How to prepare your 10 year old for his annual review

Employee reviews are an annual event in most companies. My company is no different and every year on April 1st, we start the process. We use an approach to reviews that was inspired by the Headhunter Dad's Dad. Each employee, regardless of their role or seniority in the company, is asked the same 3 questions:

  1. What did you do last year?
  2. What will you do next year?
  3. What can your manager do to help?
We have found that this allows us to have more open conversations with each individual about what they personally feel was their contribution. We had previously worked with a questionnaire asking the employee and their manager to rank various areas of their job. For example,
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest rating, how would you rate yourself when it comes to data management and reporting?
Any guesses on the average self-rating from employees? 4.8. Manager ratings tended to average a bit lower. The new approach with open-ended questions has worked well and while we have found it necessary to add a few hints about what to write, even our quietest people have become bolder throughout the process.

So much for the introduction, as I was saying, it is appraisal time now (one of the reasons HeadhunterDad articles have been sparse) and we are just finishing up with 23 of them. As I was writing my own feedback and comments last week for my team, it occurred to me that I was repeating myself again and again with the types of critical comments I made and likewise, had only a few praiseworthy points that were spread among the better performers. Apart from the sales results which are by necessity the biggest part of our reviews, the following came up for more than one employee.

On the positive side I was encouraging about knowledge of the job, flexibility about extending working hours and recognizing the demands of the job, being supportive or cooperative to the team, pace (urgency), maturity, confidence, consistency, energy, and eagerness to learn.

The negative comments were inevitably about being disorganized, narrow-minded thinking, lack of creativity (interesting that I did not praise others with having creativity though...), lack of confidence, coasting after a success, being unwilling to admit ignorance or own their mistakes, ignoring the basics, and not speaking out more often.

I am a strong proponent of "Now, Discover Your Strengths" by Don Clifton. He subscribes to the belief that we are better off focusing on our strengths rather than spending time on our weaknesses. In that same vein, I think we can help our kids more by showing them the way to impress their bosses at work through the positive points mentioned instead of always trying to avoid the negatives. Many employers are likely to overlook a small negative in light of a strong positive. Let's teach our kids to be confident. Help them to understand the value of learning and to develop an attitude of continuous improvement. To invest in whatever job they accept and give it their full effort. These are all attributes that can be learned early and the workplace will not be the only place they are appreciated.

The HeadhunterDad, AKA Lawrence Kieffer, is a professor of career studies at Temple University, Japan campus, the COO for Fidel Consulting an APAC Recruiting and Staffing firm focused on IT professionals, a devoted husband, and father of two amazing kids. Follow on TwitterLinkedin or Facebook.