11 ways to give better performance reviews

Performance reviews

This article is based on research for our recent eGuide, A small business guide to implementing employee performance reviews.

It’s that time of year again: performance review season. And while the practice of year-end reviews is increasingly panned as a backward-looking, time-wasting tradition, the fact of the matter is that feedback is beneficial. And, in turn, performance reviews are a good way to ingrain feedback into your company’s process.

Feedback helps an employee learn about their role and their place within a company. It improves worker productivity and engagement. And, it helps managers and HR learn what’s going on with their staff, and, more importantly, what might be causing issues or challenges within the company as a whole.

So the question is, how do you give better performance reviews? Ones that engage your team rather than waste their time (or worse, crush their soul)?

Here are 11 ways that you can improve the performance review process.

Collect the kudos
Throughout the year, keep a special folder in your email inbox dedicated to any accolades, thank yous, or general kudos that your employees receive from colleagues or clients. If the feedback was a verbal one, immediately email yourself what was said and by whom, then store it in this special folder. At review time, you’ll have a collection that you can refer back to.

Engage in continuous feedback
A yearly review shouldn’t be the only time you sit down one-on-one with your team – ideally you should meet weekly to discuss projects and give feedback. Continuous feedback equals continuous improvement, which means that hopefully, over the next few months, you’ll begin to see more growth.

Leverage 360 reviews
When it comes to review time, supplement the kudos you’ve been filing all year with feedback from colleagues and peers that your direct report worked with. If possible, take into consideration their self-appraisal as well. This approach will help give you a more balanced view of your report’s performance, and help you capture anything you may have missed.

Review the whole year
In our scramble to get performance reviews done, we subconsciously base them on the past month or two leading up to them. Reviews and appraisals, however, should be based on the entire timeframe established. While collecting kudos and providing feedback over time, make sure to take regular detailed notes, which can then be easily compiled at the end of the year.  The goal: an accurate, holistic assessment of performance.

Consider external factors
Be sure to address any key milestones for your company or department in the past year – your employees might have valuable thoughts or feedback about them. For example, if a team member left the company, and your report had to pick up the slack while you hired a replacement, it’s important to debrief.

Don’t ambush
Your report should never appear shocked in their performance review. If they’re genuinely surprised by feedback (good or bad) given, then you haven’t been doing your job as a manager. The year-end review is intended to be an overview and discussion of feedback you’ve been providing throughout the year.

Listen and never interrupt
If an employee hears something they don’t like, reactions can be immediate and raw. It’s natural and human. Give them time to vent, and let them respond as they see fit – nothing is more frustrating than being criticized and then not getting a chance to explain yourself. Schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the feedback further, once they’ve had a chance to think about it with a clear head.

Reconsider that one-off
Everyone makes mistakes, and if there hasn’t been another incident since, or if you’ve noticed a marked improvement, then there’s no need to keep bringing up a criticism that has clearly already been addressed. You can review it quickly, but then focus on more relevant pieces of feedback.

Address ambitions
Discussing career pathing and ambitions is proven to reduce turnover and improve engagement. Do you know what your employee wants to do next? Or what they’d like to do more of? This is valuable information for a manager, and for the company as a whole. Take the time to hear from them and formulate a plan to help them develop the skills to get there.

Set goals and objectives
A performance review identifies an employee’s main challenges and opportunities. As a next step, develop an action plan to address these throughout the year. This could mean online courses or new organizational steps, or even taking on more responsibility in certain areas.

Explain the next review cycle
In addition to setting goals, be clear with your employees about what the next year will entail. As more and more companies are tweaking their performance review systems for the modern workforce, it’s important to communicate any changes to the process, including key dates, and relevant tools. Go over these details even if the system is staying the same – it’s better than being vague.

So before you scrap performance reviews entirely, try improving the process. A few small tweaks can create a feedback cycle that everyone benefits from.

Remember: download our free eGuide, A small business guide to implementing employee performance reviews, for more tips and tricks on implementing amazing performance reviews.

You can also check out this episode of Safe for Work, the Workopolis podcast:


See also:
How to give a negative performance review
Are you having the right conversations with your employees?


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