2018 is in full swing, so — woo hoo! — you don’t have to think about writing those dreaded performance reviews for a whole year. If that’s your attitude (and it’s a common one), it’s the exact wrong approach to take.

Performance reviews aren’t just something to make your HR department happy. They are supposed to be documents that guide you through the next year as well as assessing the past. So let’s pull them out and go over them again.

Did You Set Goals for 2018?

Goal setting for the coming year should be part of the annual performance appraisal, but if you didn’t do that, no worries. You can do it now. Look at what you graded your employees on last year and use that as a guide to set goals for this year.

The goals should be similar for people in similar positions. Most companies want you to rate your employees on whether they are performing at, above or below expectations, and that means that generally you should have the same expectations for employees in the same kinds of roles.

You can also set unique goals for each person, depending on what areas that person needs to work on. For instance, for someone who has problems being on time, you can set a punctuality goal. For someone who needs to work on her customer service skills, you can set a goal to track higher customer satisfaction through direct feedback or surveys.

Meet One-on-One with Your Employees

Sit down with each person individually and go over her goals (or set them together in the meeting, if need be). How is she doing? What support does she need? What feedback can you give her? Feedback should specifically address the goals. If the company’s needs have changed or the employee’s role has evolved, by all means amend her goals for the year. Don’t stick with goals that no longer make sense.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Meet regularly with your employees to go over their progress towards their goals, hopefully at least once a month. As you track their progress, you’ll find out that they make greater strides with regular accountability. You can spot problems before they get too big, and you can redirect behavior when necessary.

By holding these regular check-ins, your employees will know exactly what you expect and how they are doing. They will start focusing on the goals that you feel are top priorities for them personally, as well as for the company. Overall, you can expect to have a great year.

And one of the best things about this approach is that next year’s performance review will practically write itself. Use your notes from your regular meetings to put it together. Your formal year-end meeting with your employees will be a piece of cake as well. Why? Because there will be no surprises. Everyone knows precisely what you expect and how they have been doing.

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.