Managers and employees alike tend to dread the inevitable performance review.
Even if an employee is doing particularly well, the process is often bogged down by tedious documents or intimidating questionnaires.
But the performance review is still an important tool in the workplace, and when done well, it can be a pleasant and helpful experience for both employers and employees.
Check out the performance review examples, tips, and template below to help make the review process more smooth and less painful for everyone involved.
What Is a Performance Review?
Performance reviews (also known as “performance appraisals”) are usually conducted at least once a year, although some employers opt for quarterly or bi-annual check-ins.
During a performance review, a manager or supervisor will meet with an employee to discuss their strengths and weaknesses thus far on the job.
It’s an opportunity to acknowledge what’s been going particularly well, as well as identify any areas that could use improvement.
The Purpose of a Review
Performance reviews aren’t just for employers to offer feedback (or at least they shouldn’t be).
The best supervisors will take this as an opportunity to ask employees about their long and short-term goals, and help them to devise strategies that target those goals.
As a supervisor, you may be just the mentor that employees need to reach their full potential.
In addition, employees should be encouraged to raise any questions they might have about their jobs, or mention any skills they would like to learn during their time with the company.
Above all, performance reviews should deliver helpful, honest, and constructive feedback without breaking morale or making anyone feel ambushed.
And the task of writing a performance review isn’t reserved for just the “big bosses.” Anyone who supervises another employee might be asked to write up a review, or at least add their input, so there’s actually quite a good chance that you’ll contribute to one at some point in your career.
That being said, there are a few essential tips that anyone drafting a performance review should keep in mind in order to provide feedback that is both constructive and uplifting.
Performance Review Tips for Employers and Supervisors
There are many types of performance reviews, and different companies may opt for different formats.
However, whether your company uses a rating system, 360 feedback, or a descriptive scale, most performance reviews will focus on the key standard elements, such as:
- Attendance and punctuality
- Overall job performance and productivity
- Ability to work and communicate with others
- Dependability and ability to meet deadlines
- Areas of excellence
- Areas in need of improvement
Of course, performance reviews may vary from job to job as far as what’s evaluated, and the areas of evaluation are certainly not limited to this list.
Below are several tips for providing helpful, honest feedback to employees, regardless of which format you choose.
1. Be Transparent
It’s important that you communicate your company’s procedures for performance reviews early on, if possible during on-boarding or orientation.
This way, employees will know what they’ll be evaluated on and how often they’ll be called for a performance review.
Leaving employees in the dark denies them the opportunity to come prepared with their own questions or feedback, which can be among the most valuable parts of a performance appraisal.
2. Use Self-Assessments
Many employers will assign a self-assessment to employees before formally discussing their performance review.
This can be particularly insightful for larger companies, or for managers who aren’t able to be on the ground, working closely with all employees at all times.
A self-assessment allows employees to provide more detailed feedback on their own work and that of the company.
And while managers and supervisors may think they know every area for potential growth or improvement, the best source for finding those areas is the employee.
They may wish to undergo additional training or improve on specific skills that the management never considered.
3. Choose Your Words Carefully
Keep in mind that the purpose of a performance review is to offer constructive feedback. Therefore, it’s important to choose the right words to make an employee’s strengths and weaknesses clear without breaking their morale.
When addressing shortcomings, avoid overgeneralizing and using words like “always” or “never.” These are most likely exaggerations anyway, and the employee will surely be put on the defensive.
Using more balanced language will help the team member to view the feedback as helpful and encouraging, rather than as a personal attack.
Your words should show the employee that you’re all part of a team, so choose language that is encouraging, not patronizing.
4. Ask Questions
If you care about an employee’s growth and overall experience at your company, you’ll want to help them stay on track to meet their goals.
First, however, you’ll both need to know what those goals are. While you may have a few ideas as to what they should be, it’s always good to ask the employee for their own input.
At the same time, you should also invite honest feedback from employees about your performance (a performance review is really a two-way street, after all).
Below are a few questions that can help you to identify areas of growth and improvement for your employees and your company:
- What was your biggest challenge this quarter/trimester/year?
- What did you do to overcome those challenges?
- What do you think was your biggest achievement?
- What would you like to improve on in the next quarter/trimester/year?
- What are your goals for the next quarter/trimester/year?
- What can I/we do to help you to achieve those goals?
- How do you think the company can be improved?
- What do you think I could do to be a better leader?
- How often do you think we should meet to discuss your progress?
By asking questions like the ones above, you’ll gain valuable insight to how the employee sees their performance, and also how they view the company. They might point out areas in need of change that you never considered before.
5. Be a Good Listener
Always be sure to give the employee your undivided attention during your meeting. This means no checking emails, answering non-urgent phone calls, or interrupting them while they are speaking.
Show them that you truly care about their goals and input by being an excellent listener. Ask questions and make sure that they understand all of your comments.
Performance Review Examples
Below are two examples of performance reviews that incorporate recommendations and suggestions for improvement.
Regardless of the format you use, there’s usually an area reserved for comments or summaries like the ones below.
Positive Performance Review Example
Sandra has been a great asset to the Financial Aid department since her arrival. When she came on board, the department was undergoing major transitions, but Sandra quickly adapted to the many new tasks that the unit takes on.
Sandra has proven herself more than capable of handling diverse tasks even in stressful situations, and her work is not affected by the many changes taking place.
I would like to see Sandra continue to take on new assignments and take on leadership roles in larger projects, because we know she is knowledgeable and prepared. For the next review period, I would like to see Sandra actively seeking out new opportunities to grow and learn more from her senior colleagues.
I am also pleased to see that since her arrival, Sandra has developed professional relationships with staff and management in other departments, and I encourage her to continue to do so.
This review highlights the new employee’s strong start, but also offers suggestions for new goals and areas of growth for the next review period.
Unsatisfactory Performance Review Example
Tim’s role is critical to the team’s success; he has great talent, but unfortunately his productivity suffers when he is frequently late.
The team counts on Tim to fulfill his responsibilities, but lately some of his tasks have fallen on others due to his frequent tardiness.
In order for him to apply his valuable skills more efficiently, Tim should focus on arriving promptly at 9:00 a.m. every morning, ready to start working.
Note that the above review highlights an area in need of major improvement, but isn’t limited to only negative aspects.
The reviewer acknowledges the employee’s talent and offers a solution (“Tim should focus on arriving promptly at 9:00 each morning”).
Performance Review Template
While there are many possible formats for a performance review, you might start with our example of a general review, which contains space for comments regarding achievements, areas for improvement, and employee feedback.
Download and print our performance review template and use it as a guide for your next review.
Make the Most of the Review
Performance reviews don’t have to be a dreaded chore. Take this opportunity to connect with your employees, offer feedback, check in on their progress, and invite them to share their thoughts.
When conducted regularly and in a welcoming, friendly environment, both employers and employees can benefit from performance reviews. Make the most of this moment to help your company and employees grow.
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