Following Through After the Performance Review

Last Updated Apr 29, 2009 10:25 AM EDT

Probably safe to say that both managers and their reports are uncomfortable at performance review time. Sure reviews are an essential tool for improving (and rewarding) performance, but they are uncomfortable for any number of reasons, beginning with the forced formality.

So it's no wonder we all breathe a sigh of relief when the discussion ends. Time to get back to work!

Um, not so fast, says Cynthia M. Phoel. In her Harvard Business Publishing post Feedback that Works, Phoel argues that the end of the review is not the end of the job. Managers must follow through on changes identified with the employee.

"Your employees' ability to make that leap requires ongoing support," she writes. "Thus, follow-through is vital. Ask, 'Now what are the next steps you will take, and how can I support your progress?' Plan to meet again in a month."
I would add that the follow-up meeting isn't just for gauging progress, but also to provide your staffer an opportunity to respond with new thoughts or suggestions realized in the intervening 30 days. I suggest setting the follow-up meeting before the review takes place, so that all parties understand it will be part of the process.

Are formal follow-ups a routine part of your review procedure? Do they work?

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.