Performance reviews are naturally difficult, and when you add numbered scales, they can become more so. Many employees will come to you asking why they got a high score in one area of their performance review and low scores in others, even though they have been working hard to improve. While this may indicate a lack of communication during the review process, it may also be an indication that it’s time to revamp your performance review system for better all-around results and less employee dissatisfaction.

Why the Rating System Matters

Your performance rating system is in place to keep your organization moving forward. It’s not there to punish employees or to put managers in awkward positions, but to help everyone stay on the same page as the company pursues its business goals. Framing performance review periods this way can help everyone involved get on board with an existing system or with the introduction a new one.

If your company is overrun with dissatisfied employees after the review period, or employees and management fail to learn anything from the routine, then it may be time to change the rating system. A great rating system and review process allows you to capitalize on the intelligence at your disposal, place employees in positions that play to their strengths, and encourage all levels of producers to do a little bit better in the next review. With the right rating system driving the process, your company may enjoy more benefits from reviews than you ever thought would be possible.

Finding the Right Rating System

Rating systems are not one-size-fits-all, and every company needs to determine the criteria that will make the biggest difference for employee performance. If, at the end of a review period, most of your employees, including managers, feel the process is unhelpful for reaching strategic goals, use these tips to find the right system:

  • Set goals: A performance review needs to do more than generally assess a person’s skillset. It needs to focus on a strategic company goal and how the individual’s behaviors and skills can help the company reach those goals. The rating and review process should also help an employee recognize his or her own strengths and weaknesses in reference to the big picture. Without goals, ratings and reviews are arbitrary. The right rating system will assess the criteria your company needs most to reach strategic goals.
  • Allows for specific measurement: Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, including your top performer and your weakest employee. If you can’t identify which skills and behaviors are strengths and weaknesses for each employee, matching each individual with the right workload is difficult. Make sure your rating system allows you to rate employees easily on a scale for categories including decision-making, initiative, creativity, and technical skills.
  • Recognize performance while addressing areas of concerns: A system that lets you specifically measure important criteria will also let you give praise and feedback during a performance review. Check that standards for the rating system allow managers to grant some top scores. A rating system should never include everyone at the top score or prevent anyone from achieving a top score.
  • Enable managers to connect scores with real-world examples easily: For a performance review to offer real benefit to the company, it should focus on real examples of employee behavior and not the generalized or subjective opinions of a manager.

Encourage managers to keep performance logs throughout the performance period, and make sure your rating system allows for the easy connection between real-world examples and ratings. A manager should be able to explain fully and adequately why an employee earned a certain score under a category.

If your current system doesn’t do any of these things, look for one that does. With the right approach to performance reviews, you can minimize poor or negative feedback while empowering employees. Find comprehensive template systems that allow your managers to easily assess individual categories of performance and combine them into a cohesive report for the review session.

Encouraging Employees Who Score Low

Every company should understand some employees will naturally rise to the top while others will work hard and fall shy of the benchmarks. Some may not try, leaving management in a particularly difficult situation. However, when their scores discourage employees, their managers, supervisors, and peers have a great opportunity to act as leaders and lift up team members after such performance reviews. Energize and promote productivity in low performers with these tips:

  • Have the meeting in a non-threatening location: For instance, having a review over lunch or while having coffee may take the pressure off an employee and a manager, making the overall meeting more productive.
  • Identify the reason for low performance: There could be myriad reasons for poor performance in the workplace. Some employees may struggle with health and wellness more than others will and some simply won’t catch on as quickly. Remember that it takes all kinds of people to run an organization, and anyone willing to put in the effort has something to offer. Identify strengths and place chronic poor performers in areas where they will have a better chance of success.
  • Use questions to your advantage: Instead of telling a discouraged worker to get things done, frame the request as a question. This type of communication empowers an employee to tell you if they aren’t feeling up to the task or if they can get it done sooner. It earns respect and still achieves the same goal.
  • Use good psychology tools: In many ways, managers are therapists. They have a disconnected and somewhat authoritative role, but they can easily slip into a friend or taskmaster role and lose their leadership clout. Instead of minimizing pain or correcting employees when they talk about their feelings, validate them and then move on. This is an encouraging way to communicate with employees and anyone else in life.

For more information about rating systems that will improve your review processes, sign up for the Effective Performance Reviews eBook.

Move to a Descriptive Performance Review Rating System

Performance reviews can be a difficult process for both employees and managers. Employees may feel dissatisfied with the review, even if they have been working hard to improve in areas that were rated low. In order to avoid this problem, it’s important for managers to reevaluate their performance review system once every year or two. One way you can do this is by changing your scale from numbers (1-5) to descriptive words (excellent, good, satisfactory). This will help maintain more positive morale among your employees and ensure that everyone feels like they are making progress on their goals!

Revamp your Performance Review System now!

In order to minimize employee dissatisfaction, it’s best not only to communicate well during the process but also make sure you’re using an effective framework for reviews. One way of doing this is by changing what each number stands for in a traditional rating scheme—instead of assigning fours all around, assign them descriptively:

  • excellent = exceeds expectations
  • good = meets expectations
  • satisfactory = meets minimally

Revamping the performance review rating system can help employees understand the rating system and become more satisfied with the results. This is a subtle change but will hopefully make it easier for employees to see where they need more work and feel like they are on the right track with their performance reviews.

In order to ensure that everyone has an equal shot at doing well in your company’s review process, follow these tips for revamping your system so you can focus less time on employee dissatisfaction!

Make sure there’s room for growth and development across all of the levels; that way no one feels left behind or as if they aren’t progressing. A descriptive performance review rating system provides you more flexibility in rating your staff.

When giving constructive criticism, focus your comments around what they could have done differently. Providing specific and actionable feedback will help someone improve in their job.

Lastly, consider providing a more holistic review process that includes feedback from other employees. You can ask this person to write their own comments about the employee for you, and then make sure they also have input on how the individual is doing in future reviews. This will help keep the performance conversation going beyond just one time per year!

The new system can make it so everyone knows where they stand within your organization, which means no one feels left behind or as if they are not progressing at all. The company’s guidelines for constructive criticism provides more flexibility when giving my critique of someone else’s work.