How to Conduct an Effective Employee Performance Review

It’s time to talk about appraisals!

At a glance, performance reviews may seem like a minefield for both participants to carefully manoeuvre. After all, it is a highly critical process that involves a two-way discussion between senior management and an employee. Naturally, the stresses that come with having to prepare for this employer-employee discussion has all of us (no matter which side of the table you’re on) asking, “What are the true goals of a performance review?”

If you’re conducting the next round of performance reviews for your employees, you’ve clicked to the right place. Here’s how you tackle talking about current performance, future goals, boosting company productivity and more with your employee, without resorting to reducing them to tears afterwards.

Set #goals

Not the hashtag but measurable goals. An effective framework to help you make a list of goals is referred to as SMART:

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Attainable / Achievable

R: Relevant / Realistic / Result oriented

T: Time-bound

This framework allows you to track the progress of your employee’s goals effectively. Now that you have a list to work with, discuss it together. This is another collaborative portion to figure out how you would like to track performance, how to achieve goals, what skills would your employee need to develop in order to achieve those goals (attending workshops, seminars, mentoring program or attending training, for example). By using the list, you can re-assess, troubleshoot and tweak goals along the way – even as the direction of your business changes.

Set and share objectives early

Have you ever forgotten what you wanted to say mid-meeting only to have to scramble to find your notes a few minutes after? Preparing an agenda ahead of time will help you stay on course. We all get distracted in conversations sometimes. Having the agenda prepared serves as a reminder to return to the talking points you both set beforehand (as opposed to deviating and abandoning the entire review completely).

In order to maximise productivity during a performance review, one expert suggests sharing the meeting’s agenda with your employee before the set date. This is so that both parties have an equal and fair amount of time to prepare for the discussion in person.

A performance review isn’t a time for an impromptu pop quiz. Giving your employee the agenda and the questions/topics you will be discussing allows both parties to prepare for a productive discussion.

“Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”

– Zig Ziglar

Touch base often

Have you been saving your remarks for the yearly performance review? If you said yes, it’s time to stop. Sources tell us that open, ongoing communication is the key ingredient to getting ahead. Having ad hoc conversations (in addition to taking notes to track development) with your employee helps you get feedback that is fresh, timely and relevant.

“Goals should be set every quarter by both the employer and employee. Follow up on that weekly to chart its progress. It is important for both sides to share opinions or voice concerns and come to mutually beneficial decisions that are acted upon,” shares Alicia Carter* an Operations Manager in the broadcasting industry. “Make sure to maintain positivity throughout the review, share expectations early, monitor action plans and lastly, follow through.”

How to Conduct an Effective Employee Performance Review

Provide productive, actionable feedback

In order to do the above, you’ll need to know what your employee’s personal goals are. Your job is to constantly work towards aligning his/her personal goals with your organisation’s goals The key here is avoiding criticism focused on one’s behaviour. If it’s not directly work related – avoid commenting on it. Instead of commenting on bad behaviour, phrase your feedback in a way that is prescriptive and specific – allowing him/her to act on it.

Keep your objectivity in check at all times. This demonstrates a continuous commitment to building a solid work relationship.

Self-evaluation and peer reviews

Get your employees to evaluate themselves.

This will give you valuable insight as to how they view their own contributions and progress. Sharing feedback from other team members may seem like overkill but if done right, it can help cushion the blow of any negative feedback highlighted during the review (there is strength in numbers).

Don’t dominate the conversation

Remember, this isn’t a time to pass judgement – but an opportune coaching process. While employees are generally inclined to resist feedback or go on the defensive during a performance review, don’t let it cloud your perspective or expectations.

Instead of speaking first, allow your employee to talk first. We are our own worst critic, so it’s a good move to get them to initiate the discussion. This will allow you time to reflect and detect which areas you can effectively offer coaching and encouragement.

Avoid hogging the entire conversation or saying that you don’t have any feedback either.

As much as this is about shared goals, it is far from a solo performance.

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”

– Stephen R. Covey

  • Conducting fair and consistent assessments of your employee’s performance, allows you to maximise productivity and boost morale. Here are the benefits as listed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Human Resources Department.


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