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HUMAN RESOURCES

Thoughtful Performance Reviews

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Connie Swartz, president and CEO of Creative Courseware, has never liked traditional performance review forms. After she founded her Kansas City, Mo., company, which develops customized training curriculums and provides software documentation, Swartz gradually developed her own model for performance reviews. Swartz's model is based around two sets of questions, one for Swartz and one for the employee under review. The questions are designed to start a dialogue between Swartz and the employee -- a dialogue that Swartz finds "more useful" than a traditional review. "What comes out of it is what we need to change," says Swartz, whose company has five employees and racked up nearly $1 million in revenues in 1998.

Swartz's system is probably not for everyone; many entrepreneurs, for example, value having data such as numerical performance rankings on a rating scale, because such ranking can help measure performance and document problems. However, even if you use more traditional performance review forms and are happy with them, Swartz's questions could add an interesting, thought-provoking element to your review system.

Here's what Swartz asks the employee to tell her.

  • What accomplishments are you most proud of, and why?
  • What have you learned this past year?
  • What are the most frustrating things about your job?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
  • What can I (the boss) do to help make your job easier/better?
  • If you were I, what one change would you make in our company?
And here are the questions that the employee gets to ask the boss.
  • During the past year, which of my accomplishments are you most proud of, and why?
  • What do you like best about the way I (the employee) do my job?
  • What are the most frustrating things about how I do my job?
  • If you could change one thing about my job, what would it be?
  • What can I do to help make your job easier/better?
  • What do you feel are my roles and responsibilities, and how do they fit with your vision of where Creative Courseware is going?
Because many of her employees work from their homes, Swartz also uses each review as an occasion to strengthen her relationship with them. The performance review day generally starts at 10 a.m., and Swartz does not schedule anything else that day. The employee gets to choose a place to go for lunch at the company's expense. By making sure to leave plenty of time for conversation and dialogue, Swartz tries to make her performance reviews anything but perfunctory.




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