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In my group of companies, we conduct performance reviews every six months instead of the usual annual review that most companies conduct. I believe in the value of periodically sitting down with each direct report and discussing how they are reaching their goals. Once a year is not enough, in my opinion.

With my performance review process, I can recognize employees for their achievements. I can find out what’s going on in their lives and head off problems before they get out of hand. Frequent performance reviews help me retain employees (which is a lot less expensive than hiring new ones!)

Give Employees Time to Prepare for the Performance Review

Employees have several weeks to prepare for their review and complete a self-evaluation. They get the chance to talk up their accomplishments and rate their own performance. I score them on the same factors and arrive at a composite score that I use to gauge their progress.

Some employees dread the performance review (which is why I have tissues on the table, just in case.) However, many employees welcome the opportunity to revisit their accomplishments, set goals for the future, and find out where they need to improve. Many times, the results from the performance review help me decide on employee raises and promotions.

I believe my employees deserve this review of their progress every six months. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they receive a pay increase every time.

Stamp Out the Entitlement Mindset

raise stampI’ve always said, “when it’s within my power to give, I give.” In fact, before I hire anyone, I make sure we are offering a competitive salary. I’ve also been known to give employee raises and bonuses when all signs in the economy were pointing to “no.” However, I don’t want my employees to ever feel they are entitled to a pay increase.

This entitlement mindset — the belief that you deserve something (no matter what you’ve done to earn it) — is prevalent in our society, and it can be a real problem in business. The Millennial Generation may be famous for it, but really, anyone can develop this negative attitude if they’re not careful. I strive to ward off this morale-killer in my companies. I don’t want anyone to become complacent in their work, no matter who they are. Employee raises and bonuses must be earned.

Be Open and Honest About Employee Raises

When it was time for performance reviews during this last economic downturn, I had some hard decisions to make. I decided to write an open, honest letter to my employees to lay out how I was handling pay increases this time around.

In my letter, I explained that as a group of companies, we must live within our means. That meant that some people would get raises, some would receive one-time bonuses, and some would get neither (particularly those who earned sales commissions). I also stressed the importance of keeping this information confidential, although they could discuss the issue with me or their manager if they desired.

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About Mike Kappel

Mike Kappel is the president of Patriot Software, Inc., a developer of online payroll software and accounting software for U.S. small businesses. Patriot Software is one of five successful small businesses he has launched in nearly 30 years. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, and shares advice for small business owners in his blog, Small Business Expert. For more information, please visit

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