Performance Reviews, 1-to-1s, and face-to-face meetings call them what you want; you need to have more of them and to make them more effective.

The stats around disengaged staff are staggering. A recent Harvard Business Review survey found that 35% of the salary of a disengaged staff member is wasted and over a third leave within a year.

There is also the risk that disengaged staff may create a toxic environment while they remain in their roles. So what can you do to overcome the problem?

Regular honest 1-to-1s are probably one of the most valuable tools we can use to improve two-way communication with staff, to get clarity, improve morale, and engagement. Unfortunately, we either don’t have enough of them and they’re not always conducted well.


Tackling the objections

Why is there so much fear and trepidation surrounding formal performance reviews for both parties? It revolves around the fear of the unknown, expecting to hear something negative and uncomfortable about yourself from the meeting. Let’s face it, honesty is tough, but we need to be brave because the rewards are enormous.


Why do we need Performance Reviews?

Often, in small businesses, managers work side by side with their staff every day, but neither party has a clear picture of how they are going in the eyes of the other. Formal 1-to-1s provide a vehicle to take some time out and review how things are going. Identify what is going well.  Could it be shared with others? Are there other areas that might need further work? These areas where improvement is required can be discussed and an improvement plan to remedy agreed.

The benefits of doing these well can be massive; both parties have a feel-good factor about celebrating what is going well. Perhaps what can be even more rewarding is identifying those underperforming areas and rectifying them together. Most benefit comes from an environment that is open to improvement and that critique is not personal. Together, you get a chance to imagine a different and better future than today.

So what can you do to improve the success of your 1-to-1s?


How to run good Performance Reviews

Make them regular

  • Set them up in your calendar and try very hard not to reschedule them; they are important!
  • Your schedule should contain annual or quarterly Performance Reviews. Monthly 1-to-1s and weekly catchups.
  • Allow enough time for them; 30 minutes is usually enough if you are doing them monthly with shorter weekly catchups.

Have an agenda, but be flexible

You should have an agreed set of KPIs to discuss to allow everyone to prepare. But, if there is a burning issue to discuss, talk it through first.

Be prepared

Both parties need to come prepared for the meeting; it is about being professional and showing respect. Set up a template that you will both use to prepare for the meeting.

Foster honesty and trust

If you are open and honest, trust will be earned over time. How you would like the truths to be delivered if it was you? Sometimes, hard truths are easier to swallow if delivered by a caring, compassionate boss with a focus on what needs to change. Talk about the behaviour you like and would like changed, not the individual.

No surprises

Don’t wait for a 1-to-1 to raise an issue. Nobody likes to be blindsided

Keep disciplinary action separate

Performance reviews and 1-to-1s are not disciplinary meetings; you will poison the ground if you try to use them this way.

Ask open questions

What is going well? What could be improved? How could it be improved? Is something getting in the road of you doing better? What do you need from me? What could I do differently to improve things?

It is a two-way street – listen

Remember to ask about what is going well and what you could do better and listen to the answers with eyes and ears open and mouth closed (apart from saying, tell me more!).


What results can you expect?

If you put in the work suggested above, you can expect to have motivated, high-performing, engaged team members, and we all need more of those! Successful Performance Reviews improve productivity, build trust. KPIs set and measure employee growth and career development.

By Russell Bacon | Business Advisor


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Performance Appraisals are like vigorous exercise