Measuring and evaluating employee performance is tough enough, but when you add the complexity of managing a mobile workforce when face time is limited, you need to be particularly aware of pitfalls. Old-school methods of meeting with employees once a year to critique 12 months of performance may actually create ill will and cause turnover. An ideal performance review process is exactly that--a process, says Santa Cruz, California based human resources consultant Cindy Ventrice, author of Make Their Day: Employee Recognition That Works, 2nd edition (Berrett-Koehler, 2009).

Here are four components to making your reviews more effective:

  1. Review throughout the year. Well-managed companies are increasingly moving to more frequent, less formal reviews, Ventrice says. Managers may even meet with employees quarterly to review progress and challenges. In addition, business owners and managers should make it a point to check in even more regularly-;weekly, at least-;to give feedback. Ask questions to get feedback from your employees.

“The review setting shouldn’t be the first time the employee is hearing about a problem,” notes Ventrice. “When employees feel blindsided, that’s when they become disengaged and you’re more at risk of losing them.”

  1. Make it a conversation. The review shouldn’t be a one-way street. Employees should feel comfortable sharing their challenges and triumphs, too, Ventrice says. Make it clear that you welcome feedback and you want to hear his or her point of view, as well.
  2. Share the positives, too. When you’re trying to develop employees, it’s important to reinforce behavior you want to develop, so look for areas of success and be sure to mention those, as well, Ventrice says. No one feels good about sitting in a room and hearing everything he or she has done wrong for the past several months.
  3. Make a plan. The performance review should include some goals and steps to accomplish by the next review. This might include sales goals, on-time records, or customer satisfaction metrics or it may be more along the lines of employee development. Determine the ways that your employees can be developed into better workers for your company, and find ways to help them get there, adds Ventrice.