How To Write A Performance Review

Knowing how to write a performance review that is not only effective for your employees but for your organization as a whole can be a challenge. Performance reviews can cause stress and discomfort for both the employee in question and the manager charged with delivering it. For all these reasons and more, the future of performance reviews has been rebooted and reimagined in a fresh new way for all the participants, even remote workers.

The old model of annual performance reviews - with no opportunity to focus on growth and improvement until an entire year has passed - is seen today as ineffective. When you shift the way your leaders look at reviewing performance into a way to deliver real-time feedback to employees and work on coaching them regularly, you start improving employee skills, helping them reach their potential, and collaborating with them to continue to achieve goals.

With this shift comes a positive change in the entire process that leads to a positive difference in your organization. That change can include higher productivity levels from employees who feel their voices are heard, their performance is valued, and genuine interest is taken in their future.

How To Prepare For A Performance Review

How To Prepare For a Performance Review

Within a harried day, it can be tempting to skip the preparation step of giving regular performance reviews. To properly prepare for the performance review process, keep in mind the goals you have in mind for that team member. Will you focus on teamwork, collaboration, and encouraging consistent feedback between employees and their leaders? Or are the goals for this review to promote greater productivity, address work/life fit, or even review the employee's handling of recent changes?

So, when it comes to knowing how to write a performance review, know what you intend to discuss going into the meeting. While we've discussed how to have successful one-on-one meetings with employees, this will focus on performance-based, feedback-driven assessments.

Here are some questions to consider when understanding how to prepare for an employee performance review that is productive and effective:

  • What do I need to ask this employee?
  • What metrics do I need to have on hand to demonstrate this employee's progress?
  • What goals will you set for this employee, or what progress has he or she made toward established goals?
  • How do I plan to measure this employee's performance between now and the next time we talk?
  • How often will we meet to give/receive regular, constructive feedback?

Naturally, there are other areas you may wish to focus on that are specific to your organization. According to Business News Daily, the following are necessary skills that you should be assessing among each of your employees, and you can use them to prepare for the performance review process itself:

  • Communication skills
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Quality and accuracy of work
  • Attendance, punctuality, and reliability

Understanding how to prepare for a performance review is a crucial step in the employee review process. Don't just go in cold because you "know" your employees well. Proper preparation shows respect for the employee, their position, and the company as a whole.

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Good Goals For Performance Reviews

Setting goals for your performance review process is something that is often done at the corporate level. That said, when the plan is to reboot your performance reviews into shorter, more frequent, actionable and informal feedback, having a variety of goals can enhance the process over time. Consider the following goals to fully understand how to write a performance review:

Manage future performance

One of the foremost reasons for conducting performance reviews is to manage the future performance of the employee. Performance reviews should cover recent successes and failures as well as honest and transparent feedback that keeps that employee aligned with the organization's mission, vision, and values.

Motivate employees

A great performance review will also meet the goal of motivating the employee. Sharing performance targets, company growth, and more can provide team members with a sense of being part of something larger than just their position.

Employee development

Another excellent reason for a regular employee performance review is to discuss the employee's progress and development goals. Do they want to cross-train? Your employee might wish to gain new skills or better understand processes supporting the department or function they currently serve. A performance review with the goal of employee development as well as evaluating an employee's performance can be exciting and motivating!

Organizational improvement

Another goal for performance reviews can be the improvement of the organization as a whole. How can we work better together, achieve more as a team? You can undertake this goal at the departmental level, but it can have a ripple effect that lifts the entire company with leader alignment.

Documentation of success or failure of employee and goals

Not as much fun, but still, an important goal of some performance reviews is to document the employee's progress. Keeping good employee records is essential when a leader or employee moves to another area of the company or when discipline is necessary.

To provide evidence of diversity, inclusion

Another great reason to conduct regular, short performance reviews is to keep an eye on your Corporate Social Responsibility and company culture. By talking with employees, leaders can review goals for D&I initiatives and how well the company is performing in these areas.

Finally, although it doesn't need to be a strict part of writing a performance review, asking employees for feedback on your own performance can greatly enhance the discussion and create a more open and approachable leadership dynamic.

What To Say In A Performance Review

What To Say In A Performance Review

Even with all the best prep, it can still be challenging to know just what to say to an employee. Add to that the fact that Fast Company reported that 74% of millennial workers walk out of performance reviews unsure of what their managers think of their performance - and even the most skilled leaders can find themselves at a loss for words.

One great way to write an effective performance review is to approach what you intend to say – both to the employee and in your documentation of the performance review - is to think back to the company's mission, vision, and values. How well does the employee fit with your culture and your team dynamic? When you're coming up with effective performance review phrases, consider the following.

Talk about "creativity" and "innovation" in your performance reviews. How are the employee-facing challenges? Are they able to come up with solutions? This is a great conversation point.

Discuss "adaptability." To what degree is the employee able to adjust and adapt to change? 

Go over "cooperation." This is a great thing to say in an employee review, as it speaks to a variety of qualities desirable in a great teammate.

"Productivity" and "quality of work" are two phrases that must be used clearly, and with specific references to the employee's current performance. Without direct connections, however, these words can quickly become meaningless.

Finally, use the word "improvement," no matter if you're referencing progress or opportunity! We all want to feel that the future holds more for us.

In addition to all of the above tips, we have constructed a customizable performance review template with some performance review examples that you may find helpful. 

How To Complete An Employee Performance Review

When it comes to apprehension about effective performance reviews, second only to how to write a performance review is how to wrap things up. A great way to structure your entire conversation can be taken from Aristotle, "Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them." 

Of course, you can conclude by going over any areas you've agreed upon for improvement. Remind the employee of any commitments you've made to them, providing constructive feedback, and including opportunities for training and development. Be sure to offer words of encouragement that will help them reach the goals you've set together. 

Then, remind them that they don't have to wait for formal performance reviews to talk to you! Innovative ideas, solutions to problems, obstacles that they need you to remove are all excellent opportunities to have an informal conversation.

Finally, thank them for their time. Be respectful of it – everyone is busy, and letting your employees know you value their time as much as they do can be critical to a common understanding of what's essential. Plus, this is a great way to set up the next performance review for success!

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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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