museums&MORE Summer 2011
A Three-Step Guide to Employee Reviews

Introducing & Managing Employee Reviews with No Extra Budget

Small retailers have so much on their to-do list that it appears to never end. The list goes on and on and on without an end in sight. Between monthly inventory, weekly goals and daily tasks, retailers are pressed for time. Let’s not forget the strict budgets we face each month. Throw in the challenges of employee management and your to-do list nearly breaks from the weight. To even think about introducing employee reviews to your to-do list seems unrealistic, time intensive and budget constricting. Or is it?

Setting up an employee review program takes dedication and organization. But beyond that, it’s fairly simple and low in cost – if not entirely free. The rewards can greatly benefit your overall work environment and strengthen employee performance, so the time involved is often equaled by time saved managing employees in day-to-day responsibilities.

The expense you will pay is in time only, with no other costs necessary to introduce an employee review program to your business. It sounds so easy, yet can be confusing for many small retailers without a Human Resources department to support them. However, with an HR team or not, incorporating an employee review program is a must that should sit on top of your to-do list.

Step 1: Introduce Orientations for New Hires and Promoted Associates
In order to effectively give an employee review, associates must feel confident they were educated on how to complete their job responsibilities. The best way to do this is to be routine about training new hires on all their responsibilities while working, as well as give promoted associates training on new tasks they will oversee.

From greeting customers to working the cash register to merchandising product, associates should feel confident that they are supported in their work efforts through proper training. Taking the time to create a list of what your expectations are in your store can help you identify what responsibilities should be explained during new hire and promotion trainings. Trainings should be hands-on in addition to providing employees a written outline. Combining these two methods of learning will cover your bases in ensuring your associates have ample opportunity to ask questions and engage in learning their new tasks.

Once the orientation is complete, it’s important to provide time for your associates to settle into their new roles. This may be two weeks, a month or even longer. Encourage questions and respectfully respond to them so that they feel good about your support as they venture into new roles.

In addition, make sure to have your associate sign off on having completed the training. This sign off is essential in documenting both the training you gave and their participation. While it may not seem necessary now, you never know what chaos can come up later where an employee swears you never “told them so”. Luckily, you’ll have written documents available to say that yes, you did.

Step 2: Provide Feedback in an Organized Meeting
It’s one thing to say “good job” in the middle of an ordinary day. It’s another thing to say “good job” in a planned meeting that was prepared uniquely for an employee to review their performance, goals and other job expectations.

The best way to connect with associates is through a scheduled meeting. This meeting is actually a performance review, also known as an employee review. Held in private without other associates present, this offers a chance for both the employer and employee to converse about how things are going in their current work environment.

Prior to your scheduled meeting, you should highlight both the pros and cons of the associate’s performance. A pro may be that she is pleasant to customers and generates great sales. A con may be that she is often late to work and miscalculates dollars during closing procedures. Your combined list of pros and cons offers the employee a portrayal of how you see her in your store environment. This portrayal typically lingers beyond the meeting and gives associates a reminder that you are constantly taking notes on their performance.

This particular method is supported even more when you incorporate a warning in reference to specific cons identified during a review. The warning should include a follow-up date as to when you plan to discuss it next with the employee, unless, of course, there is a reason to before then. In addition, if the warning does not positively impact your associates, this also gives you reason to terminate an employee if you feel this is the only solution. Two warnings with two failed results could merit termination, but that call is up to you.

While it’s important to give feedback on both the pros and cons of your employees, it’s also important to collect feedback on your store, yourself and your overall work environment. Employee reviews offer a great chance to do this and should be welcomed during reviews. Make sure to let your associates know prior to the review to think of both pros and cons that can help your performance as well as the overall success of your store.

While you are still the boss, you may be surprised to hear that everything is great… except the coffee you offer in the break room. Sometimes you might even gain valuable ideas to incorporate into your store product assortment or marketing. So relax and breathe – your review isn’t meant to poke fingers your way. It’s simply meant to help enhance your overall employee management and store success.

Step 3: Be Timely and Review Reviews
The key to keeping an employee performance program effective is to be consistent in both your training standards and how often you complete reviews. Stay consistent with each employee so that no one is short-changed on learning opportunities or opportunities to grow. Remember to always review previous reviews respective to each employee as time passes, as well as reference previous reviews as you create current pros and cons in their performance evaluations.

Finally, be routine as to how you give reviews and how long your reviews take. Ideally you will complete them bi-annually per each associate and spend about an hour per review. A good baseline is to have reviews begin six months after each associates’ start of hire date, and then continue every six months thereafter.

It may be surprising to you how welcomed an employee review program is, even though it’s often introduced with a stigma that it’s only to share the negative work experiences of each associate. Break this myth by beginning your reviews with all your positives, then gradually easing into the cons per associate.

Try and hold the meetings in a friendly, welcoming environment that is not distracted by other employees. If budget allows, even take your associates out to a local coffee shop to hold the review. The change of scenery and distance from your store just may be the right ingredients you need for your employee review mix.

By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle
Special to Museums & More

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is an experienced retail and wholesale consultant, speaker and writer. She writes a weekly retail column with Crain’s Business and her professional retail blog, Retail Minded. Reyhle resides in Chicago with her family and is dedicated to supporting local, independent businesses.

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