An employee performance review is a bi-annual or annual formal assessment of your employee’s work performance. These performance reviews help improve communication between management and their team members in regards to their performance – and may even help to improve employees’ work moving forward.

So the question you’re probably asking yourself is, how does a manager go about these assessments? Here are seven tips to help you conduct effective employee performance reviews:

Man sitting at a computer preparing for employee performance reviews.
Coming to a performance review prepared not only helps to ensure everything goes smoothly and you cover all important information but also shows the employee that you take this process seriously as should they.

1. Preparation

If you take the time and plan for your employee performance reviews, it means you have a system and process in place that you take seriously.

Planning for employee performance reviews may go something like this:

  • Ensure you have a copy of the employee’s personnel file with you.
  • Have documentation or notes from previous performance reviews – if they are not in the employee file. This should include goals and objectives you and your employee went over during the last review.
  • You have all forms and reports you need to fill out during the review ready to go.
  • You’ve spoken with the employee’s supervisors and co-workers about their performance and have that information on hand.
  • You also have documentation for recommendations (or complaints) from the employee’s coworkers, managers, and customers.
  • You have pertinent performance data on hand such that is relevant to the performance review you’re conducting. This may include productivity or sales information.
  • You’ve reviewed previous data, documentation, and comments and have made notes of potential questions to ask.
  • You’ve informed the employee of the date and time of their review – giving them ample time to prepare.
  • You’ve provided the employee forms or questions to think about before the review based on what your review process allows for.
  • You’ve informed the employee whether or not you will expect them to review management in turn so that they can think about comments ahead of time.

It is generally best practice to keep performance reviews separate from promotion or pay increase conversations.

If an employee believes that a conversation about their performance will impact their pay, they may be cautious and avoid sharing potentially useful information to protect themselves.

A performance review should be a place to encourage professional development and should be kept separate from promotion and pay increases – even if they are held just a few days apart.

2. Thoughtful Communication

Before you begin a performance review with any employee, go in ready to use thoughtful communication that will build your employee up and not tear them down. If you are over critical, you will most likely to motivate the employee, but keep in mind that there is almost always something that can be improved.

Sharing positive attributes, along with items that need to be worked on, will help the conversation feel more balanced and will help to ensure that your employee doesn’t feel attacked.

It would be a good idea for anyone conducting employee performance reviews to have knowledge or experience in diversity training. If your company has a diversity program, then you’re performance reviewer should most certainly participate. The different ways that cultures and people working communicate are typically part of this training so a reviewer can better understand each employees background.

Supervisor showing an employee specific highs and lows of their career allowing the employee to see where they need to improve.
Providing employees with solid examples of their achievements and shortcomings gives them a chance to correct any behavior which can lead to increased performance.

3. Provide Solid Examples

Before going into the performance review, you should have examples prepared for both achievements and areas where an employee can improve and be sure to share them throughout the discussion.

Being able to point to specific instances of behavior to employees prove to them that you have indeed done your work as a manager.

This communication is often much more useful than merely informing your team member of what they have done right or wrong. It also shows that you have been paying attention and gives your feedback more credibility.

4. Incorporate 360° Feedback

360° feedback is where an employee receives anonymous feedback from those who work with them daily. This could include co-workers, managers, or anyone else who the employee encounters during the workday.

Have these people fill out a survey responding to questions about the behavior, performance, and competency of the employee. The employee should also take the same survey as a form of self-review.

This system provides a form of checks and balances, which offers co-workers a chance to supply relevant information about what is happening in a way that you might not be able to as a manager. However, this method shouldn’t be used for just measuring “hard data,” such as job attendance or performance.

If your performance review fixates on the measurable numbers, then 360-degree feedback is a great way to broaden your results and discover ways that your employees make your culture great.

5. Add Performance Requirements To Your Employee Handbook

 Your employee handbook should provide clear and concise instructions on how your performance review program works and what will be expected of each employee in regards to their attitude, performance, attendance and so on.

This can include:

  • What your review process is and when the review will occur.
  • What management expects of their employees and what employees should expect of them
  • What disciplinary steps are in place.
  • Attitude, teamwork, performance, ethics, and any other vital benchmarks that you would cover in a review and that you expect all employees to meet.
  • What the result of a review might be such as a pay raise.

It is vital to lay out your entire employee performance review program in the handbook and go over this information with each new hire.

Not only does providing that information help reduce fear and dread among employees, but it can also help protect you legally, which is why you should work with your legal team When developing employee policies.

Manager providing feedback to an employee in a casual manner and setting.
Feedback shouldn’t just be provided to an employee annually but on a regular basis. This allows you and the employee to address any issues that arise or correct poor behavior.

6. Provide Performance Feedback Regularly

Rather than doing employee performance reviews annually, employees should be given clear expectations and have constant and regular feedback, both positive and negative, with leadership.

Regular feedback should be provided based on a schedule that works best with the job the employee has. For example, if you have an employee that works in four weeks shifts schedule feedback every four weeks.

What is the benefit of providing feedback regularly?

  • You can make adjustments to employee performance as needed instead of only once or twice a year.
  • You can quickly find out about good or bad employee performance trends and can capitalize or put an end to them early on.
  • You will have a better understanding of what’s happening for your employees as it is happening rather than making discoveries the next time performance reviews come around.
  • Regular feedback promotes teamwork rather than a competitive atmosphere.

You can adjust your performance review process to adopt a continual approach in addition to an annual standard full review. This makes the review process far less cumbersome for everyone involved.

7. Track the Impact of Reviews

Take a moment to look back on the goals that were established for each of your employee performance reviews and ask yourself:

  •  Is performance improved, or does it decrease?
  • Are employees more confident or more hesitant?
  • Has employee morale increased or decreased?
  • Are the changes suggested during the review for improvement happening in a positive manner or even at all?
  • Are employees quitting their jobs at a higher rate after employee performance reviews?

If you find that your employee performance reviews leave things worse off, then it is time to make some changes to your review process.

Employee performance reviews aren’t in place to weed out bad employees. Instead, these reviews are crucial to determine salary, wage increases, performance correction, promotions in an overall idea of what is happening in your workforce.