Is that resolution on your list for 2019? This goal is more achievable than you may think. Most managers and many employees do not fondly anticipate performance evaluations; for many managers, the process is painful and time consuming. It is not easy to deliver criticism to colleagues with whom you work on a daily basis, knowing that as soon as the evaluation is concluded, you will continue to work together. For employees receiving the review, some feel uncomfortable being under scrutiny, even if the feedback is praise and congratulations for a job well done. Far too often, this important tool for feedback becomes a brief exercise in checking the box when a review could be a much more meaningful opportunity for positive dialogue.

Tips to Make Evaluations Easier

1. Every manager is a mentor; every supervised employee is your mentee.

If you follow that belief, then your goal as a manager is to continually motivate and help guide your mentee to achieve his/her goals and advance in his/her career. When the focus is on helping mentor your employee, then the messages you give are focused on accomplishments and how to achieve those goals. If the employee isn’t moving at the needed pace, ask what tools or assistance can help him/her speed progress. It’s easier to ask someone with whom you work how you can help them become more successful while recognizing that he or she isn’t fully achieving goals than to simply say, “You aren’t working hard enough” or “You keep missing deadlines.”

In 2019, send each of your subordinates a personal email about their progress towards goals at least once a month (more if you can but at least monthly). These check-in emails, containing both recognition for progress and areas for improvement, can be saved to a folder so you have some background in making your year-end evaluations over time, not just the most recent events in the months immediately before evaluations are drafted. Set up a calendar reminder if that helps you. The emails don’t need to be lengthy, but the more targeted and specific your questions, your offers of assistance, and your observations of any challenges you have seen the employee face, the better you will be able to offer guidance and coaching. Plus, at year end, you have a consistent record of the employee’s performance over time and your positive efforts to be a good mentor. You also have the benefit of nurturing your relationship with your mentee which should help promote higher engagement and performance. Personal touches and attention do matter; for some employees, this may matter more than other employee benefits and costs only your time.

2. It’s easier to offer constructive criticism in the moment when paired with an offer of assistance.

You see one of your subordinates struggling, whether it is in time management, interpersonal conflicts or other workplace challenges. It’s easier for you as a manager to address these issues if you also can offer suggestions or assistance to address the underlying issues that may cause these problems. In this way, you are not just recognizing a problem exists, but you also are offering your subordinate tools to help him or her address those problems. If the employee rejects your offers of assistance, then you have a record of the offer and the rejection, which is especially helpful if the employee’s struggles continue without improvement. If the employee accepts your assistance, then she has become part of the solution and, hopefully, sees that you as her manager want her to be successful. Opening up a relationship to giving and receiving constructive criticism isn’t easy, but these email/text/personal visit exchanges can help nurture a relationship where these exchanges are easier.

At year-end review time, you now have a record of challenges faced and either overcome, or not met, along with the offer of assistance so the employee has some clear, personal accountability for not meeting those challenges. The performance evaluation is merely a recap of an active supervisory relationship over time so you don’t have to first raise concerns during a review- you are evaluating actions over time. Having and keeping these regular communications will make preparing the performance evaluations easier and will reflect a more even timeline of performance over the year.

3. Don’t wait until the evaluation to give feedback.

As a manager, you can send short emails checking in on action items, general progress towards goals and specific observations in the moment. Each email is proof that you are paying attention and that you care about your mentee/subordinate and his day-to-day work. If you give regular feedback during the year, even if it’s a quick email/text/note during the year, it is less difficult to remind the same employee of these same issues in a performance review. Regular communications during the year make year-end performance evaluations easier. Giving regular feedback also helps you provide course correction in the moment if you learn your mentee isn’t achieving the milestones established or is having difficulty with a specific project or customer. Giving regular feedback also ensures employees can’t stay below the radar. If you check in on how work is progressing on a regular basis, and there are undisclosed problems which aren’t shared with you, the employee has no excuse for failing to inform you of issues in the face of your very inquiry about his work and progress. You are more likely to get notice of issues before they become larger, more difficult-to-solve problems.

Using the above tips will help make performance evaluations easier for you. If you’ve regularly sent short emails, you will have a digital file at the ready to draw upon in preparing your review. You also won’t have that awkward feeling of raising performance concerns if you’ve regularly mentioned concerns and offered assistance to address those performance concerns. You will have a record of communications and the employee’s responses to use in preparing the evaluation so your evaluations have specific examples instead of generalities. Your review can focus on achievements in light of those concerns and continual steps toward further career success. Having this history of the past year’s challenges and achievements leaves you with more time to focus on the year to come and the goals to be set as you and your mentee move forward.