Writing Effective Performance Reviews: 4 Tips

October 17, 2016

Periodic evaluations can motivate your employees and improve overall productivity.

Your employees probably have mixed feelings about their performance reviews. They look forward to getting positive feedback and maybe even a raise, but they also worry about where they may have fallen short of expectations.

You may feel some ambivalence about this management directive, too. You’re all for providing guidance that will encourage your employees to be better at their jobs, but you’re sometimes at a loss over how to balance the bad with the good – and how to present the information. Here are some suggestions.

Start from the start.

mst-blog-1016-02-image-1Employee reviews should start the minute you sit down with a new employee on the first day. Tell individuals about the criteria you will be using to evaluate them. Spell out the goals you’ve created and the expectations you have in detail. When formal reviews roll around, there should be no surprises.

If your evaluations occur annually, consider having informal, quarterly progress sessions where your workers can share their thoughts about what’s working and what’s not.

Consider setting up electronic or paper files for every employee that you review so you can drop notes in throughout the year when you think of something. It’s so hard to look back over 12 months for specifics when you sit down to compose the evaluation.

Encourage employee participation.

Even if your expectations are clear from the start, you may be at least a little uncomfortable talking to an individual employee about his or her shortcomings. So again on day one, ask employees to maintain some kind of ongoing performance review log.  This could contain entries like:

  • When did I excel on a task or project, and why?
  • Where do I think I’ve fallen short on goals?
  • What gets in the way of my doing the best job possible?

When workers up for review have complied with that suggestion, you might even ask them to start the session by presenting their findings. You can then chime in with your own, discussing where your perceptions differ. You’re the ultimate evaluator, of course, but this type of format can make a review more interactive and comfortable.

Broaden your definition of success.

mst-blog-1016-02-image-2Too often, managers focus on the actual mechanics of an employee’s job, and on highly quantifiable elements, like deadlines met, sales quotas achieved, number of widgets produced, etc. Those milestones should certainly be a part of reviews. But you can introduce other barometers into employee evaluations since there’s more to being a good worker than just completing tasks on time. For example, how do the employees work with other team members? Are they creative in the ways they approach problems if a solution isn’t obvious? What can you say about their attitudes toward their jobs and the company?

End the review on a positive, forward-looking note.

This, of course, doesn’t work if you have the unpleasant task of delivering an overwhelmingly negative review. But most of your employees should be able to leave the session with a renewed sense of direction and an affirmation of their value to you and the business.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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