So I know a guy. We'll call him "Guy Montana." Guy got his first “grown up” job a little over a year ago. Yay, right?!?
Maybe. Not so sure.
The company is newer and growing rapidly. There’s a startup vibe and everyone gets along for the most part. They play things pretty fast and loose, so the environment is comfortable and they don’t get bent out of shape over small things. The downfall? They don’t have very many formalized processes; in particular, they don’t have formal job descriptions or performance plans. Mind you, they do have performance reviews...but no performance plan.
So when the time for Guy’s performance review came around, he didn’t know what to expect. No one had ever outlined his primary job duties or what his boss would value the most and critique him on. It would be a reasonable assumption to think that if most of his projects were taken care of swiftly and he just did everything that was thrown at him, he’d be golden - right?
So. Incredibly. Wrong.
Nobody is capable of remembering everything their employees have done even of the course of a month, let alone an entire year. But his boss thought about it for a few days before hand, sat him down, and read off what had come to mind.
Can you imagine how frustrating it would be not to know what your performance would be measured on or which objectives would be most important? And then to receive nothing but criticism about a handful of examples, while the bulk of your proudest accomplishments are overlooked or forgotten?
Guy’s really the only one who could’ve thoroughly documented his progress towards any goal, but he was never afforded that opportunity. If he had known that "Email Campaigns" was one of the biggest objectives of his role, he could’ve tracked subscriber gains and made notes about his progress with the audience throughout the year. Without foreknowledge of this task's weight, he was unaware of the necessity to do so. Hell, he probably would've leaned into those campaigns more instead of just getting them done and moving on to the next "to do." Instead, he simply received criticism about the two most recent campaigns (probably because they were the only ones that came to mind) and that was the end of that point of discussion.
The importance of written goals is well established. Certain performance goals should hold more weight than others to communicate their relative importance. Whether it’s written down and agreed upon or not, everyone works towards high performance. If it's not documented, there are two goals: the supervisor's definition of high performance and the employee's. Could this be the why 79% of HR leaders think they have a retention and engagement problem? To get the most out of employees, defining the goals they should focus on will deliver a clear, concise finishing line. They should participate in the goal tracking process to ensure all relevant events are included in the final review. This is best achieved by agreeing on a framework of performance metrics, and focusing discussion around that framework.