10 Secrets to an Effective Performance Review: Examples and tips on writing employee reviews, performance evaluation, sample performance review and employee evaluation forms
For managers, reviewing employee performance is a daunting yet critical function of their job. Yet you need not look upon it with dread.
Instead, approach the performance appraisal process as a golden opportunity to give your staff feedback, listen to employee comments, review the job description, and discuss and correct performance problems.
10 Secrets to an Effective Performance Review: Examples and Tips shows you how to conduct positive, valuable assessments that lead to maximizing staff performance and helping your employees achieve their professional goals and your organization’s objectives.
Performance Review: Examples and Tips #1
Use performance logs to simplify writing employee reviews
It happens to every manager: You sit down to prepare a staff member’s review and realize you can remember only what the person has done the past few weeks. Or, you allow only a single incident (good or bad) to color your assessment.
Performance Review: Examples and Tips #2
How to conduct a positive, valuable employee performance evaluation
Sitting down with an employee to conduct the appraisal review is the part of performance reviews most managers dread. But the session doesn’t have to be tense or uncomfortable. It can be a productive, enlightening and morale-boosting exchange. The key is to go into the review meeting fully prepared and with the right attitude.
Approach the evaluation as a mutual learning experience for you and the employee. You can gain valuable insights from your staffers, and you have information and experience that can help bring out their best.
Don’t consider the review a critique of the staff member’s duties. Instead, look at it as a routine checkup. Go in ready to talk, listen and recharge your relationship.
Setting the right atmosphere
Performance-related meetings and performance reviews are emotionally charged events. You can help reduce the tensions by choosing the right time, place and surroundings:
The right place. Like any strategic planning meeting, hold your review in a private, neutral environment. A small conference room is ideal. If you can’t find a neutral room, use another manager’s office, preferably one with a casual seating area.
The best time. Avoid meeting during busy or stressful times for the employee. Ask the staffer if the time you’ve chosen is convenient, and be ready to change if he or she seems hesitant. Don’t squeeze in a review between two other meetings or before lunch. Try not to hold reviews on a Friday afternoon, especially if you plan to discuss serious performance problems.
Duration. Dedicate two uninterrupted hours to the discussion. You may not need the full period, but it’s better to schedule too much time than too little.
Atmosphere. Create an environment that supports discussion, cooperation and negotiation. Sit beside your staffer, not across the table. Place your paperwork near at hand, but not directly in front of you. You don’t want anything to distract you. If you must use your office for the review, come out from behind your desk.
Interruptions. Eliminate as many interruptions as possible. Hold calls or forward them to voice mail. Put a “Do not disturb” sign on the door.
Focus your words on results
Help the employee feel at ease from the outset. But don’t get caught up in small talk. False intimacy may increase the employee’s discomfort and destroy the meeting’s businesslike tone. By the same token, don’t make light of the review process or give the impression that you are just “going through the motions.” Emphasize that this meeting is important and you want it to be productive.
Also at the beginning, provide an overview of the points you want to discuss with the employee. Make it clear that you don’t expect to do all the talking.
Start by discussing any problems you’ve observed with the employee’s performance. Address each problem individually, cite specific examples and let the employee respond. Don’t bring up a new problem until you’ve thoroughly discussed the current one. Use the following framework to discuss each problem:
- Describe the performance problem. Focus on the employee’s results and behavior in specific, nonjudgmental terms.
- Reinforce performance standards. Your staffer already should know the standards you expect, so don’t spend a lot of time discussing them. Review them quickly, then move on. If the employee challenges the validity of a standard, calmly state your reasons for requiring it, and gently steer the conversation back to the reasons the person didn’t comply. If necessary, refer to the employee’s job description to confirm the responsibilities associated with the position.
- Develop a plan for improvement. Your review preparation should have included a plan for helping the employee improve performance. During the meeting, the employee may suggest additional solutions. Agree on a method for improving performance in the short run, and establish some options in case the first method proves ineffective.
- Offer your help. Show your commitment by helping your staffer obtain training, resources or other assistance to reach performance goals.
- Alternate negative and positive comments. If you have a list of performance problems to address, be sure to insert some positive comments along the way.
- Emphasize potential. Remind employees that they can apply their strengths to their weaknesses. For example, an employee whose reports are riddled with statistical errors may have successfully designed a complex computer model. The employee clearly is capable of producing accurate work, so point that out.
Performance Review: Examples and Tips #3
Turning a negative into a positive: 4 examples
During performance reviews, use clear, nonjudgmental language that focuses on results and behavior. Notice the positive and negative aspects of these statements:
- “Your work has been sloppy lately.” (Negative: too vague)
- “Your last three reports contained an unacceptable number of statistical errors.” (Positive: cites specifics)
- “Don’t you bother to proofread anymore?” (Negative: accusatory tone)
- “Is there a reason these errors are still occurring?” (Positive: gives employee a chance to explain)
- “You’re obviously not a mathematician.” (Negative: focuses on the person, not on performance)
- “I know you’re capable of producing more accurate work.” (Positive: reaffirms confidence in employee’s abilities)
- “Don’t let it happen again.” (Negative: blanket demands)
- “How can we prevent errors from creeping into reports?” (Positive: asks for feedback on improving performance)
Performance Review: Examples and Tips #7
5 warning signs in an employee performance evaluation
Job reviews shouldn’t be paper-moving programs that return zero value. Here are five symptoms that warn of trouble in a supervisor’s appraisal process, according to Joan Rennekamp, HR pro at the Denver law firm of Rothgerber, Johnson & Lyons:
1. Employees are unpleasantly surprised by the ratings. Performance appraisals shouldn’t contain surprises. They should be a summary of comments employees have already heard throughout the evaluation period. Unpleasant surprises indicate that supervisors are not being candid or communicative with employees.
2. Ratings by one supervisor or department are uniformly excellent. Although it’s inappropriate to apply a “bell curve” to employees’ performance, it is also inappropriate to rate everyone at the same level.
3. Great employees don’t receive great ratings. Look around at the employees who are the strongest. They should be receiving the best ratings. If not, your appraisal instruments aren’t rewarding what they should.
4. Employees who are dismissed have recently received excellent appraisals. One purpose of performance reviews is to provide documentation for the organization in case a dismissal is necessary. When the performance appraisal doesn’t support a later decision, it can make it more difficult for the employer to defend its actions.
5. Productivity generally goes down during appraisal time. The purpose of performance reviews is to increase productivity. Any process that’s not contributing to that goal should not be continued. If your system is not doing so, don’t hesitate to rate it as “unsatisfactory” and design a new one.
Carrot or stick? Motivating managers to finish reviews
Armed with these tips and a sample performance review, it should be a snap to get all your performance reviews completed, right? We hope so, but if not, here are some final suggestions from readers to inspire supervisors to complete reviews on time. Choose the right mix of carrots and/or sticks to fit your organization’s culture.
The reward method. “We offered rewards (baseball tickets and an afternoon off) to the manager who completed his or her reviews first.” —Jennifer, California
Tie to manager’s bonus. “I worked for a company where supervisors who did not submit their reviews by the announced deadline saw their bonuses decreased. Plus, it would go on their performance reviews.” —T.O., Texas
Withhold manager’s raise. “If annual merit raises are handed out with appraisals, hold pay increases for managers who are late with their appraisals—and don’t give retroactive pay. Merit increases for the manager kicks in only after you have all the reviews.” — Sheila, Arizona
Keep manager’s boss in the loop. “When requesting performance reviews from managers, ‘cc’ their boss (general manager, VP, president, CEO, etc.). That usually gets their attention.” —Elly, Pennsylvania
Document & discipline. “If reviews are not completed on time, managers should know you will document it, just as they would for one of their employees who failed to do something in a timely manner.” —Jinnie, Minnesota
Urge employees to speak up. “We encourage employees to schedule time with their managers during review time to help managers keep on track and to keep from saving the hardest reviews for the end.” —Sherry, California
Hold their hands. “Many times, managers just need some basic phrases to get started. You can help them get over the hump by providing some specific sample phrases for each review category—and by forwarding them this free report. HR can also provide training or role-playing for managers on how to conduct the review meeting.” —Ruth, California