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puts meat in motivation

A new review process
puts meat in motivation

(First Person is a new column featuring local businesspeople relating, in their own words, experiences and lessons that have shaped their company’s development. The goal is to inspire and inform others through first-person accounts.)
Most firms understand the importance of motivating their employees, improving their productivity and job satisfaction, and assisting them with their career path. In many cases, this is attempted via a performance review, by supervisors who are untrained and uncomfortable in talking about a person’s performance.
Unfortunately, a performance review often involves reviewing a person’s shortcomings and mistakes, many of which happened months earlier. I vaguely remember my own performance reviews, which I agonized over for weeks before they actually occurred. Fear and nervousness so overwhelmed the review that I never did remember much of what was discussed. Like others, I much preferred a trip to the dentist over my annual performance review, which usually occurred just prior to raises. Who wants to talk candidly about mistakes or shortcomings–or accept responsibility for such–knowing that this will be the last thing our supervisors remember before they determine salary increases or promotions?
As our firm grew, we recognized the importance of motivating and coaching our employees so they would feel successful and satisfied with their work. However, a performance review didn’t fit our style, and didn’t have the positive and long-lasting effect we were looking for. Our employees know what we think of their performance, since this is discussed on a regular basis, through frequent encounters and as issues arise. Why rehash this?
We therefore decided to initiate a goals and objectives (G&O) review to identify each employee’s personal desires and goals, and compare them with the goals and direction of our firm. A G&O review specifically provides us an opportunity to discuss with each employee his or her career goals and paths, how they can be implemented, and what we need to do to support and encourage them. The review also allows us to determine the satisfaction each person receives from his or her job. This is important because we believe our employees’ perception of personal success is directly linked to the continuity, reputation and growth of our firm.
We much prefer this approach to employee reviews, because we have the opportunity to support rather than criticize performance, and the process is not linked to performance. These reviews also have the positive and long-lasting effect of improving performance through mutual goal setting.
Before the reviews are scheduled, we ask for the following information:
What is your job description? (Most employees provided a very detailed description, much more than we would have otherwise prepared. We were also amazed as to the amount and variety of tasks that were performed!)
What skills do you need, or want, to improve your job performance? What tools–such as library references, computer hardware or software, etc.–do you need?
What can we do to improve your job satisfaction, performance and efficiency, and to increase your contribution to our firm?
What are your career goals and objectives? Do you want to advance to a higher position, move into a different position? Take courses? Improve your writing, communication or management skills, etc.?
Describe what you would like to accomplish in your career path within the next year. Set specific goals that can be attained this year, so we can help you work toward them.
Are there any other ways we can support you, help you achieve your goals and improve your contribution to the company?
When do you feel your next review is appropriate?
The response to this review process has been overwhelming. We were amazed as to the outpouring of honest and frank comments we received, each of which was discussed in detail during the review. The process allowed us to personally be involved in each person’s career goals, and, more importantly, for each person to know that we cared about him or her and would help to implement and reach those goals. At the end of each review, employees were asked to make a list of their one-year goals, which we both use on an ongoing basis for scheduling purposes and to review progress made throughout the year.
During these reviews, we also received many suggestions on how to improve company performance and efficiency. An extensive list was made and prioritized, and most of the suggestions have been successfully implemented.
Some suggestions were easy to achieve, such as starting a seminar bulletin board, installing a file server, ordering a fireproof safe for diskettes, having an internal “get-started” meeting for larger projects and standardizing plotter fonts. Other suggestions were more time-consuming, such as implementing an in-house computer-training program.
We are a better firm as a result of the exchange of information and the changes that were suggested and implemented.
Since we started the G&O review we have noticed a big change in our company. Communication has greatly improved and employees seem to be much more aware about their contributions to our team. We now look forward to the possibilities that lie ahead, rather than looking back at what has already taken place.
(Claire Fisher is president of Fisher Associates P.C., a civil- and environmental-engineering firm with offices in Clyde and Rochester. The form used for the G&O review can be obtained by calling her at 315-923-7787.
If you have a story to tell, fax a brief synopsis (no more than a page) to Associate Editor Christina LeBeau at 546-3398, or e-mail it to RBJournal@aol.com.)

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