Editor’s note: Editor in chief Lisa Kiava is filling in for Bob Artner, who is away this week.
Most people look forward to this time of year because they view it as the “holiday season.” But at many organizations, managers don’t look forward to the usual yuletide festivities because they remind them of just one thing—annual performance reviews are soon approaching. Many IT managers dread December because it means they are required to write about the accomplishments and failures of the staff members they supervise. In this article, we’ll review how IT managers can develop reliable sources of information when writing reviews.
TechRepublic columnist Bob Artner provided tips for IT managers who are looking for ways to make the documentation task easier and less painful. In his column, "Adopt a new plan to ease pain of performance reviews," he urged managers to provide specific examples of what an employee accomplished. Among the sources of information to help refresh your memory, Artner said the following items might be valuable:
- Budget detail: What can your departmental spending reports tell you about employee performance? It depends on what kind of spending authority they have, among other things. However, don’t forget to look here for information that can jog your memory or quantify a problem. For example, if you had to bring in contract programmers to meet a deadline caused by poor estimates, you can use your budget detail to determine the actual cost before completing the program manager’s review.
- Vendor communications: Whether it’s coming from your side (RFP/RFI) or from the vendor’s side (statements of work, progress reports, etc.), IT managers should review this information to see what it says about employee performance.
- Last year’s review: Lots of managers forget to look at last year’s review prior to working on the new performance review. For some reason, this is especially true when it comes to looking at a performance review written by a previous manager.
TechRepublic members sound off on reviews
In response to Artner’s column, many TechRepublic members posted comments that encouraged managers to devise a quick documentation method that can be used throughout the year.
- Cgainer said that he supervises up to 40 people. He wrote, “…get employees to track their own progress. For example, we require a certain number of training hours for each employee. It's up to them to document that training and send me a report prior to the review. They also document the projects they've worked on and any new skills that they learned as a result.”
- Swoolley holds short performance reviews throughout the year. He advised, "I prefer the one-on-one weekly/monthly discussion that is supported by a communication log. Franklin makes a good one."
- jeepgrrl avoids the cumbersome software tracking tool that the company provides and prefers the simple method of creating e-mail folders for each employee. “I use an informal method of e-mails and paper trails to track performance. If someone stops by to tell me something noteworthy, as soon as they leave I send myself an e-mail about the conversation,” wrote jeepgrrl.
Getting a head start for next year
If migrations and budget battles meant that you were too distracted to document employee performance this year, be honest with your staff members and explain to them that you want to establish a more comprehensive documentation program next year. Develop a plan for 2002 and present it to each staff member when you have your review meeting.
If you ask employees to document their own accomplishments, suggest that they use a simple spreadsheet, such as the free download on TechRepublic called "Tracking accomplishments worksheets." According to the IT managers who provided us with advice about performance reviews, the most effective documentation system is one that is so simple that it will be used throughout the year.
Delivering the bad news
What’s the most difficult conversation you will have during performance reviews? Is it more challenging to reprimand an employee, or is it more difficult to tell a star performer that their work will not be rewarded with a promotion or pay increase next year? Post a comment or send us an e-mail. Each week, the person who posts the best comment to an Artner’s Law column will win a nifty TechRepublic coffee mug.