How to write a performance review for an employee

Do you ever feel like writing performance reviews for your employees is like navigating a minefield? You don’t want to hurt their feelings, but you also need to provide constructive feedback.
Well, let me tell you that writing performance reviews doesn’t have to be like finding a needle in a haystack. With the right approach, it can be as easy as baking a cake! In this post, I will show you here How to write a performance review for an employee and turn this potentially stressful situation into a piece of cake. Let’s see it.

How to write a performance review for an employee

Are you feeling a little nervous about writing your next performance review?
It’s okay!
After all,
you want to make sure you’re providing valuable feedback to your team member without making them feel like they’re being micromanaged.
With a little bit of preparation and the right approach,
writing performance reviews can be easy-peasy. In this post, I will show you how to write a performance review that will help your team members grow and succeed.

What is a performance review?

A performance review is a meeting between you (as manager) and your employee to discuss and evaluate your employee’s job performance over a certain period – normally a period of 12 months.

If needed, you can consider doing more than one performance review throughout the year,
in many organizations, two performance reviews are conducted. The mid-year performance review and the full-year performance review.

What is the purpose of a performance review?

The purpose of a performance review is to provide your employee with your feedback (both positive and constructive), recognize your employee’s contributions to the organization and identify the areas of focus for your employee in the short-mid future.

Tips for writing an effective performance review

A successful performance review
does not start at the moment that you are about to write the performance review.

A successful performance review
starts on the very first interaction with your employees,
and it ends at the moment you are delivering the performance message to your employee.

Provide regular feedback to your employees

Did your employee achieve an outstanding result in a project?
If yes – don’t wait months to pass the feedback to your employee, be vocal about it and share the feedback immediately.

If you have rather a smaller team, it may be easier to remember the “big achievements” of your employees,
however, if you have a big team, that may be a challenge.
PRO TIP: One easy way to remember “big achievements” and “elements to work on”, is by creating in Outlook a Task for each of your employees, and once you notice any feedback you would like to pass them, type it in your task and you pass it to them in your next one-to-one connect. Learn how to use the Tasks functionality in Outlook.

Be honest and concise

When the feedback to pass to your employee is positive, it is rather easy…
However,
when the feedback to pass is not so positive (let’s call it constructive), it gets tricky.

Some principles to take into account when passing both positive and constructive feedback.

Principles when passing positive feedback:

Be Specific:
Provide specific examples of the employee’s strengths, achievements, and good behaviour. This will make the feedback more meaningful and memorable.

Be Sincere:
Express genuine appreciation and show that you value the employee’s contributions.

Be Timely:
Provide positive feedback as soon as possible after the behaviour or achievement occurs.

Be Focused on the Future:
Encourage the employee to continue their good work and set goals for improvement.

Use Active Listening:
Pay attention to the employee’s response and acknowledge their feelings. This helps to build trust and create a positive work environment.

Principles when passing negative feedback:
For the negative feedback,
principles are comparable to the ones when passing positive feedback, let’s see it in detail:

Be Specific:
Avoid general statements such as You are doing a poor job.
Provide specific examples and be clear about what needs to be improved. You can ask the employee to share his/her proposal and what can be improved and brainstorm together from there. This way, the employee will understand that can count on you and address the issue together.

Be Objective:
Focus on the behaviour or performance issue, not the person.
It is key that you stay calm while passing constructive feedback, and avoid using language that is overly critical or personal. If you sense to check a reaction from your employee (let’s say uncomfortable body language) you can clearly state that this is nothing personal and offer your support as a manager to revert the situation.

Be Constructive:
Provide feedback that is actionable and focused on improvement. Offer support and guidance on how the employee can address the issue.

Use Active Listening:
Allow the employee to respond and take their perspective into consideration. This helps to build trust and maintain a positive working relationship.

Be Timely:
Constructive feedback passed too late, can make the situation worse and negatively impact the employee’s performance and engagement. Address the situation as soon as possible, always in private – never in public. Summarize during the performance review the different situations alig

Keep it simple and quote specific examples

Avoid general statements such as:
“You did a great job with the supplier”,
“You are making such an improvement in service”
“You are a key member of this team” …instead refer to specific examples.

Let’s see it with a specific example:
Instead of “You did a great job with the supplier”, refer to the specific situation:
“I really liked how you manage the cooperation with the supplier, prior to every meeting there is a pre-reading with clear agenda and open topics, during the meeting you are going smoothly from topic to topic and once more details are needed ask for clarification,  that you

When possible, conduct face-to-face performance reviews

With more and more people working from home,
it can be challenging to conduct performance sessions as it used to be prior pandemic.
If the situation allows for a face-to-face performance session go for it:

Few reasons why you may want to consider a face-to-face performance review:

  • More efficient review
  • Ability to read body language
  • Human connection
  • Less room for misunderstanding
  • No technology disruption

However,
if it is not possible to do it face-to-face,
try to do it via Teams/Zoom, make sure you turn on your camera and encourage your employee to turn on their camera for a more effective discussion.

Don’t go directly to the business! Instead, start the meeting sense checking the well-being of your employee.
How can you do it?
By asking open ending questions such as “How are you?”, “How is the week going?”,
based on the replies from your employee, you will be able to see the “mood” and it will give you hints on how the performance review may progress so you can adapt yourself.

Recap and future plans

As a result of the performance review,
both the employee and you need to leave the meeting with the feeling that both are on the same page.

You can do that, by recapping the three main points discussed during the performance review and summarizing what the next steps are. Make sure you clearly define

Example:

  • Performance: Results are on track across all KPIs except for inventory.
    Great job in cooperation with suppliers best in class. Focus on a plan for managing inventory
  • Capability: Prepare a training session for the rest of the peers on how to effectively cooperate with suppliers. Document it and record training sessions.
  • Future: Share a plan on how to reduce inventory in the next 12 months. Promotion to the next level to happen on the horizon of the next 6-12 months. Both topics are to be discussed in more detail in our next one-to-one connection.

What a performance review should assess?

A good performance review should focus on these three elements:

  • Results
  • Behaviours/Values
  • Future plans

Results:
Did the employee achieve the targets for this fiscal year?
This should be a yes/no answer.
Your role as manager, is to be crystal clear with your employee during the performance review regarding the performance and achievements during the year

For being able to define with a yes or no, if the goals were achieved, it is key to learn how to effectively set goals for your employees.

Behaviors:
There is a very nice quote from a very big FMCG that says:
“If we lose all our resources, except for our people, we would be able to come back. If we would keep all our resources, except our people we would be lost”.
This is such a powerful sentence, showing that at the end of the day what makes companies successful is their people.

While preparing the performance review for your employee,
connect your employee’s behaviours with the company values.
How is this person representing the company values? Is this person a benchmark in the values?

Future plans
Once the past results were reviewed,
and the behaviours have been discussed,
it is time to look into the future.

Here as manager,
you can share your perspective on which elements your employee should be focusing in order to keep growing in the organization.

You can propose different elements such as:

  • Leadership: Taking the lead in big organizational meetings
  • Technical: Develop programming skills in Excel (for example learning how to program VBA macros
  • Capability: Create and deploy sessions to other team members/departments

Performance review examples

I bring you a few examples of positive and constructive performance reviews, as inspiration for your future performance reviews.

Positive performance review example

Example #1

Jane, it’s been six months since you joined the team and I wanted to take the time to review your performance. In these past months, you have demonstrated a strong work ethic and consistently met your project deadlines. Your attention to detail and problem-solving skills have been instrumental in the success of several projects.

However, there is room for improvement in your communication with the rest of the team. On a few occasions, important information was not shared in a timely manner, leading to confusion. Moving forward, I would like to see you take a more proactive approach to keeping the team informed and collaborating more effectively.

Overall, you have been doing a great job and I am confident that with some focus on improving your communication, you will continue to make valuable contributions to the team. Let’s set a goal to address this area of improvement by our next review in six months

Example #2

Tom, it’s been a pleasure to work with you over the past year and I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding contributions you have made to the team. Your exceptional attention to detail and problem-solving skills have been a significant asset to the company.

One particular highlight of your performance over the past year was your leadership on the successful launch of the new product initiative. Your ability to coordinate effectively with cross-functional teams and manage timelines and resources was a key factor in its success.

In addition, your positive attitude and strong work ethic have been noticed and appreciated by both your peers and superiors. Your proactive approach to seeking out new opportunities and finding creative solutions has added great value to the team.

Overall, I am very pleased with your performance over the past year and I have high expectations for your continued success. I look forward to seeing your continued growth and contributions to the team in the future.

Constructive feedback example

Example #3

John, thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. Over the past few months, there have been some concerns regarding your performance. Specifically, you have been consistently missing project deadlines and have not been communicating effectively with the team. This has caused delays and confusion on multiple projects.

Additionally, your attention to detail on some tasks has not been up to our standards, resulting in rework and additional effort required from others on the team.

Moving forward, it is important that you improve in these areas. I would like to see you prioritize your time management and proactively communicate with the team to ensure all deadlines are met. Let’s also work together to improve the quality of your work and avoid rework in the future. I believe that with some focus on these areas, you will be able to meet the expectations for your role

Example #4

Jane, thank you for meeting with me today to discuss your performance over the past year. I am impressed with the progress you have made in several areas, such as your strong collaboration with cross-functional teams and your proactive approach to finding new solutions.

However, I have also noticed some areas for improvement. For example, there have been several instances of missed deadlines on projects. Additionally, there have been instances of poor communication with the team and stakeholders, which has resulted in confusion and frustration.

Moving forward, it is important that you prioritize meeting project deadlines and improving your communication with the team. With a focused effort in these areas, I am confident that you will continue to be a valuable contributor to the company.

Overall, I appreciate the hard work and dedication you have shown over the past year and I look forward to your continued growth and success.

When shall you share the performance review?

The performance review normally consists of two parts:

  1. Documentation
  2. Review (normally a meeting between you and the employee)

Documentation:
The documentation part is common for many organizations, either done in an online platform or in a word document however the principles are always the same, as the ones above.

Review:
This is the moment to communicate the performance review details to your employees. Some people suggest that it is better to share the review upfront with the employee and some other people recommend sharing it after the review.

My recommendation is to share the review only after the meeting took place – a few reasons:

  1. Employees will focus on your speech
  2. Avoid misunderstandings of what was written vs what employees understood

Personal Connection:
Sharing performance feedback in person allows for a more personal connection between the manager and the employee. This can help to build trust and foster open communication, which can lead to a more productive and positive working relationship.

Clarity of Communication:
When providing performance feedback in person, it is easier to ensure that the message is clear and well-understood by the employee. This is especially important when delivering negative feedback, as it can help to avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the message.

Opportunity for Discussion:

Meeting in person provides an opportunity for discussion and follow-up questions. This allows the employee to fully understand the feedback and to ask any questions they may have, which can help to clarify expectations and ensure that both parties are on the same page moving forward.

Net: Share your performance review only after the meeting took place

FAQ How to write a performance review for an employee

Some questions regarding writing a review for an employee

When shall I share the performance review with the employee?

If you can choose, share the performance review with the employee only after you met and you share in person the main points of his/her performance. This way you will avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.

What should I write in a performance review example?

You should capture all the positive elements achieved by the employee during the year, highlighting specific business examples. If there are elements for improvement, clearly state them.

How do you write a performance review for an employee example?

Keep it objective, concise and to the point. Make sure you refer to specific examples and you avoid general statements.

How do you describe someone’s quality of work?

The best way to describe someone’s quality of work is by measuring the person’s performance versus a goal plan that should have been defined early in the year. First goals and later performance.

What are the 5 key words for SMART goals?

Every employee needs to have goals defined and aligned at the beginning of each work collaboration. Make sure these goals are SMART – meaning specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time applicable. An organization that delivers SMART goals, it is an organization that delivers.

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