Pasadena Star News: Performance reviews don’t have to be one-sided

A Los Angeles-based business and trial consultant and author has some thoughts on how to make the performance review process more productive for both sides. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Many would rank performance reviews right up there with getting a root canal. But Noelle Nelson, a Los Angeles-based business and trial consultant and author, has some thoughts on how to make the process more productive for both sides.

Q: Would it be safe to say that most employees dread performance reviews?

A: For employees, it’s the fear that they are going to be dinged for something they had no clue they were doing wrong. Sometimes employees, even the best of them, just don’t understand what is specifically expected of them. Employees resent it when they think they’re doing just fine only to find out during their annual review that they didn’t meet the expected goals or standards. An employee should never be surprised by a performance review. All along the year, employees should receive regular, frequent, targeted feedback on their work. Feedback is critical to employees’ ability to know what they’ve done right, and what needs improvement.

Q: Do you think most employers put enough thought into these, or do they tend to shoot from the hip with their evaluations simply to get them in on time?

A: Putting together a meaningful performance review for each employee can be a time-consuming process. Some bosses take the task seriously, others don’t want (or have the time) to put in the work to do it right. The bosses who do it right have already been communicating their praises and their concerns to their workers throughout the year. They see a performance review not just as a time to reinforce positive behaviors and discuss possible improvements, but also an opportunity to discuss the employees’ goals and career/job aspirations, to engage with employees on what matters to them.

Q: You have suggested that it makes sense to open up the performance review process to be more of a two-way exchange. How would that work?

A: The boss shouldn’t do all the talking in a performance review. When the feedback is positive, employees can usually just nod their head in agreement. When it’s negative, employees feel they need to defend themselves and the meeting can quickly go downhill. To avoid this, start off the review with a set of questions that can turn the review into a conversation, rather than an indictment. Questions to get the conversation going could include “What have you noticed about your performance this year?” “What do you think went well?” “What would you have liked to have done differently?”

Q: What are the benefits of opening up the process?

A: A review that’s a two-way conversation is more satisfying and more productive to both the employer and the employee. It prompts the employee to think out loud about his or her work ethic, areas to improve and goals for the future. It gives the boss a chance to see where he or she could make changes that would help the employee succeed.

Noelle Nelson is a Los Angeles-based business and trial consultant and the author of “Make More Money By Making Your Employees Happy.”


Employee-Designed Southwest Airlines Uniforms Highlight Company’s Commitment To Its Workers


Southwest Airlines (SWA) recently budgeted an estimated $23 million for new uniforms for its nearly 42,000 employees, but instead of hiring a clothing company to come up with the new design, Southwest went to the source–its employees—to help with the creative process. That sends an unmistakable message to employees that their opinions matter, that what the employees want is important to the company.

Forty-three employees made up the design committee (selected from about 500 applicants). They factored in weather, functionality, comfort and safety. Their designs were met with overwhelmingly positive employee approval. Following testing and adjustments, the new uniforms for flight attendants, gate agents and ramp workers will be ready in 2017.

Southwest likes to say that it values its employees. In this case, it has again shown that it puts its money where its mouth is. That makes all the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. Employer-employee relationships like these set companies apart from their competition.

Southwest Airlines is consistently listed by Glassdoor as one of the best places to work. That should come as no surprise. Most businesses still stubbornly think that squeezing everything they can from their employees will improve profits. That may work in the short term—until employees flee in droves–but it’s not a successful long-term strategy.

Southwest Airlines is also rated as the fourth top performing large carrier in the world, according to Aviation Week. Southwest’s success and profitability is a logical consequence, to a large degree, of how they value their employees. When employees have a stake in a company, studies consistently show that profits follow.

Companies do not need to spend large amounts of money to show employees that they truly matter and are appreciated. Any such effort in that direction will pay off for the employer with greater employee morale and productivity, which naturally lead to greater profits.

For more on the story of how the Southwest Airlines’ uniforms were designed, go to