6 Tips for Writing an Effective Performance Review
Effective Performance reviews have value for employees and employers alike, highlighting what is and isn’t working, and keeping everyone on the same page.
Every firm should do employee performance evaluations, but how well they work depends on how they are done. They have the capacity to inspire your staff to achieve greater heights or to drive them away from your business.
It’s difficult to write a strong evaluation, but doing so may assist your employees find areas for improvement and growth without harming the relationship between them and their managers. Managers frequently don’t get enough instruction on what an efficient and thorough review looks like.
Small firms usually suffer with little resources, which exacerbates the issue. A full-time HR team of 14 is the optimum number for a firm with 1,000 workers to conduct accurate and beneficial performance evaluations. Even a 100-person firm needs a full-time staffer to gather performance information from managers, who ought to devote an average of three hours to each employee assessment.
What is a performance evaluation of an employee?
An employee’s work within a specific time period is formally evaluated in a performance review, which is sometimes referred to as a performance evaluation or performance appraisal. Managers examine an employee’s overall performance, point out their strengths and faults, provide comments, and assist them in setting objectives during a performance review.
Employees frequently get the chance to speak with their boss and offer questions and suggestions. The process of reviewing their performance may also include their completing a self-evaluation.
While yearly assessments have been the norm for performance evaluations, many businesses are switching to quarterly, monthly, or even weekly input. Some businesses have completely done away with the formal performance evaluation process in favor of more frequent, informal one-on-one check-ins with management.
Whatever the frequency or format of your company’s performance evaluations, both managers and employees should gain from them. Workers may ask questions or offer feedback to their bosses, which helps them understand where they are performing well and where they can make improvements. In turn, managers have the chance to share expectations with their team, recognize top performers, address problems early on, and boost motivation and engagement.
What to include in a performance assessment for employees
Regardless of the business, the majority of employee appraisals comprise an evaluation of these abilities:
- Coordination and cooperation
- Attendance, punctuality, and dependability Work quality and correctness
- the capacity to achieve objectives and adhere to timeframes
- Along with any business- or job-specific abilities, a review should also highlight the employee’s successes and contributions to their position or firm.
To determine the employee’s total performance, you must examine and weigh each essential area of assessment after you’ve addressed the others. It is up to you and your company’s requirements how you structure and arrange this information. Part businesses employ an A–F grading scale, percentages or numbers, or textual descriptions (e.g., “most of the time,” “some of the time”). Whatever method you use, make sure it is unbiased and simple to comprehend.
Schedule a meeting with each employee to go through your results after you’ve finished grading. A written copy of the evaluation might be useful for referencing and helping to keep your meeting on schedule. Give honest comments, if applicable with examples, and give the employee enough time to ask questions or provide feedback.
How performance management applications can be useful
You may want to think about incorporating performance management software into your yearly review procedure to lessen the cost load on your small business. HR tools from firms like Insperity, Namely, and ADP Workforce Now assist small and midsize enterprises in giving employees the feedback they need.
Real-time reports are provided by a good performance management system, which also improves manager and employee communication. The program supports you during the procedure and saves the outcomes for subsequent analysis. If you want your review process to increase employee engagement and retention, you still need to know what to say and how to say it. This is true even if you have a program in place.
1. Offer frequent, unofficial feedback.
Feedback should not be restricted to the infrequent, once or twice a year, performance evaluation sessions. To avoid surprises at review time, you should provide regular assessments throughout the year.
Erika Rasure, an assistant professor of business and financial services at Maryville University, advised employers not to surprise their employees while conducting performance reviews. “This shouldn’t be the first time you’ve informed them that their performance is below par. Be specific when outlining expectations and the atmosphere for meetings in writing and when sending out calendar invites.
Additionally, you should keep track of each employee’s performance, particularly if performance evaluations are not imminent.
Gary Schneeberger, the founder and president of ROAR, stated that “employees deserve a rigorous review of their performance for the whole period being covered.” “Far too many performance reports are based only on the manager’s memory of the most recent few weeks prior to the evaluations’ submission to HR. Intentionality is required from managers while taking and storing notes.
Don’t forget about your best workers. Imagine that you’re just dealing with problems or concentrating on the workers who aren’t doing as well as the others. If so, you’re passing on a chance to thank those who contribute to the innovation, creativity, and culture of your business. Even though they might not require as much direction as other workers, these people could lose their enthusiasm or drive if they are not sometimes acknowledged.
Rasure stated that “highly important individuals who execute their jobs effectively are frequently not given priority during performance review cycles, resulting in wasted chances to demonstrate how much the firm values the drive and outcomes of the top performers.” A sudden “keep up the wonderful job” email, a brief phone contact, or text message conveys to your employee that you are aware of and appreciate what they accomplish.
2. Be truthful.
Nobody is perfect in their job, therefore there is always space for growth. Choose what needs to be brought up, and don’t hold back. Avoiding the topic if you are aware that it is impacting your team won’t help.
Being truthful with employees is encouraged, but not in a cruel way, according to James R. Bailey, professor of leadership at the George Washington University School of Business. Deliver criticism in the same manner that you would like to be criticized. Since the conversation must take place, pick a strategy and stick with it.
According to Bailey, “workers will brand you as weak or cowardly for not addressing the matter if someone is a bad performer and you don’t openly confront it. Everyone in the workplace knows that the individual is a terrible performer.”
Clarity should be demonstrated by managers as well as expected of them, according to Laguna Pearl President Leon Rbibo. All the manager’s expectations of the employee moving forward and the employee’s wants from the boss must be crystal apparent to both parties at the table.
Nothing you mention at the evaluation, according to Rbibo, will assist the problem if there isn’t clarity, and you’ll end up talking about the same subjects at your subsequent performance review. Be precise, be sincere, and keep in mind that if it is not addressed, nothing will change.
3. Do it in person.
The written evaluation should provide a succinct but straightforward summary of the main topics for discussion, allowing for a more complex face-to-face debate. To create a relaxing environment, you could wish to arrange a meeting at a coffee shop or other non-office place. To continue having a live conversation while assessing distant workers, arrange a video call. This strategy avoids misunderstandings and allows for dialogue and criticism on their end.
The only effective approach to provide performance appraisals, according to Bailey, is face-to-face, with enough of time to present, consider, listen, and answer. It’s simply too crucial to leave to email or phone. This might suggest that you weren’t interested in the issue enough to make the effort to meet.
After detailing any flaws or errors, talk about possible fixes and encourage staff to remark on the points you brought up.
4. Give concrete, relevant instances.
Make sure you have specific examples to use when addressing an employee’s accomplishments or highlighting areas for growth. (This is why it’s crucial to take notes across several days.)
Rbibo remarked, “If you have nothing to relate to, then you are speaking anecdotally.” “This obstructs comprehension and clarity. Point up one or two particular instances where an employee has fallen behind in a key performance area and discuss how you’d prefer things handled better going forward.
Providing examples demonstrates to the employee your attention to detail and strengthens your expectations.
5. Conclude on a happy note.
Don’t end the evaluation without mutual respect and understanding; don’t make any employee feel uncertain about the future.
Utilize the review process to create realistic objectives that are relevant to addressing the expectations the employee isn’t reaching, but that also give them a sense of having a well-defined, reasonable course of action that can help them get back on track, advised Rasure.
Encouragement and showing appreciation for your staff members might improve a generally positive assessment or cheer them up after a slightly unfavorable one. Giving employees the self-assurance and motivation, they need to work harder may be achieved with the use of constructive criticism and positive reinforcement.
6. Be mindful of the words you use.
Pay great attention to the language you use while evaluating things. Words that are meaningful and intended to be taken action have a far bigger impact than more common expressions like “good” or “satisfactory.”
Based on James E. Neal’s Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals, here are five phrases and terms that successfully emphasize a worker’s accomplishments (Neal Publications, 2009).
- Achievement: Add this to a statement that says something about achievement, such “achieves optimal levels of performance with/for… “
- Communication abilities: Statements like “excels in leading group conversations” or “effectively conveys expectations” mean a lot to an employee.
- Creativity: Embracing employees’ creative tendencies might result in happier, more enthused workers. Try using words like “seeks innovative alternatives” in a performance review, followed by concrete results and examples.
- Improvement: Employees enjoy hearing that they are improving and that others are noticing it. Useful phrases to include in a performance assessment are “continues to grow and improve” and “is always preparing for improvement.”
- Management ability: Leadership and people-management abilities are crucial for employees to succeed. Your employee will take note of statements like “provides help throughout instances of organizational upheaval.”
According to Richard Grote, author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), managers should use more measurement-oriented language in reviews rather than adjectives like “good” or “great.” Action verbs like “excels,” “exhibits,” “demonstrates,” “grasps,” “manages,” “possesses,” “communicates,” “monitors,” “directs,” and “achieves” are more significant, according to Grote in an interview with Career’s.
How to put performance management software into practice
The first thing you need to do is master your language and strategy. The time managers and HR personnel spend compiling and producing the information that forms the basis of each evaluation is the real cost of performance reviews to your company. Performance management software might be useful in this situation.
You can use an open API system or outsource the full procedure to a third party, depending on your HR requirements. Businesses like Namely provide an open API platform that enables you to adapt the software to the nature and extent of your HR needs.
Managers and HR personnel may plan, track, and write unique reviews using this kind of system. For the review cycle, it automatically requests feedback from managers, staff members, and peers. Additionally, it establishes a “360 review” procedure for an employee-focused evaluation. Many HR needs may be self-served by employees using the specially developed API platform, saving your team hours per week.
A professional employer organization (PEO) like Insperity or ADP Workforce Now is another cost-cutting solution. This solution enables you to outsource performance evaluations and other HR functions through a co-employment arrangement, which is a contract where the provider takes ownership for given responsibilities. It is ideal for small and medium businesses wishing to cut their HR expenditures.
Managers and staff have real-time access to payroll, time, and benefits through the PEO company’s applications. PEOs also offer a comprehensive array of HR advantages for professionals, including adherence to the most recent employment laws.
Good and terrible real-world performance evaluations
Good: Being a responsible coach
Schnee Berger recalled one intern who rejected Schnee Berger’s evaluation because not all of the grades were “exceeds standards.”
He explained, “Her justification for the protest was that she tried incredibly hard. Schnee Berger queried the intern, who was silent, about whether her boyfriend’s basketball prowess automatically qualified him for the starting lineup.
I emphasized that my goal was to help her improve so that, once she started her career, she could symbolically go off the bench and into the game, just like his coach did. I had to teach her how to improve, and if she was already perfect, I couldn’t do that.
Negative: Lunchtime assessment
Collective’s creator and principle, Sergei Brovkin, remembers a manager who conducted ineffective, extremely informal assessments. “[He] would carry it out once a year, while working on emails during his lunch. One of the reasons I quit the firm was because of that.
False optimism is bad.
The decision to fire an employee was brought to Mike Cox, president of Cox Innovations, at a time when he was functioning as the HR leader. Cox looked over the employee’s performance reviews but found no indication of errors or subpar work.
“I was told the person was underperforming at the time of the evaluation but was extremely vital to an ongoing project, so [they were given] a falsely favorable rating to prevent demoralizing [the employee during] a crucial moment in the project,” the employee said.
Cox counseled against dismissing the worker prior to a fair appraisal. Despite being fired, the employee filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, which cost the company money to resolve.