5 Ways to Engage with Your Performance Evaluation Beyond an Annual Review

Part of MSU’s appeal as a residential, land-grant institution is our vast array of programs, specializations and priorities — not just for students, but for staff and faculty. This diversity makes us great, and it also requires a need for case-by-case definitions of success and achievement from unit to unit, and from person to person.

All of us working during the pandemic have experienced disruption in our duties and routines and have been required to redefine our roles, goals and accomplishments. The disruptions have occurred in many forms: unplanned shifts in personal and family needs and routines, workforce changes and university realignments, a radically updated and still unpredictable professional and social landscape. Your resilience, adaptability and growth during these times, and always, is remarkable and worthy of recognition.

One way to ensure you, your supervisor and the university are recognizing and recording your efforts is to tell your story through the Performance Excellence (PE) process. When many of us in non-supervisory, support staff roles discuss PE at MSU, we’re thinking of a supervisor-led annual review. In reality, PE encompasses an ongoing cycle of:

  1. Performance Planning — Goal Setting and Development Planning
  2. Continuous Feedback, Coaching and Development
  3. Annual Review — Collaborative Meeting with Employee and Supervisor Contributions

Below are suggestions for ways to engage as an employee in the PE process and tell your story with confidence.

1) Set SMART, HARD Goals and Find Ways to Measure Them

On one hand, we know each employee’s experience and accomplishments extend well beyond quantitative data and one review each year. On the other hand, we also know that specific measurements — especially those backed by accurate, numerical data — are a powerful and widely-accepted way to determine success.

One way to ensure the full picture of your story is told during the PE process is to take the lead when it comes to your own goal setting and measurement. Setting SMART, HARD goals is a great place to start. Consider the following:

  • Your personal goals
  • The goals of your department/unit goals
  • Organization-wide goals/university strategic plan

Goals are not something that should be determined solely by a supervisor and then assigned and evaluated once a year during your review discussion or performance planning session. Generating and adapting goals throughout the year is a collaborative process and one way you can contribute toward the narrative of your achievements.

Read related article: When SMART Meets HARD: Setting Goals that Matter

2) Track and Document Your Accomplishments

Setting and measuring goals is a great place to start, but tracking and documenting your progress toward these goals is key. Block off some time on your calendar to regularly check results, generate data and document your progress in a way that makes the most sense for you and your role. You know your work, efforts and accomplishments better than anyone else, which makes you the ideal person to collect and report out this information.

Read related article: What’s Your Plan? Six Steps to Align Your Goals with What’s Important to You

3) Schedule Regular Check-ins

In this environment of rapid change, it’s more important than ever to regularly check in with your supervisor to discuss progress, review and reevaluate goals, and receive feedback. Regular, continuous coaching allows an opportunity for you to reconnect to your unit’s and the university’s mission and ensure your goals continue to be aligned with this larger vision and objectives.

As a university, we are working to shift the perception of PE from one yearly review to a wider focus on ongoing coaching, feedback and goal setting. There’s no need to wait for your supervisor to schedule a meeting for you to touch base on these topics. You have the option of reaching out to your supervisor and setting up check-ins on a schedule that works for both of you. Even a brief 15-minute check-in can go a long way toward staying on track with goals and sharing the story of your work.

Tips
  • Go to these meetings prepared, with the documented progress and accomplishments mentioned above.
  • Bring questions to help guide the conversation and make the time as useful as possible for both you and your supervisor.

4) Contribute Toward Your Review

Did you know that, as support staff, you have the opportunity to contribute toward all your PE discussions and submit documentation to include along with your official review forms?

Review documentation imaged and kept on file with central HR includes your reviews (annual, probationary and interim) and performance improvement plans. You have the option to include a self-review and/or other statements along with your documents on file. In current times, that may be a COVID Impact Statement that outlines how your work has been disrupted during the past year, along with an overview of how you’ve adapted and what you’ve accomplished despite these challenges. On an ongoing basis, this may be a summary that features the data you’ve been tracking throughout the year to share specific achievements and outcomes.

Tips
  • Keep it brief. Unless documenting extraordinary circumstances, a 1–2-page document will be impactful and share the story of your performance. Due to system storage limitations, submitting a large quantity of documents with your review could possibly lead to some documents being excluded from imaging.
  • Reference any additional documents on the official PE forms. Include a statement within the “Employee’s comments” section of the Annual Review to “See attached ______” (e.g., self-review, list of achievements) and indicate the number of additional documents. This helps central HR know an employee wishes for those documents to be imaged alongside their review.

5) Utilize Your Resources

HR’s Organization and Professional Development (OPD) department offers online PE resources and documents geared toward both employees and supervisors that can help guide and support you in all components of the PE process. OPD is in the process of reworking this online content for greater accessibility, inclusivity and usefulness for all support staff, and we look forward to sharing these changes with you later this year.

Additional, recommended resources are listed below. Your MAU’s HR representative, central HR and OPD, and your union representatives are all available to work with you and help you share your story should you need specific guidance or assistance at any point during the PE cycle.

Recommended Resources

Performance Excellence Resources for Employees

PE Tips and Tools for Employees

Navigating Difficult Conversations in Performance Excellence for Employees (30-minute elevateU virtual course)

Adapting Your Goal-Driven Approach During Times of Change (blog post)

Common Work-Related Goals with Resources to Help You Achieve Them (blog post)

Saving Time by Setting Goals (24-minute elevateU virtual course)

Gaining a Positive Perspective on Feedback (30-minute elevateU virtual course)

OPD Courses for Employees

Leadership Blog Series: Performance Excellence During Periods of Uncertainty and Transition

Written by MSU HR Organization and Professional Development

Whether your department plans to continue remote work, switch to a hybrid model, or bring everyone back to campus ASAP, Performance Excellence discussions likely have a different feel this year. The reality is that Performance Excellence—annual, probationary, and interim reviews, performance planning and goal setting—is very much needed despite all the recent and upcoming transitions and unknowns. Here are some tips to help you stay on track with these important discussions regardless of how and where the conversations take place.

Keep with it

Do not postpone coaching, feedback, 1-on-1 sessions, or performance reviews during this time. Our instinct may be to put off these conversations until things are “back to normal.” However, the opposite is true. Due to the highly unusual year we’ve all experienced, it’s imperative to connect with employees right now. Even in times of crisis, people still want to know that their long-term growth and success haven’t been forgotten.

Now’s an ideal time to revisit goals and keep the focus on the future. Identify opportunities, quickly communicate changes to your staff, and prepare them for potential pivots. Don’t ignore performance issues or delay accountability conversations. It’s as important as ever to address these matters as soon as possible. Put in the work now to help avoid larger issues in the future.

Establish, re-evaluate and reiterate criteria for success

Amid so many changes, consider establishing new definitions of success. Think short-term, well-defined, and task-based. Take a goal-based approach to performance measurement that focuses on clearly defined expectations and standards—for example, SMART and HARD goals or objectives and key results (OKRs)—to allow for a more flexible or task-based approach where metrics don’t exist or can be deceiving.

This is especially important when evaluating teams working from home. It is critical for those teams to focus on clearly defined outcomes and performance indicators (e.g., metrics, goals, deliverables). Don’t mistake activity and participation—such as emails, meetings, or hours on a timesheet—for high-quality, productive performance outcomes. Clear, established goals provide a straightforward way for both the supervisor and employee to truly gauge success.

Shift your perspective

As some employees remain remote and others return to the office, it’s important to re-tool our ability to read performance. Put effort into deciphering the increasingly blurry line between work and life. As one manager put it, it’s necessary to now “balance the need for flexibility that’s specific and supportive to the individual’s needs with the need to also somehow be equitable to others.” This will require effort on your part with thoughtful consideration of what your employees need as individuals and as a team.

With a few changes to our thinking and approaches, the Performance Excellence components of goal setting, performance planning and measurement can continue to benefit your employees, your team as a whole, and you as a supervisor. Visit the Performance Excellence pages on the HR website to find tips, tools and relevant forms. The Conducting Annual Performance Reviews Remotely page provides additional assistance for working with remote employees.

When SMART Meets HARD: Setting Goals that Matter

Increased engagement. Improved performance. Greater job satisfaction. We can all agree these are desirable states for ourselves, and if we’re supervisors, for our employees as well. Goal setting, when thoughtfully conducted, is a primary way we set up ourselves and others for achievement, innovation and fulfillment. So, how do we create meaningful goals? Goal-setting methodologies like the SMART and HARD frameworks can help.

Setting Goals

At MSU, goals are often established as a component of Performance Excellence, with clear performance goals and objectives identified and communicated at the beginning, as well as throughout, the performance process. Goals identify what is expected and create ways to strive for improvement and growth.

There are two types of goals to consider: performance goals and development goals.

  • Performance goals are typically short-term objectives that could be accomplished in a fiscal year and are related to current position job duties.
  • Development goals are related to a skill or knowledge area that will be strengthened. They might include training or experiences that will help the individual develop further into their role or career.

In other words, performance goals are something you will achieve, and development goals are something you will learn. Whether the goal is related to performance or development, it should support the mission of the university, your department and/or a specific project or program.

Making Goals SMART

To create meaningful goals, one approach is to make the goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

  • Specific: well defined, clear and unambiguous; specifically defining what’s expected to be done/delivered. 
  • Measurable: specific criteria for measuring progress toward accomplishing each established goal.
  • Achievable: requires effort — a stretch — but are not impossible to achieve.
  • Relevant: goals are related to the department’s mission and/or a specific project or program.
  • Timely: the time frame is clearly defined or progress toward achievement is tracked at regular intervals.

For example, an initial goal to Complete report on time could be reworked as a SMART goal by adding an action verb and specific details. The goal then becomes Complete finance report, without errors, by COB on the first Friday of each month. SMART goals follow achievable and realistic guidelines and typically make it easy to demonstrate whether a goal ultimately is reached.

The potential downside? With a primary focus on being realistic and achievable, SMART goals may encourage us to “play it safe” and work within set limitations, which can feel counterproductive and uninspiring in the current culture of innovation and boldness.

Beyond SMART: HARD

If you or your employees find yourself lacking motivation when using SMART goals, try creating goals that are HARD: Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult.

  • Heartfelt: achieving the goal will enrich the lives of others (e.g., customers, the community); attachment can be formed to the goal on a deep, meaningful level.
  • Animated:vivid picture is created of how it will feel when the goal is achieved; the results and impact of the goal can be visualized, and a strong emotional connection is established.
  • Required: a sense of urgency is present, and we want to take action right away; the goals are necessary to help our organization.
  • Difficult: new skills must be learned, and we’re challenged to stretch beyond our comfort zones for success.

The potential downside? Setting HARD goals typically cannot be done with the speed and simplicity of creating SMART goals, leading to a greater time and energy investment.

Creating Goals that Matter

If you find the goals you set are not leading to the results you want, try utilizing the SMART or HARD frameworks or, even better, apply elements from both to create goals that drive and engage fully. Creating “stretch” goals makes our objectives vital to the university and allows us to drive innovation and boldness. Whether you prefer SMART or HARD, strive to create goals that don’t just look good on paper but leap off the page to truly inspire.

Sources:

MSU Human Resources. Goal Setting Tips. Retrieved August 15, 2020 from https://hr.msu.edu/ua/performanceexcellence/tools-goalsetting.html

Murphy, M. Are SMART Goals Dumb? Retrieved August 18, 2020 from https://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/35353793-are-smart-goals-dumb

New Supervisor Resources

Whether you’re new to a supervisory role or an established supervisor who would like to sharpen your skills, there are many resources available to help. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Become Familiar with Your Responsibilities within Performance Excellence

As you become familiar with your responsibilities for employee goal setting and annual performance reviews, start by going through the online supervisor content regarding the Performance Excellence process. Then, take the 35-minute MSU Performance Excellence Supervisor Course in elevateU and visit the Related Learning section, which includes short videos and challenges on topics such as goal setting and difficult conversations.

Utilize the MSU HR Website

Check out the Administrators and Supervisors area of the HR website, with a particular focus on the toolkits and processes sections. Here, you’ll find information that supervisors need to know about benefits, leaves, hiring, and more. Also, be aware of Support Staff Rules Governing Personal Conduct of Employees.

Familiarize Yourself with Union Contracts

Be sure to read through the union contracts of the people you supervise.

Take Advantage of elevateU Online Learning

Explore the free courses, videos, and books in elevateU designed for new managers.

Visit the HR Source Blog

Read the series of timely leadership blog articles that have been published over the past few months.

Explore the Perspectives of MSU’s Executive Team

Check out President Stanley’s website, as well as podcasts and Spartan Fireside Chats with various MSU executives to better understand the university.

If you find you have additional questions or needs as you continue your professional development as a supervisor, reach out to MSU HR’s Organization and Professional Development department at prodev@hr.msu.edu or 517-355-0183.

Performance Excellence Resources

Do you have a Performance Excellence annual review and/or planning meeting coming up soon? Performance Excellence is a collaborative process between MSU support staff and their supervisors that ensures employees are continually developing their skills to contribute to the success of the university. Employees should be meeting regularly with their supervisors to discuss their Performance Excellence development plan and goals for the year. This encourages everyone to stay engaged and allows goals to be adjusted if needed. Whether you are an employee or supervisor, we have resources to help you get the most out of the Performance Excellence process.

Conducting Annual Performance Reviews During Remote Work

Many MSU employees are working remotely during this unprecedented public health situation and the following guidance should help supervisors continue to conduct annual performance reviews. If you are unsure whether you should be conducting annual performance reviews, please contact your HR representative.

Virtual Annual Performance Review Guidance

Steps to Complete the Review

  1. Follow the usual steps to prepare for the Annual Performance Review discussion and the Performance Planning for the next performance cycle. Find tips to prepare here.
  2. Follow your unit’s defined process for performance reviews. Complete all internal unit requirements and procedures as directed.
  3. Provide a copy of the completed review form to the employee prior to the meeting. We recommend sharing the form with the employee in advance of the meeting by email, so they have time to prepare for and fully engage in the discussion. At a minimum, share your screen during the virtual meeting so your employee can see the completed review form.
  4. Hold the Annual Review meeting using remote collaboration tools. Find tips to prepare here and tips to conduct the meeting while working remotely below:
    1. Conduct the review using video chat options to allow for a more personal connection with your employee. MSU has great collaboration tools available.
  5. Complete the Performance Planning Form for the following performance cycle. Find tips to prepare here.
  6. Schedule regularly occurring times for ongoing coaching and feedback throughout the next performance cycle.

Find Tips and Tools on the HR Website

Find additional tips and resources for conducting and completing the Annual Performance Review during this period of remote work on the HR website. There is a wealth of information available about Performance Excellence on the HR website including:

  • Detailed info about the process
  • Required training
  • Learning opportunities to help meet performance goals
  • Related forms
  • Tips and tools for success

Visit the Performance Excellence webpage and then select whether you’re looking for resources for employees or supervisors.

Questions? Contact the HR Solutions Center at SolutionsCenter@hr.msu.edu or 517-353-4434.

New Year, New Professional Development Courses!

Do you have any goals for 2020? Chances are if you do, they are likely centered around self-improvement. One way to enhance your work experience and get the most out of this year professionally is to take professional development courses! Find courses through Organization and Professional Development (OPD) to help you reach your personal and professional development goals.

Upcoming Courses:

Creating and Sustaining a Positive Workplace – Wednesday, February 5

Turnover, stress-related illness, and disengagement are signs of a problematic workplace and according to the most recent Gallup polls, nearly 70% of employees are unhappy or disengaged at work. This course provides humorous insight into the seven habits of negativity, including tips to stop gossip, techniques for getting along with others, and strategies to reap the many benefits of a positive and engaged workforce.

From Distracted to Productive – Wednesday, February 5

Email. Interruptions. Project transitions. Office clutter. Social and other media. Text messages. Even family and friends. These seven “distractors” sometimes make it almost impossible to get anything done. But with some forethought and effective strategies, as well as some personal discipline, it is more than possible to find your focus once again, even in a hyper-distracted world. Learn “game plan” ideas for getting and keeping your distractors under control and finding critical “focused productivity” time each day, leading to improved performance as well as clarity of mind and purpose.

Managing Meetings – Wednesday, February 12

With company resources tighter than ever, and staff and management busier than ever, frivolous meetings are simply not an option. Yet they continue to occur more often than ever. And too many unproductive, wasteful meetings create a major drag on staff morale and motivation, thus affecting productivity, turnover, and the corporate “bottom line”. If you are the organizer or leader of meetings, you simply cannot afford to look unprofessional when you are “on stage” in a competitive or political environment. Use this program to better plan, lead, and follow through on your meetings and enhance team productivity, coordination, and cohesion.

Crucial Conversations – Wednesday, February 12 and Thursday, February 13

By learning how to speak and be heard (and encouraging others to do the same), you’ll begin to surface the best ideas, make the highest-quality decisions, and then act on your decisions with unity and commitment. Learn step by step tools for promoting an open, honest dialogue around high-stakes, emotional, or risky topics—at all levels of your organization.

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership – Wednesday, February 19

A strong leader ignites motivation and unleashes productivity creating an environment in which individuals want to “follow.” A person with high emotional intelligence has mastered self-management and interpersonal dynamics. Combine the two and the result is an emotionally intelligent leader!

Honing Your Emotional Intelligence – Wednesday, February 19

Isn’t it interesting how some people have a seemingly natural talent for handling themselves and/or others with ease? It is an amazing feat considering our high stress, multi-tasking, spread-too-thin world today. Most likely, these individuals have mastered the principles found within Emotional Intelligence. The essence of Emotional Intelligence is our ability to identify and manage our own emotions and our ability to identify emotions in others and manage interpersonal relationships.

Crucial Accountability – Wednesday, February 19 and Thursday, February 20

This two-day course teaches a step-by-step process for enhancing accountability, improving performance and ensuring execution. A combination of role-playing and interactive scenarios allows participants to practice how to talk about violated expectations in a way that solves problems, improves relationships and improves team and organizational effectiveness.

You can find all the current OPD courses on the HR website. Sign-up through the EBS Portal. Questions? Contact HR Solutions Center at SolutionsCenter@hr.msu.edu or 517-353-4434.

Performance Excellence Resources

Do you have a Performance Excellence annual review and/or planning meeting coming up soon? Performance Excellence is a collaborative process between MSU support staff and their supervisors that ensures employees are continually developing their skills to contribute to the success of the university. Employees should be meeting regularly with their supervisors to discuss their Performance Excellence development plan and goals for the year. This encourages everyone to stay engaged and allows goals to be adjusted if needed. Whether you are an employee or supervisor, we have resources to help you get the most out of the Performance Excellence process.

Find Tips and Tools on the HR Website

There is a wealth of information available about Performance Excellence on the HR website including:

  • Detailed info about the process
  • Required training
  • Learning opportunities to help meet performance goals
  • Related forms
  • Tips and tools for success

Visit the Performance Excellence webpage and then select whether you’re looking for resources for employees or supervisors.

Professional Development Courses

Are you looking for resources to help you build skills in certain areas? Organization and Professional Development (OPD) offers a variety of instructor-led courses to help you reach performance goals. Find courses on how to thrive through change, manage difficult customers, or identify and maximize your strengths, among many others! Find a list of all current OPD courses here.

Supervisors can also find courses to help them navigate the Performance Excellence process, including this upcoming course:

And remember, eligible employees have access to Educational Assistance for any course registration fees.

Online Resources through elevateU

No time to attend an in-person course? No problem! elevateU is a free online learning platform available 24/7 for MSU employees with courses, books and videos to assist with skill building. Resources cover a variety of topics and you can print off a learning transcript to show your supervisor a list of resources you’ve completed. Learn more and access elevateU here.

Questions? Contact the HR Solutions Center at SolutionsCenter@hr.msu.edu or 517-353-4434.