This is the third in a series of five AMA Playbook blogs that will help you with your performance management by redefining your company’s expectations of its employees as outlined in your annual performance review template. Modeled after Paul Falcone and Winston Tan’s The Performance Appraisal Tool Kit: Redesigning Your Performance Review Template to Drive Individual and Organizational Change (AMACOM 2013), the definitions below will help you redefine communication expectations in your organization by raising the proverbial performance bar and avoiding grade inflation.
Raising the bar in terms of performance expectations isn’t as hard as most employers think. It’s simply a matter of defining what that particular core competency should look like in your company from this point forward. There’s no better place to start than with your company’s performance review template.
Core, Traditional Descriptors
Sample performance appraisal language seen in various industries define “Communication” along the lines of the following:
Communicates clearly and effectively at all levels. Produces easily understandable reports and presentations. Effectively deals with others, both internally and externally. Respects confidentiality. Provides timely feedback and follow up and manages others’ expectations appropriately.
Looking at this language objectively with a clear set of eyes, you can hopefully see that the expectations above are fairly humdrum and arguably don’t communicate everything your company might hope to elicit in terms of employee performance relative to this critical skill set. If so, then try the descriptors below on for size and see if they might better reflect your organizational expectations . . .
Enhanced Descriptors Reflecting an Organization’s Heightened Expectations
Cultivates a culture of openness in information sharing. Regularly solicits constructive feedback, builds consensus, and asks well thought out and well prepared questions. Encourages open communication, cooperation, and the sharing of knowledge. Remains open-minded and willing to entertain others’ ideas. Builds trust through regular, open, and honest communication.
Demonstrates candor and level headedness in all business dealings. Listens actively and always responds in a respectful tone. Engages appropriately when in disagreement and pushes back respectfully and in a spirit of good faith cooperation. Speaks persuasively and convincingly but is not afraid to say, “I don’t know” and then research an answer. Manages others’ expectations appropriately and proactively communicates any potential problems or roadblocks. Effectively feeds information upward and rarely leaves others flying blind or unaware of important updates.
Regularly looks for common ground and encourages collaboration among team members. Welcomes positive confrontation rather than sweeping things under the rug. Assumes good intentions until proven otherwise and always looks to bring out the best in others. Resolves interpersonal conflict without drama or angst. Builds consensus via shared decision making. Fosters a sense of shared accountability and group responsibility. Celebrates successes and recognizes and appreciates others’ contributions. Confronts problems head on but in a firm and constructive manner. Creates a work environment based on inclusiveness, welcoming others’ suggestions and points of view.
See the difference? As you can see, there are lots of areas to focus on when describing communication because it touches on teamwork, cooperation, and a host of other areas. While no one size will fit all companies or situations, any one of these outlined approaches—taken as a whole or combined in part with others—will help your organization reach its goal of inspiring employees to higher performance and communicating clearly the level of excellence that you demand and expect from your staff members.
Keep an eye out for the following AMA Playbook blog posts coming your way soon that highlight how to set the performance bar higher for these key performance review competencies: Leadership, Teamwork, and Creativity/Innovation. Along with Customer Service, these “Big 5” will round out your performance review template nicely. And of course for other core competency descriptors, look no farther than The Performance Appraisal Tool Kit or Paul Falcone’s bestselling2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews (AMACOM 2005).
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Paul Falcone is a human resources executive in Los Angeles and has held senior-level positions with Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and Time Warner. He is the author of a number of AMACOM and SHRM bestselling books, four of which made SHRM's prestigious "Great 8" list: 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire, 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems, 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees, and 2,600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews. His latest AMACOM book, 75 Ways for Managers to Hire, Develop, and Keep Great Employees, was released in the spring of 2016. Follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulFalconeHR and his website and blog at www.PaulFalconeHR.com.
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