My current approach to performance reviews goes back 11 years, when standard forms from HR just really didn't do the job! I met with the entire Creative Services team and had an hour-and-a-half pizza lunch and brainstorming session on "how do you want to be reviewed?" After 90 minutes full of great dialogue and some passionate debates, we were able to come to a unanimous decision on four areas of what I defined as accountabilities:

  • Innovation/Creative Management
  • Project/Budget Management
  • Productivity
  • Teamwork

These became the cornerstone for our reviews that I then sold our HR group on back then, and they are still in place today. The HR group felt they were business-oriented, as well as connected to company and employee development strategies. A key element was that I had buy-in from all of the Art Directors, Designers and the Photographer as well--a true win-win!

Then about three years ago along came Coaching for Success--a new, very corporate performance review process that was implemented with all new forms to fill out and all sorts of rules, etc. I had to embrace this change and engage with our HR partners to help us work within this new performance review process. My ultimate goal was to fine-tune it to be relevant for the creative people like I had done before.

Because as we all know, and you have to remind HR occasionally, creatives have unique skill sets requiring you to truly develop an effective performance review to meet both the designer's development and the company's objectives. This was actually a very easy fix; a section on the new forms called Key Objectives was easily switched with our original accountabilities. I believe that the long-standing relationship with HR helped this transition go smoothly. So even though the process was all new, it was familiar to all of the creative staff, and there was a virtually seamless transition with both them and HR.

In closing, use your HR group as a strategic partner; they are there to accomplish the exact same thing you are: having great people working for the organization. I will state the obvious: PEOPLE do the work, not processes or review forms. The most valuable asset we have is the people! They all have, and some more than others, ambitions, goals, strengths and weaknesses. The goal of a good performance review is to help channel and mentor them to achieve their ambitions and goals, improve on weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths. Having a review process and format that supports this is critical to your team and its members' success.