How to Master This Year’s Employee Performance Reviews

Quick show of hands, who’s favorite management responsibility is employee performance reviews?

Try to restrain yourself from jumping up and down, shouting “me!”

Joking aside, employee performance evaluations are important for effective management and potentially for legal coverage in cases of employee termination.

Although many companies are now debating and rethinking how they approach performance reviews, the basic need for some form of regular employee performance reviews remains.

In today’s blog post, we’ll briefly explore the evolution of when and how performance reviews should take place, and then look at 7 best practices for effective performance reviews, whether your company does them annually or staggers reviews throughout the year.

The Growing Debate: Annual or Periodic Reviews?

To determine raises, potential for promotion and a host of other things, there’s no getting around a need to review employee performance. Over the years, however, annual performance reviews have snowballed into a complex and time-consuming process that many feel offers less and less value for the time and money invested.

Managers and employees alike may dread the annual review process, because top-loading one short part of the year with a focus on performance may mean that employees are surprised by what they hear when they’re finally in the hot seat.

Experts note that a top reason people leave their jobs is frustration with their manager and that a lack of feedback is often at the heart of the frustration. At the same time, employers are recognizing the potential of more regular feedback, including through the use of performance-tracking tools, to engage and motivate employees.1

Each of these factors is leading companies, even some corporate giants, to explore new models for employee reviews, including replacing annual reviews with a series of conversations throughout the year.2

7 Best Practices for Performance Review Mastery

No matter when and how your company does performance reviews, they’re rarely an easy task. Here are a few of our favorite tips to ensure an effective performance review process.

1) Don’t Put Off Preparation

In our busy work lives, we all know how easy it is to put off tasks until the last minute. Good performance reviews, however, require regular note taking throughout the year about both positive behaviors/performance and those that leave room for improvement.

Managers also need to allow enough time to put together a thoughtful review that will be helpful to employees and notes about key topics that should be discussed.3 Leaving everything to the last minute often results in a scattered and ineffective review.

2) Double-Check the Data

Speaking of preparation, managers have a lot to keep track of so they need to make sure that details in performance reviews are based on supportable facts from email or notes and not based on a memory of something that happened months ago.4

3) Avoid Surprises

Gotcha performance reviews aren’t helpful anyone. For example, employees who are hearing about a bad behavior or poor performance from months ago for the first time may become immediately defensive about a specific incident that may or may not be critical to the big picture.

And employees who only hear positive feedback during a performance review, may lose motivation and also become frustrated. Sharing weekly or monthly feedback with employees helps managers avoid surprise situations and re-emphasize critical points during review discussions.5

4) Encourage Conversations

Employee engagement is key to employee motivation. That’s why it’s important for managers to make performance reviews an opportunity for a conversation, rather than a one-sided lecture by asking open-ended questions focused on employee goals and needs.6

5) Look Forward More Than Backward

While it’s critical employees understand what they need to work on, it’s also important to keep them motivated and engaged with the team. One of the best ways managers can do this is by staying focused on what should happen in the future.7

6) Use Self Evaluations

Managers don’t need to be burdened with all of the work when it comes to performance evaluations. Employee self evaluations can give managers additional insights into what’s going on with employees and their key interests and motivations.8

7) Consider the Entire Time Period

While it’s easy to understand why managers can get caught up in focusing on recent events in a performance review, it can also be problematic. For example, if performance changes from good to bad over a review period, it’s important to acknowledge both parts.9

Make Sure Your Supervisors are Trained Properly

When it comes to performance evaluations, your company and supervisors clearly have a lot to think about. Not only is it important that the review process is effective and adding value to employees and the company, but it’s also critical that supervisors are using a lawful evaluation approach.

Our interactive performance evaluation training course can provide the foundation your organization needs to underpin an effective performance evaluation system.


1 Patrick May, The demise of the dreaded annual performance review, The Seattle Times, September 4, 2015.

2 Lillian Cunningham and Jena McGregor, Why big business is falling out of love with the annual performance review, The Washington Post, August 17, 2015.

3 Jessica Miller-Merrell, Why are performance reviews important? Do they really work?, eSkill blog.

4 Liz Ryan, Manager Performance Review Do’s and Don’ts, Bloomberg Business Week.

5, 6 Susan M Heathfield, 10 Tips for Effective Performance Reviews, About Money, 2015.

7 Tim Gould, Do’s and don’ts to make performance reviews actually mean something, HR Morning, July 2, 2015.

8 Why are performance reviews important? Do they really work?

9 Manager Performance Review Do’s and Don’ts.