Performance Review Time Again

I have written blogs and articles in the past on ways to better handle performance reviews by spending a few minutes each month throughout the year.  These techniques result in less time spent completing performance reviews at year-end when time is already in short supply and better evaluation of your staff’s performance throughout the year.  After people read these articles at the end of the year I get questions from people asking – OK, I’ll use your techniques next year, but what do I do this year when I didn’t spend a few minutes regularly throughout the year?  I still have a performance review to finish and I want to do a better job this year as well as next year. Over the years, I’ve come up with three suggestions for this plea for help.

One – One of the most common failures in annual performance reviews is that the reviewer focuses only on the work performed most recently instead of throughout the year.  In order to overcome this bias, perform a search on your email for emails sent to you or copied to you from the staff member.  If you are like most CPAs you probably don’t delete any email for a long time (the legal and retention issues of this is a topic for another time), so there is a treasure trove of information in your email files.  Once you’ve done the search, sort the emails in date order and select a few from each month for a quick review.  This should give you a great idea of what your staff member did over the past year.  It will also help you remember if that work went well or there were issues.

Two – If you use a time reporting or project reporting system in your business, run a report on what the staff member did over the past year.  This is a great way to see where you staff member spent their time.  Were those projects a success?  Did customers or the business benefit from that work?  Even if you don’t have a formal time reporting system, maybe you can do a search in your calendar and see the project meetings you had with the staff member.  Once again this will help you remember not only the work performed, but your lasting impression of how the staff member performed in doing that work.

Three – Have your staff member write-up their accomplishments for the year and use that as a base for beginning your evaluation.  I often get protests on this last one because people say you are asking the staff member to grade themselves.  That is true for some people, but I also find that members of our profession can be very hard graders, even on themselves.  When I have used this technique myself I have had to talk to staff about how significant their accomplishments were for the year just as often as I have had to ask a staff member if their accomplishments were really as important as they were making them out to be in their write-up.

So if its performance review time and once again you are grasping for help because you didn’t keep up with the evaluation all year-long, try these three techniques out and see if they help.

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