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Make Employee Performance Reviews Intentional Opportunities, Not Tests

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  1. Annual reviews are not productive if they are used to catalogue an employee's failings. Start positive and move forward.

  2. Our memories are fallible and subjective. If you supervise a leadership team, ask them to keep a journal with a few key performance episodes for team members.

  3. Make sure each staff understand their connection to the overall museum operation and mission.

  4. Ask questions that get at the heart of what they're doing. What works well? What doesn't?

  5. Check your bias--both implicit or explicit--at the door. Imagine how you'd feel if you started your museum day cleaning the restrooms or dealing with toddlers from the local pre-school. Be respectful because your entire staff is important. Performance reviews are something that seem to matter more in the for-profit world where achievement results in bonuses, raises and advancement. In the museum/heritage organization world, where jobs are tight and pay often abysmal, reviews sometimes feel as though they don't have a larger purpose either for employee or employer. Yet we blather on about the importance of mentoring, of networking, of having a career plan, of speaking at conferences. And yet what are performance reviews but the 2.0 of mentoring? They are the opportunity to support staff, to point them in the direction of colleagues and opportunities, to invest in them. And, as we've said so many times in this space, your staff is the heart of your organization. Pay it forward. Hopefully, your gifts will come back tenfold. Joan Baldwin

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