for people to contact you:

A proper e-mail signature that automatically appears at the bottom of every e-mail you send makes you look more professional and makes it easy for people to do business with you.

Your e-mail signature will include a link to your website and your phone number. It drives folks nuts when they want to phone you but can’t find your number.

Your e-mail signature should also include your logo or photo and your marketing positioning statement.

Our web designer created a simple, effective and distinctive e-mail signature for us, for peanuts. If you want to check ours out for inspiration, just send me an e-mail at with the subject line, E-mail signature.

A fun fact. Tesla’s market value of $724 billion is roughly as much as the next nine biggest carmakers combined.

How safe is your computer? Last month we had over 3,000 unsuccessful attempts to hack our computer systems here at The Donald Cooper Corporation. Almost all of them were from Russia.  Do you have really good protection in place?

That’s it for this week. Stay safe! Live brilliantly!

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