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How NOT to Conduct a Personal Development Review

Road to personal development reviews.

Per­son­al devel­op­ment is an impor­tant per­for­mance man­age­ment con­sid­er­a­tion. Don’t make these errors and sab­o­tage progress.

The first thing to note is that per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews are not the same as per­for­mance man­age­ment reviews. While we rec­om­mend that man­agers and employ­ees hold fre­quent, light-touch month­ly per­for­mance reviews and incor­po­rate a per­son­al devel­op­ment dis­cus­sion with­in those check-ins, some com­pa­nies choose to hold a sep­a­rate per­son­al devel­op­ment review.

How­ev­er you choose to hold them, per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty to iden­ti­fy learn­ing and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties. They also pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty to review progress and plan for future devel­op­ment. What’s more, they pro­vide a frame­work for man­agers and employ­ees to open­ly dis­cuss their role, depart­ment and career ambi­tions. Con­ver­sa­tions on top­ics like these are crit­i­cal to the morale and over­all engage­ment lev­els with­in an organ­i­sa­tion, which can make the dif­fer­ence between retain­ing a top per­former or hav­ing them jump ship for a competitor.

As a man­ag­er, you need to ded­i­cate time to per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews and do more than sim­ply pay them lip ser­vice. If employ­ees sense that you aren’t tru­ly com­mit­ted to these reviews, they will see them as a box-tick­ing exer­cise and a gen­er­al waste of time. Done right, though, and they can be a valu­able per­for­mance man­age­ment tool.

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You will end up sab­o­tag­ing your per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews with your employ­ees if:

1. You aren’t enthu­si­as­tic about per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews

Employ­ees pick up on the atti­tudes of their man­agers dur­ing meet­ings. Every­one in your work­force needs to know that you are invest­ed in them and their devel­op­ment. If you are half-heart­ed, keep look­ing at your watch dur­ing the per­for­mance devel­op­ment reviews, or if you aren’t show­ing any enthu­si­asm, your apa­thy will shine through. Ulti­mate­ly, your employ­ees won’t care about these meet­ings either and the whole process will result in wast­ed time and a frus­trat­ed team.

If you feel unen­thu­si­as­tic about per­son­al devel­op­ment dis­cus­sions, it might be because you are unaware of how valu­able per­son­al devel­op­ment objec­tives can be to an employ­ee and their moti­va­tion. Take the time to adapt the process to make it all the more pro­duc­tive and effi­cient for you and your employ­ees. In time, you will be reward­ed with engaged, deter­mined employ­ees who are eager­ly work­ing on improv­ing their skills and fur­ther­ing the business.

2. You don’t give them the time and atten­tion they deserve

As with any per­for­mance man­age­ment tool, for per­for­mance devel­op­ment reviews to be tru­ly effec­tive, you need to give them appro­pri­ate lev­els of time and atten­tion. Plan your meet­ings in advance, choose a qui­et room where you won’t be inter­rupt­ed and set aside enough time to dis­cuss employ­ee con­cerns and needs. The meet­ings shouldn’t feel rushed; the employ­ee needs to know that they are the focus of the one-on-one discussion.

To sched­ule and organ­ise your per­for­mance devel­op­ment reviews, we rec­om­mend you use top per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware, such as our own Clear Review soft­ware, which will help you allo­cate time and send out alerts.

3. You are unre­cep­tive to employ­ee feedback

As with your reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions, your per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews should be a two-way street. As well as cov­er­ing ways in which your employ­ee can advance and improve, such meet­ings should also be an oppor­tu­ni­ty for employ­ees to give feed­back on how the organ­i­sa­tion as a whole is doing and how process­es can be improved to facil­i­tate and stream­line development.

It is essen­tial that you, as a man­ag­er, are open to this feed­back. If your employ­ees feel that you don’t pro­vide appro­pri­ate time for them to devel­op in par­tic­u­lar areas, let them know that you will address this con­cern. If your employ­ees feel that a par­tic­u­lar train­ing scheme isn’t advanced or infor­ma­tive enough, take steps to rem­e­dy and improve the sit­u­a­tion. This will show your employ­ees that they are being heard and they are a val­ued mem­ber of the team who is help­ing to improve the com­pa­ny as a whole.

4. You spring sur­pris­es on your employ­ees that weren’t men­tioned dur­ing one-on-ones

As men­tioned above, we at Clear Review rec­om­mend reg­u­lar month­ly check-ins to cov­er SMART objec­tives, press­ing con­cerns and per­son­al, team and organ­i­sa­tion­al pri­or­i­ties (for fur­ther infor­ma­tion, see our blog post: 7 Items for Dis­cus­sion Dur­ing Per­for­mance Con­ver­sa­tions)

If you choose to hold sep­a­rate per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews, there shouldn’t be any sur­pris­es for your employ­ees in these meet­ings. If they have been under-per­form­ing, this should have been addressed dur­ing your reg­u­lar one-on-ones and steps should have already been put in place to rem­e­dy this sit­u­a­tion. If you hold back dur­ing your fre­quent check-ins and spring sur­pris­es on your employ­ees dur­ing their per­son­al devel­op­ment review, this will lead to frus­tra­tion and, ulti­mate­ly, dis­trust in you as a manager.

5. You don’t give your employ­ees space to talk

Try not to dom­i­nate the meet­ing. This should be a time for your employ­ees to open up and dis­cuss devel­op­ment objec­tives and oppor­tu­ni­ties that are on their minds. If your com­pa­ny doesn’t utilise reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions, employ­ees might be rigid and uncom­mu­nica­tive at first, but in time, employ­ees will begin to devel­op famil­iar­i­ty with their man­agers, as well as the con­fi­dence to speak their minds. Don’t accom­mo­date sin­gle-word respons­es to ques­tions. Don’t cut employ­ees off and always ask them to elab­o­rate on their respons­es. In time, this will encour­age trans­paren­cy and authen­tic­i­ty in the workplace.

Clear Review is an online con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware sys­tem that improves employ­ee per­for­mance and facil­i­tates year-round per­for­mance and devel­op­ment dis­cus­sions. Our soft­ware helps com­pa­nies like Harper­Collins, Perk­box and Aston Vil­la Foot­ball Club improve pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and stream­line com­mu­ni­ca­tion. To find out what we can do for your busi­ness, get in touch with Clear Review today.