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How to Ace Performance Reviews as a Project Manager

One thing you will learn during the course of your training for project managers is that the role is an incredibly varied one. The workload will vary significantly from one project to another.

Not only that, but it will also be different from one industry to the next.

There are however a number of constants – those tasks that you will be expected to deliver regardless of the rest of the details of the project.

One of these tasks is that as the project manager you will be expected to conduct performance reviews or, as they are sometimes referred to, appraisals. You may need to deliver these to all of the members of the team.

Unfortunately, not everyone is receptive to a performance review. Many of your team may see them as an unnecessary waste of time that takes them away from their work on the project.

However, they really are an incredible part of the work/team process. You may also find some resistance to review as some team members can simply be less receptive to feedback than others, particularly when there have been problems.

If you have only recently gained your project management qualifications then there is a good chance that whilst you might have sat through your own appraisal, you may not yet have conducted any in the capacity of project manager.

Whether this is the case, or you are looking to improve your performance review techniques here is our guide to help you ace the process.

Start With the Basics

When it comes to motivating and managing a project team the task can be a hard one. It can be really tempting to just get on with the work on the project – checking that everything is going as it should be and keeping the lines of communication with both your stakeholders and the members of your team open whilst leaving things like notes for appraisals to the last minute.

This isn’t a great idea. It is not the best way in which you can deliver or indeed accept feedback, and if you leave your note-making until the last minute then there is every possibility that you may well forget to include something that you really wanted to mention.

Building appraisal notes is in fact an ongoing task that should be done throughout the year.

Creating a computerized record of your notes for each member of the team right at the very beginning of the project means that you will have somewhere to add any notes quickly and easily about anything that you feel should be appropriate to the review.

This will allow you to have a full set of very comprehensive notes in front of you when you sit down with each team member.

The things that you will want to be recording include:

  • Things that have gone particularly well
  • Things that are worthy of singling out for praise
  • Things that could have gone better
  • Times when the team member in question has adopted a different approach to the issue at hand
  • Times when there was simply a lot more work that could have been undertaken

When Should You Conduct Your Reviews?

As part of your role, it is not enough to simply keep the notes that you will need for the appraisals. You will also need to determine the best time for conducting your reviews.

There are a number of different factors that you will want to consider in this matter.

The first is that many companies have a preferred process of schedule when it comes to their performance reviews. This is often planned to coincide with the time of year when they will be looking at their budget reviews.

Performance review data is frequently used to decide which employees have gone above and beyond during the last year and are therefore deserving of a raise, in addition to any in line with inflation rises an employer may be looking at.

In some companies, it may also be used to determine annual bonus payments. Those employees who have performed better during the year could attract a better bonus than those who perhaps haven’t really pulled their weight.

Check if there is such a policy in place within the company and if it is then obviously you will have a timescale for carrying out your performance reviews

If, however, there is no particular policy in place that dictates when reviews take place, just that they are done at some point during the year then you can use this flexibility to work out when will be the most convenient time for you.

If you do have flexibility over when your performance reviews should take place, then there are a couple of times that you would be wise to avoid. These times are any particularly high-volume work season and any pinch points

These are times when adding performance reviews to both your own schedule and that of the members of your team could cause unnecessary workplace pressure.

The process involved in conducting a performance review can be both demanding and intense, and there will be plenty of detailed preparation required in advance to help with the whole process, adding all of this to a time when you have a higher volume of work could have a detrimental effect on the motivation of your team.

Other Things to Consider

Once you have your notes and have set the times and dates for your performance reviews there are a few more things to consider if you want to ace the entire process.

  • Leave plenty of time between reviews – even the best-laid plans, as any project manager should know, can overrun so leave yourself a buffer between reviews to allow for this.
  • Keep things factual
  • Keep things professional – sometimes some of the things you need to say may be hard for your team members to hear, remember to keep your attitude professional if they react badly
  • Allow the reviewee time to ask any questions during the review, there may be something that they are concerned about and want to know how they can work on improving it in the future

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