Four Steps to Improving Your Organization's Performance Review Process

The performance review process is an important part of managing a workforce; however, local governments can have a process that needs to be updated.

BLOG POST | Aug 15, 2018
By Lauren Girardin

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by Lauren Girardin, marketing and communications consultant, laurengirardin.com

The performance review process at local government agencies is often outdated and disconnected from employees’ important day-to-day responsibilities. According to Gallup research, only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. If this is the case in your organization, giving the performance review process a thorough overhaul can radically rejuvenate employee engagement.

Leading your organization to revamp its entire performance review process isn’t simple, but the rewards can be significant. It can improve organizational culture, give high-performing employees recognition that can reduce turnover, and support struggling employees toward professional and personal growth.

How can you lead your organization to change your performance review process for the better? Here's an easily manageable four-step process.

1. Start with a clean slate.

Starting with a clean slate means you can lead your organization to accomplish something greater than simply changing your performance review process. You can create an all-new process that prioritizes the future over the past. You get to cleanse your performance review process of the negative legacy of bad habits and false assumptions that are often associated with outdated performance practices.

Outdated performance review processes and disengaged employees are budgetary drains. Gallup estimates that a lack of engagement among government employees costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $18 billion per year.

To start with a clean slate, open and honest communication is crucial. Explain to your staff that you want to hear any and all ideas, tools, methods, and structures that may be able to motivate people to constantly improve their performance. Partner with your human resources director for research and data gathering about employee engagement. Take the opportunity to strengthen trust in your leadership by engaging everyone in changing the performance review process for the greater good. Be ready to squelch the “that’s not how we do it here” attitude that keeps valuable new ideas from being voiced and implemented.

2. Engage employees in defining the purpose.

If you haven’t communicated the purpose of performance reviews clearly, there may be discrepancies in how people perceive and use the reviews. A lack of clarity can also influence your workforce into believing performance reviews are pointless. If performance reviews haven’t led to purposeful action at your organization, this conclusion may be correct.

In a survey of chief executives of mid-sized U.S. city governments, researchers examined why performance measures met or exceeded expectations. They found that “the single most important factor that helped to explain the gap between expectations and actual experience was the extent of ‘buy-in’ of performance measurement by line managers and administrators.”

Achieving buy-in begins with your workforce feeling they have been deeply listened to. Lead your team in an open, honest dialog that allows all employees to be heard. Create collaborative conversations that break down team silos and eliminate leadership echo chambers. To give purpose to your performance review process, listen to your employees’ ideas about the ways that performance reviews can support both their professional and personal growth, as well as the overall success of the organization.

3. Find the solution that fits the purpose.

There’s no universal performance review process, and the best technology solutions can be adapted to meet a variety of needs. To bring about transformational change, you’ll want your team to carefully evaluate the technology solution the organization will use to track and manage the performance review process. Involve human resources, information technology, and even finance leadership to create a robust evaluation team.

If your organization chooses a rigid solution, it will be forced to compromise in ways that can result in a less effective performance review process and outcomes. A flexible cloud-based talent management system is ideal because it allows human resources to function more effectively, helps control costs, keeps your organization in compliance, and mitigates risk.

Have your staff choose cloud-based software for government that can be adapted to fit your purpose. Make sure they look for a set of methods and tools that can evolve and scale as the organization’s performance review process becomes more sophisticated.

4. Match measurements to purpose.

The Urban Institute, a government research organization, observed, “A key problem...in effectively using performance information is getting agency personnel to take the performance information seriously and use the information to help monitor and improve their programs.”

Your performance review process will be more effective when what you measure fits your purpose. Change your process, so your data gives you, your leadership, and your employees the information needed to spot skill gaps, make important decisions, change future behaviors, and improve organizational outcomes.

As you change your performance review process, guide your team to measure only what the organization can act on to avoid a data dump of overwhelming and irrelevant information. Lean on human resources to collect data that will be useful in recognizing employee performance and motivating employees to grow and develop in the future. Assess performance regularly so you can give employees the opportunity to do their best every day.

NEOGOV is an ICMA Strategic Partner that provides a high-quality and easy-to-use talent management system to service the public sector market.

Related Resources

View and Review: Questions for Performance Reviews. This 2013 blog post provides sample questions to use in performance reviews. 

It’s Your Performance Review. Own It. A 2015 Public Management (PM) article gives specific actions that can be taken to make a performance review a positive one. 

Maximizing Employees' Performance. In another PM article from 2017, the focus is on how to get the most from employee performance, including how to give good feedback.  

How to Engineer Public-Employee Engagement. A 2017 blog post that focuses on how to improve employee engagement, including three tips to actively engage your workforce.  


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