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Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine is the flagship publication of Grain Farmers of Ontario and a source of information for our province’s grain farmers. 

Business side: Performance reviews


Lynn Perry, Human Resources Manager, Integrity Human Resource Services

(L.P.) An effective performance review is an annual meeting to evaluate a paid employee. A review should act as a summation of ongoing performance conversations that happen throughout the year.


Performance reviews should always be based on job descriptions. In fact, most aspects of managing an employee — from recruitment to termination — are tied to job descriptions. A written description of deliverable tasks provides clarity around expectations. It tells the employee what they are being evaluated on and keeps the employer’s evaluation as objective as possible.

360 degree feedback is a method of collecting feedback where a small assortment of questions are offered to those who work with the person being evaluated. It is important that a limited number of focused questions are used. The feedback survey should ask what is going well, what is not going well, what the employee should continue doing, what the employee should stop doing, and why.

I recommend feedback requests be sent out four weeks prior to a performance review meeting. This timeline gives team members two weeks to complete the survey and two weeks for the manager to review the submissions. Employees being reviewed should not be given a copy of the feedback surveys.

In my experience 360 degree feedback is invaluable. But there’s a catch — the feedback cannot be spoken about in an employee’s performance review unless the manager has experienced the concern themself. If the feedback brings forward a concern that the manager has not experienced, it should be used as an indicator of something for the manager to be mindful of and watch for over the next year. In addition, any feedback cited during a review should be done so in a very general way so that the employee does not know who provided it. Not only does this guideline help the employee feel that they are having a true employer-to-employee conversation, it also helps maintain team dynamics and trust.

The Ministry of Labour focuses on bringing concerns forward to employees as well as ensuring work environments are supportive and restorative. Performance reviews should be much the same way in that the discussion should be focused on areas for improvement and goal setting for the future.

Goal setting can be tied to the employee’s areas for improvement as well as to their growth and development. The conversation could include what the farm is willing to do to support the employee’s goals and what steps they need to take on their own. Many businesses operate under constrictive budgets when it comes to employees so the goal setting portion of the review can be helpful to communicate and plan the next year of development opportunities.

Reviews also help link an employee’s everyday tasks to the strategic goals of the business. From a retention perspective, it is really important that employees feel that the work they do contributes to achieving the overall goals. A performance review is the meeting where a manager can explain that because a specific task was completed, the business is more viable in a specific area, for example. Showing employees how they contribute to the bigger picture is especially important to the Millennial generation.

Managers should not use a performance review as a way to avoid a conversation about previous concerns. The best advice I can offer is that an effective review includes no surprises. There should not be anything to be discussed during a review that the employee is unaware of or could not have predicted.

The climate around human resources (HR) is such that if an activity or concern is not documented, it is like it never happened. While managers should be mindful of speaking about a success or concern when they see it, the annual performance review is the time to update documentation. Documentation ensures the employer and employee are on the same page about the results of the evaluation and acts as a reminder of what the next steps are.

A record of the review should include what was discussed and what goals were set and should be signed by both parties. The original copy should be kept in the employer’s file and a copy should be provided to the employee.

When we are learning, it takes us twice as long to do something. HR consultants can be brought on board to make the performance review process move more quickly. We can also help to train managers by equipping them with performance review theory to provide clarity about their role.

It can also help to talk it out. The most common calls I receive from farm managers are requests for advice on how to frame the conversation including what to say and what not to say to employees. Talking through evaluations before they happen can help new managers or those new to performance reviews be more prepared and confident.

Performance management can be an area of liability if not executed with legally defensible best practices. I recommend managers review resources to educate themselves but consult a designated professional when implementing new practices into an existing employee base to ensure all liability is understood. •


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