Performance Reviews Best Practices

A performance review is a formal assessment in which a manager or Human Resources professional evaluates an employee’s work performance, identifies strengths and weaknesses, offers feedback, and works with the employee to set goals. Performance reviews can help employees understand what they’re doing well, how they can improve, how their work aligns with larger company goals, and what is expected of them.


Performance Reviews Should Never Be a Surprise

The information that is discussed during a performance review should never be a surprise to the employee (unless there was a very recent event). If there is a problem with an employee’s performance, it should be addressed immediately. When you wait more than a few days to discuss a performance issue, the conversation may not feel as meaningful to the employee and could be less effective in correcting an issue. The employee should be reminded of the expectations of their job, and their shortcomings should be discussed. The performance review discussion should be a re-emphasis or a follow-up to matters already addressed throughout the year.


Document Performance All Year

Some managers may only remember that they have to complete performance reviews when it comes time for HR to remind everyone that it is review time. This could lead to the reviewer putting too much focus only on recent events. If reviews are annual, then performance throughout the entire year should be evaluated. Managers should be documenting notes and specific examples of both positive and negative events on a regular basis. Examples of such notes may include customer compliments or complaints, accomplishing an important project, missing a deadline, going above and beyond to help a coworker, etc. Not only will this strategy assist with providing employees with a fair review that considers employee performance over the year, but it will also help make writing the review much easier.


Solicit Feedback

Consider soliciting feedback from employees’ supervisors, coworkers, direct reports, and anyone else who works closely enough with the employee to have meaningful input. This is known as 360-degree feedback. It is helpful to provide the employees’ colleagues with a form so that the feedback is in a consistent format. Some organizations also ask employees to do a self-evaluation. The feedback gathered during this process can be useful to broaden the performance information used to evaluate the employee.


Goal Setting

Goals setting should focus on the contribution your organization needs the most from the employee but the employee should also have input into their own goals. It is also helpful to be able to establish “why” a goal is important – does it drive a boost in profits?  Does it demonstrate professional mastery? In what way does it contribute to the success of the company?

Not all goals are created equally. The importance of each goal should be established. If the employee is told that all of the goals are equally important, the employee will have no sense of their real priorities. Be sure to discuss with the employee the most important goal(s) and a general roadmap of how the goals will be accomplished. While you should be available for discussion, feedback, and coaching, you should allow the employee some autonomy in determining how to best meet their goals.


S. M. A. R. T. Goals

SMART goals are the gold standard of goal setting. Setting SMART goals means setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Specific: All goals should be clear and specific. The employee should know exactly what they need to accomplish and why it’s important.

Measurable: You must be able to measure the progress of the goal. You should be able to determine how you will know when the goal has been accomplished.

Achievable: The goals should be realistic and attainable; it should stretch the employee’s abilities but still remain possible. Be mindful of situations in which the employee may not have direct control over the end result and focus on the employee’s contribution to the result.

Relevant: The goal needs to matter to and contribute to the success of the employee and the organization.

Time-bound: The goal should have an established deadline so the employee has something to work towards. Having a deadline helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over the longer-term goals.


Prepare in Advance for the Review Meeting

The manager conducting the performance review should be fully prepared for the discussion. Making a list of bullet points to discuss with the employee may be more helpful than reading directly from the review form. Be prepared to provide specific examples of good as well as poor performance.


Performance Review Meeting

When meeting with the employee, be sure to spend time discussing: positive aspects of his or her performance, specific examples of areas for improvement, and goal setting.

The employee has to trust that you want to help them improve their performance and you should be sure to tell the employee that you have confidence in their ability to improve.

Ask questions during the meeting to help ensure that the meeting is a conversation, and not a lecture. Some questions you may want to consider asking include, but are not limited to:

  • What do you expect to be most challenging about your goals?
  • What kind of support or training would help you reach your goals?
  • What do you hope to achieve in your position?
  • How can I be a better manager for you?
  • How often would you like to discuss your progress towards meeting your goals?

When done properly, performance reviews will help managers: easily recognize high performing employees, correct issues before they become insurmountable, communicate expectations, encourage growth and development, and foster employee engagement. When employees are motivated and engaged in the process, businesses are more likely to have higher retention rates and more productive employees. If your business could use some additional help with the performance review process, contact UAP today!