Three Tips to Effective Local Government Performance Reviews

Written by Jonathan Wiersma

It’s time for the performance review to start. Your hands are sweating. You look at your notes nervously and clear your throat for the third time in as many minutes. You’re so anxious—yet you’re not even the one being evaluated. As a human resource manager, your role is to share the feedback gathered during the employee’s performance review process, so why are you so anxious?

What’s driving your nerves is the burden of the delivery. How should you present the feedback to your employee in a way that is constructive, and motivating? Every performance review should indicate room for improvement. After all, the only way to improve is to identify opportunities and set goals for achievement. Yet you always worry that even discussing such opportunities will deflate your employees. When it comes to truly negative comments, you’re even more apprehensive about the way to position the feedback.

If you’re worried about how to deliver positive, negative, and constructive feedback in your employee performance reviews, we’ve got three tips for leading performance reviews that will leave your employees feeling motivated, and reengaged in helping to meet the goals of your community.

Tip # 1: Start with the Baseline Expectations

You should be evaluating your employees using the performance profile created when they were hired. Unlike job descriptions, performance profiles set an expectation not for the tasks that the employee will be expected to perform, but the results they will be expected to achieve. Using the employee’s performance profile as your baseline, walk through the expectations of their role in their department, and use quantitative and qualitative feedback to offer an evaluation of their performance.

For example, if the manager of your parks and recreation department is expected to plan and execute eight community education events per year, as outlined in his performance profile, but he only executed five, and two were not well attended, ask what obstacles he faced achieving this goal, and what ideas he has to meet the goal next year.

For instances where the employee met, or even exceeded expectations, be sure to praise him accordingly, and lead a collaborative discussion for how he can continue to excel in his areas of strength.

Civic Tip: If you’re using job descriptions today that can’t be tied to a performance review, click here to learn how to turn your job descriptions into performance profiles.

Tip # 2 Be Specific and Give Examples

An important aspect of a performance evaluation lies in the intangibles: an employee’s demeanor, his organizational skills, how well he gives direction, etc. These elements can be some of the most difficult to discuss because they often feel like a critique on someone’s personality.

The best way to effectively lead a strategic and impactful discussion regarding the intangibles is to be specific and give examples. Rather than saying, “You’re often late,” say, “You were late to five of the year’s twelve leadership meetings. The beginning of the meeting is when we approve the minutes from last week and discuss the day’s agenda. It’s important for you to be there and be part of this discussion. We’re going to need you to make a stronger effort to be punctual to these, and other meetings, moving forward.”

This isn’t easy feedback to give, but by giving specific examples and offering a reason for the critique, your employee will be better able to understand your perspective and should respond without immediate defensiveness.

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Tip # 3 Set Actionable Goals for the Future

The most important aspect of your performance reviews is for your employees to leave them feeling like they know what to focus on over the next twelve months. Have a collaborative discussion with your employee where you discuss actionable and obtainable goals for the coming year. Ideally, the goals should align with your overall community’s goals so that your employee understands the impact that he/she has in your administration.

For example, if one of your goals is to enhance your citizen communications, a goal for your manager of communications may be to research, select, and implement, a mass notification system before the end of the following year. Remember that each goal needs to have a defined outcome and deadline (e.g., implement the software by the end of the next year).

To help you and your employee track the progress of your mutually agreed upon goals, use a human resource performance management software that allows employees to track their skill development goals throughout the year. Doing so will ensure their goals remain top of mind, and a primary focus. When employees can track their progress, they’re more likely to achieve—and even exceed—their goals, which will make for a positive performance review, with no surprises, the next year.

To learn more about how to optimize your employee performance management workflows, click here to read our previous blog.