Alas, it’s almost time for mid-year reviews: time to evaluate employees’ progress and figure out how they can improve and become more valuable assets to the organization. <Cringe.> It can be a difficult and awkward conversation all the way around, with the manager pointing out what needs fixing and the employee acknowledging all of his or her imperfections. According to Gallup, though, this process puts three of its 12 Elements of Engagement into play, including “There is someone at work who encourages my development;” “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress;” and “This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.” Obviously the review process doesn’t have to live up to its typically negative connotation: it can truly be an opportunity for the employee to develop a bond with the company he or she works for.

Everyone has “areas of opportunity,” but this can be interpreted a couple of different ways. What first comes to mind are the things people aren’t naturally good at, skill sets they weren’t born with, or maybe subjects they don’t enjoy. While they can take classes, attend conferences and seminars, or read a billion blogs and whitepapers, they’ll probably never excel in those areas, creating an uphill battle. The thing is, though, that it’s easier for a manger to behave reactively by finding an area where the employee falls behind in the metrics and say, “This is what you need to do better. We’ll use this as a training objective for the quarter,” which can discourage and, therefore, disengage the employee.

On the other hand, everyone has “areas of opportunity” for which they have a natural propensity and unique skill sets to contribute. If managers keep the subject positive and proactive (What are some of the things this employee does, or has the potential to do, better than most? What can he or she add to this company that we really want to focus on and help develop?), that’s where engagement is built. The acknowledgement of ability, particularly one that’s important enough to the organization that they want to help cultivate it, builds employee confidence and happiness. Why not use positive motivation by highlighting and building upon the existing traits, rather than trying to force the proverbial square peg into its round hole or create something out of nothing?

Now there are a variety of ways to determine which elements of an employee’s skill set would most benefit your company – assessment tools of all kinds, metrics met to be modified, etc. – but the important part is using the review and individual goal-setting process to engage and retain employees. If you develop goals that leave them feeling like they’re swimming upstream, they’re far more likely to grow disenchanted, resulting in lower productivity, etc. If the goals make them feel unique and valuable, they’ll be both happier and more productive.


Author: Rachel Harris