Performance reviews are valuable for both the employer and the employee. They provide an opportunity to assess performance, goals and objectives and also to plan for the future. Yet, despite the benefits, they are almost always universally despised by both managers and their reports alike. It’s time to break the cycle. Follow these simple steps and not only will the performance review process be easier, but it will also be more beneficial for all involved.


It’s a cliché, but like so many things, it’s better to do performance reviews right, or not at all. Doing them right means that they are as comprehensive as possible. Performance reviews should be a mixture of both positive and constructive feedback. They should focus on the things an employee has done well this review period.

Not only should performance meetings be a review of past performance, but they should also be a discussion and planning session for the future. Both the employee and the manager should outline their aims and objectives, and establish joint priorities. By working together both individual and company priorities are established, creating a more comprehensive work plan.

Regular Check-ins

One of the reasons employees give for disliking performance reviews is that they very often feel that they are blind-sided: everything appears to be fine until all of a sudden it isn’t. To overcome this problem, carrying out regular check-ins is advisable. With regular check-ins, managers can check in with their employees and talk about any problems that have recently arisen. The world of work is fast paced and ever changing. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that business priorities shift over the course of a business quarter. By having regular check-ins with employees, you ensure that performance reviews contains no surprises. It also enables you to shift focus and redirect resources as the needs of the business change.

Mindful Word Choice

Using the following 5 words or phrases will help you to effectively emphasise your employee’s contributions, and highlight your employee’s individual strengths.

·      Achievement – Demonstrate your employee’s success e.g. “Achieved outstanding client satisfaction results as part of the customer services team.”

·      Communication skills – Note the employee’s proficiency with communicating e.g. “Very successfully communicates with members of the finance team to achieve A,B,C.”

·      Creativity – When employees go above and beyond to uncover new and creative solutions, they appreciate recognition. Use phrases like “Created innovate solutions to reduce the employee turnover rate”.

·      Improvement – Everyone likes to know that they are growing and improving in their role e.g. “Continues to grow and improve in areas of X,Y,Z.”

·      Management ability – The ability to manage others, as well as leadership skills are highly valuable skills to any employer. Therefore, if an employee possesses such skills they should be acknowledged in the review process e.g. “Showed great leadership in/with.”

End on a positive

While the merits of positive reinforcement are well reported, the merits of criticism (when done in a constructive manner) should not be ignored. A healthy balance of the two is perhaps the optimum means with which to give feedback. Starting and ending on a positive can be the kind of positive motivation your team needs.

2-way conversation

Performance reviews are often dreaded by managers because they feel as though all of the burden is on them to provide all of the material or conversation for the performance meeting. That is not the template of a successful performance review meeting. Instead, they should be a 2-way conversation, where issues and concerns, as well as successes and plans for the future are discussed together. By carrying out performance review meetings in such a manner, you ensure that concerns and grievances are dealt with in a shared way.