Writing Performance Reviews the SMART Way: Webinar Notes

Writing Performance Reviews the SMART Way


Resource Speakers (00:24)

  • Natasha Terk

    • Owner and Managing Director, Adcom Designs
    • Manages development of new systems, processes, and guidelines
    • 14 years of experience providing consulting work in HR, conducting workshops and webinars, and written books;


Performance Reviews (04:59)

  • How are performance reviews helpful?

    • Avoid performance issues before it becomes serious
    • Recommendation to HR and other decision makers

      • Training
      • Promotion
      • Succession Planning
      • Salary Appraisal
      • Disciplinary Action
    • Feedback

      • Feedback on what's expected
      • What they do well/improve on?
      • How are they informed about resources?
    • Participation in job-related decisions
  • Challenges to Performance Reviews

    • Takes a long time
    • I get really emotional
    • Balancing negative with positive
    • Remembering what happens in a performance cycle
  • Remember

    • Performance Reviews are Ongoing

      • Feedback isn't given only at the time of the review
      • There shouldn’t be surprises
      • Ongoing conversations and feedback is necessary
      • Formal review is only the summary
    • Improving Through Feedback

      • Valuable to receive structure, specific feedback
      • View performance reviews as sports coaching through specific feedback
    • Make time to do it right
    • Stay out of legal trouble

      • Appropriate
      • Review will travel with that employee
    • Help HR and managers make good decisions

      • Keep your audience in mind (HR and other managers)
  • Common Problems with Performance Documentation (11:31)

    • Vague
    • Incomplete
    • Based on opinions and assumptions

      • Facts and observations
      • Examples


Performance Reviews Writing (13:01)

  • Benefits

    • This is a transferable skill
    • Applies to all other documents you write
  • Objectives

    • State the criteria for acceptable performance documentation and write objectives that meet the criteria
    • Identify documentation that meets/fails to meet these criteria
    • Use clear, specific, objective terms to describe performance
    • Support your conclusions, ratings, recommendations, and actions with
    • descriptions and examples


Writing Performance Objectives and Standards (16:15)

  • Tips for Writing Objectives

    • Focus on the results, not the activities
    • Begin with an action verb
    • Make the SMART / SMARTER

      • Specific
      • Measurable
      • Achievable
      • Relevant/Rewarding
      • Time Specific
      • Evaluate – evaluating progress
      • Redefine – adjusting along the way
    • Examples made SMART

      • “Judy will need to show an improvement in her leadership.”

        • SMART: During the performance period, Judy will spend at least 30 minutes preparing for team meetings so that she can participate fully in the conversation. Her silence during the weekly calls has been perceived as apathy by her team reports.
      • “Bill will need to improve his attitude”

        • SMART: In the next three months, Bill will need to find more constructive, positive ways to communicate. When Bill’s peers offer suggestions at the weekly team meeting, Bill is the first to list all of the problems with the new idea, while rarely offering suggestions or additions to improve the idea. For example, Bill pointed out all the problems with the new software rollout without offering any alternatives or workarounds. Bill can continue to address potential problems with new ideas, but he will also be expected to take time to research possible solutions to the problems he’s inherited.
      • “Improve your e-mail responses to customers.”

        • SMART: Listen and respond to feedback about your customer e-mails, and rewrite them when you’re asked to. During the performance period, attend at least one writing skills class.
      • “Run more productive meetings.”

        • SMART: Develop and distribute an agenda at least three days before the meeting, and make sure that the meeting follows the agenda.
      • “Be more punctual.”

        • SMART: Unless an emergency prevents you from doing so, be at your station ready to work by 8:30 each morning, with no more than two exceptions each quarter.
      • “Delegate more responsibility to team members.”

        • Tom’s team should be completing the audit reports, with Tom doing a final review only. Tom should be visiting audit markets only if there is a serious problem. In the next six months, Tom must stop completing the detail work on reports and must shift to a final review role. He should also limit his visits to markets, allowing his team to complete that work.
  • Why Include Measurements?

    • Objectives made SMART by adding measurements

      • Reduce labor costs

        • Labor line item reduction of 4 percent
      • Improve labor efficiency

        • Select, purchase, and install high-speed ovens in 100 percent of restaurants
      • Lower costs

        • Realize a product cost savings of $400 per month per restaurant
      • Submit reports in a timely manner

        • Submit reports within three days.
      • Improve the expense reimbursement process

        • Reduce the payment cycle from ten to six days
      • Reduce the office supply bill

        • By February, reduce the monthly office supply bill from $20,000 to $17,000
  • Steps to Write Performance Objectives (25:50)
  • Steps:

    • State the Expectation
    • Ask Questions

      • By how many/how much?
      • How do we know success is achieved?
      • Who’s involved?
      • How often?
      • What’s Expected?
    • Answer the Questions
    • Use the information from Step 3 to write a performance objective
  • Examples

    • General expectation: A smooth rollout of the new program

      • Specific objectives:

        • Test the time-tracking program for full accessibility and functionality
        • Develop an online manual and FAQ page that show employees were to enter their names; the names of the client projects they work on; the time spent on each project; and time spent on general administration, holiday and vacation time, doctors' appointments, etc.
        • Send out company-wide communications and launch the time-tracking system
      • What is the measurement?

        • By the end of next month, there should be at least 160 hours of data for each employee
      • What is the time frame?

        • By April 30th
      • Your performance objective:

        • On April 30th, run a report from the time-tracking system that shows how much time each consultant spent on each client project, general administration, etc.
    • General expectation: Make job sites safe”

      • Specific objectives:

        • Follow the report guidelines to write and distribute a report for all incidents within four working days
        • See that John has developed, scheduled, and delivered monthly safety training for all on-site workers
        • Develop and manage safety awards program
      • What is the measurement?

        • Reduce job site accidents by 10 percent
      • What is the time frame?

        • Reduce job-site accidents by 10 percent by January 1st
      • Your performance objective:

        • Reduce the number of job-site injuries by 10 percent by January 1st by distributing accident reports, hosting monthly training, and developing a safety awards program.


Criteria for Acceptable Performance Documentation (28:15)

  • An acceptable documentation should:

    • Describes behavior, performance, and results
    • Explains, illustrates, and supports the evaluator’s conclusions
    • Documents agreements and expectations
    • Tells employees clearly what they are doing well and what they need to improve
    • Documents learning plans or other expectations for growth
  • Examples

    • Henry is always respectful towards supervisors as well as other members of the police department. He rarely has anything negative to say about others and maintains a pleasant disposition. I ranked him still above average but one point lower in Communication/Interpersonal skills (8 to 7).

      • Henry is always respectful towards supervisors as well as other members of the police department. He rarely has anything negative to say about others and maintains a pleasant disposition. I ranked him still above average but one point lower in Communication/Interpersonal skills (8 to 7). While working a very long investigation into a sexual abuse case, he lost his composure while dealing with Alameda County Assistant State's Attorney. The ASA was being given instruction by her supervisor and was relaying that instruction to him. He became agitated with some of the requests being made and directed his frustration at the ASA. He was reprimanded at the time of the incident. I had no other similar issues before this incident and no other issues after.
  • Be an investigative journalist.

    • Keep notes throughout the performance cycle

      • Emails
      • Sticky notes
      • App on the phone
    • Observe and document


Use Descriptive Language (32:53)

  • Objective language describes observations of behavior and/or results.

    • Objective: without opinion

      • Observations of behavior and results
    • Subjective: your opinion, our interpretations

      • Joe says, “A nice day is damp and foggy. I love days like that because they remind me of my childhood in San Francisco.”
      • Terry says, “Oh, come on. A nice day is dry and warm with no clouds—perfect for a hike.”
      • Diana says, “You guys are crazy. A nice day is cool and windy. Just right for sailing.”
  • Examples:

    • Subjective: Last Saturday, it rained for five hours straight and the temperature never rose above 42 degrees.

      • Objective: The weather last Saturday was so bad I could hardly make myself get out of bed.
    • Subjective: Regina’s behavior is very professional.

      • Objective: Regina organizes her work carefully, sets priorities, pays attention to important details, and asks appropriate questions.
    • Subjective: Mary is lazy and doesn’t like answering the telephone.

      • Objective: Five out of seven times, Mary waited for someone else to answer the phone.
    • Subjective: Susan wastes time.

      • Objective: Susan spends at least 30 minutes a day making personal calls.
    • Subjective: Martina is very dedicated to her job.

      • Objective:  Martina came into the office three Saturdays in a row to complete an important project so the client would have it on time.
    • Subjective: Fred is an excellent report writer.

      • Objective: Fred is an excellent report writer. His reports reflect his knowledge of criminal law and the necessary elements of various offenses. He applied the feedback I gave him; his reports are written with the anticipation of court proceedings in the future. Only one time (March) did his report require anything more than minimal corrections. His reports have been submitted within three days (on time).
    • Subjective: Jane has been in the Marketing Department for six months. When she joined the department she did pretty well. She brought in some new ideas and worked really hard. Then when her ideas weren’t immediately adopted she developed a bad attitude. Her behavior in client meetings is sometimes embarrassing. She clearly doesn’t support the mission of the department and I don’t think she believes in our products.
    • Subjective: Shana is disorganized.

      • Shana’s drawings did not include elevations or a materials list.
  • Benefits:

    • Clearly stated observations help employees improve
    • Providing a clear sense of what’s needed and what isn’t acceptable.
    • Helping employees prioritize their opportunities for improvement.
    • Ensuring that supervisors’ goals align with employees’ goals for themselves.
    • Helping employees determine where and how to seek the skills they need to improve their performance.
    • Ensuring that employees know what the skill looks like when it is achieved.


Explaining and Supporting Evaluations and Decisions (39:59)

  • Should be based on facts – not impressions, assumptions, or opinions

    • Opinion: Rishi’s social skills make him a great service  representative.

      • Observation: At least six customers have said they like to be waited on by Rishi because he is always friendly and takes the time to answer their questions thoroughly.


Writing Descriptions That Are Specific and Complete (40:46)

  • A description is useful only if the details it includes are specific and complete.
  • A description tells readers the following:

    • The behavior you observed
    • What the employee said
    • What others say
    • The results of work performed

      • Quantifying the results is done by going back to the objectives.
  • Examples

    • Incomplete and vague: The tennis match between two well-known players lasted a long time. Two sets had to be decided by tiebreakers. The final score was very close.

      • Specific and complete: The tennis match between Venus and Serena Williams lasted for three and a half hours. The first and third sets had to be decided by tiebreakers. Serena finally won, 7–6, 4–6, 7–6.
    • Incomplete and vague: Detective Smith is the consummate team player.
    • Incomplete and vague: The officer demonstrates a proficiency in successfully de-escalating and managing conflicts when dealing with difficult individuals or when called to mediate disturbances and disputes.
  • Questions to answer/Information to supply?

    • How long?
    • How many?
    • Where?
    • How often?
    • When?
    • Who?


Recap (46:03)

  • Set SMART objectives
  • Make sure you write clear, descriptive, objective, and acceptable documentation
  • Support recommendations and evaluations with specifics
Additional Resources
8 months ago
Writing Performance Reviews the SMART Way
Regardless of the industry or the niche of your business, organization, or agency, Performance Re […]
10 months ago
How to Conduct SMART Performance Reviews: An Interview with Natasha Terk
The end of the year can have a lot of significance: the holidays. A time for reflection and setti […]
Join the Justice Clearinghouse Community of over 41,923 Justice Practitioners!

Join the Justice Clearinghouse Community of over 41,923 Justice Practitioners!

3-5 times per week we will send you updates on free upcoming webinars, custom created infographics and interviews with our presenters

You have Successfully Subscribed!