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One on One's: an alternative to Annual Performance Reviews

Is the dreaded annual performance review just around the corner? If both managers and employees are both cringing at the thought of performance review season or if you have no system in place currently maybe it is time to assess your program. Performance reviews can be an excellent tool if done correctly but can be very intimidating if you are a small organization that hasn't implemented any kind of formal review. A great alternative, especially for smaller companies, is one on ones. I have seen when done properly they add tremendous value for recognition, career development, feedback, building trusted relationships between management and peers, and fostering a workplace culture of open communication. As they are less formal than a detailed performance review often times both parties are more comfortable with the approach and can lead to great, value added discussions.

So how do you do one on ones? Below are some tips on how to conduct, if you are interested in learning more, getting some sample questions to get your started, or having a tailored program for your company contact Lakeland HR for more details.

Conducting the meeting:

  • Ensure you take the appropriate amount of time and avoid distractions.

  • Action Listening: this is the most important part and sometimes the hardest for some, you must listen. If this skill is a challenge for you I encourage you to learn more and practise, there are tons of great resources on active and reflective listening which is a key skill for successful managers. Also going in with a cheat sheet with some open ended questions can help. Remember, sometimes a little bit of silence is not a bad thing and can help employees feel more comfortable to open up.

  • Prepare performance data/feedback you would like to review prior to the meeting.

  • Let the employee know what the meeting is so they don't feel blind sided and if they have anything they want to talk to you about they can prepare.

  • Take notes, track and follow up →check in to see how the employee is doing, shows that you care about them and their performance.

  • After the meeting make a couple notes for you to keep to track (use whatever method you would like).

  • Ensure that any follow up or action items are documented and you follow up on them.

  • Choose open ended questions - want some examples? Send Sara an email at to get a couple sample questions to get you started.

You are probably already having conversations with your employees, and it can be easy to progress to adding a bit of structure and follow up with the one on ones system to ensure the important career development and performance feedback conversations are happening. It does not have to be complicated to get great results.

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