Turn Annual Reviews into Employee Collaborations

Cris Willis

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Associates’ reviews are one of the most overlooked tools retailers can use to create a superstar team in their business with a customer-centered selling culture.

click here to download your employee collaboration guide

Why you should have reviews more than once a year

Many retailers only do reviews when giving raises and do not see the importance of a well-structured review process. Having a formal employee evaluation/planning process is an integral part of the coaching process. It is common for businesses to do these reviews annually, but is that too long of a time period? Can a manager really look back over an entire year, or is that review based more on the associate’s performance for the past three months or so.

Upgrade your annual reviews into employee collaborations

Here is a new model for you to consider:

Have “Collaborations” with each associate 3 to 4 times a year.

Cambridge Dictionary defines Collaboration as “the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing.”

Isn’t that what you want to do? Retail store owners, managers, and associates work together to create and achieve a profitable, successful, customer-centered sales business.

Think of this more as a quarterly planning session with each associate.

9 steps to successful collaborations with your associates

1. Set a schedule that works for you and your business timetable.

Choose to meet with each associate for approx. 20 minutes every 3 or 4 months.

2. Develop your Collaboration Evaluation Form.  

This should start with the job description and the areas of their job that are the most important to your business. Use a well-defined performance rating system for each question to avoid any confusion. 

You can use a rating system: Rating from 1 – 5

5 – Outstanding, consistently exceeds expectations

4 – Very Good, exceeds expectations some of the time

3 – Meets Expectations, meets required standards

2 – Needs Improvement, does not consistently meet required expectations

1 – Unsatisfactory, needs immediate and dramatic improvement

Leave space to write comments about the employee’s performance by each question. The owner/manager and the associate should write specific objective observations and events to back up the rating given

click here to download your employee collaboration guide

3. Schedule your time with each associate. 

 Have them fill out the Collaboration Evaluation Form and give it to you at least a day before your scheduled meeting.

4. Fill out your Collaboration Evaluation Form for each associate before ever looking at the one they filled out for themselves.

5. Compare your answers to their answers 

Make notes of areas where you agree and don’t agree. From those notes, you will cover the associate’s high points and the areas that can be worked on in the upcoming time period before the next Collaboration.

6. During the meeting, discuss the ratings with the most discrepancy and collaborate to adjust the owners/managers rating if the owner/manager deems.

7. Have the associate collaborate with you to set a goal(s) for the upcoming period before the next Collaboration. 

Work together to create an action plan for achieving the goals you have set.

8. Write the goals and action plan on the Collaboration form and total all of the ratings for the overall performance rating.

9. Give the associate a copy of the Collaboration with goals and action plan. 

Keep a copy for the owner/manager to put in the personnel file and for reference to help the associate keep working on their goals.

Focus on short term goals

Having at least 3 Collaborations with each associate through the year will keep you engaged with your employees, help you monitor their progress, keep them focused on achieving short-term goals, and engaged in their work. 

Employees who feel connected to their organization and understand their purpose and job responsibilities work harder, stay longer and motivate others to do the same.

By having multiple meetings throughout the year, your associates will always be aware that their progress is being measured. Remember the adage, “Everybody’s job is nobody’s job.” That will not be the case for you anymore. Everyone will know what is expected of them and what their goals are. Whatever you measure and focus on will increase.

Remember: If you can measure it, you can manage it, and if you can manage it, you can increase it.

This does require more work for the owner and/or managers, but it is worth it. If you want a superstar team focused on your goals and purpose and want to be more profitable, you need to spend more time proactively building the team. Instead, most owners are too busy putting out fires and being reactive and feel they do not have time for this coaching.  

For more information on coaching ideas, read:  Hiring and Training Successful Associates.

Annual Performance Reviews are a relic and are not effective at improving performance. Your associates are your greatest asset. Invest your time in them, and it will pay off for you in the long run.

“Train people well enough so they can leavetreat them well enough, so they don’t want to.”

                                            – Richard Branson


Cris Willis

Cris is a business coach for independent retailers. With 25 years of experience owning and operating a family business, she now guides retail owners to make smarter decisions regarding inventory management, marketing, sales training, product assortment, and more. When not at work, she loves to travel the country with her husband in their motorhome.

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