The Ultimate Guide To Employee Performance Reviews And Evaluations


Your employees are your greatest asset. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to run your business. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to set up the right environment and provide your employees with the tools to succeed. One tool many organizations use to evaluate employees is a performance review. If you want to evaluate staff members properly, you must understand what you’re trying to assess and conduct an effective employee performance review.

Today’s post will walk you through the entire performance review process, from what it is to the action steps you have to take after completing one.

What Is An Annual Performance Review?

A performance review is a meeting to discuss an employee’s work at your organization. These reviews usually occur around the anniversary of their tenure with your company. It’s one of the best ways to ensure that you’re providing employees with the best knowledge and information about where they stand with the company. These meetings should also equip them with the best opportunities to grow and develop.

When Should You Host Employee Performance Reviews?

A formal performance review should be a yearly affair.

What you say at these yearly reviews shouldn’t come as a surprise to your team. You should regularly review the performance of your employees to ensure that they are meeting (or, better yet, exceeding) expectations. Informal reviews during one-on-one meetings are beneficial for company growth.

You should use formal performance reviews to speak one-on-one with each employee to ensure you provided them with the tools they need to succeed. If you’re not on the same page, you could be jeopardizing their continued success and harming your business results.

How To Get Ready For A Performance Review

A performance review is one of the most common initiatives that HR professionals and managers must lead. Not only do you need to lead the process, but you also need to evaluate your team’s performance effectively.

If you’re in charge of leading your team’s performance review, make sure you take the adequate steps to prepare for it. Here are some things you can do to get ready for a performance review:

Create Or Utilize A Rubric To Evaluate Employees Within Your Department

A performance review rubric is an excellent tool to utilize for a fair evaluation of each employee within your business. You should create these rubrics with the help of the employees themselves and outside sources to ensure that they are fair and impartial. Once filled out, they should also be kept confidential.

These rubrics should include an evaluation of:

  • Each employee’s performance
  • Employee attitude
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Their impact on the department/company

A performance appraisal rubric should also include a set of goals and expectations for each employee. A rubric can be an excellent tool for employees to understand how they can further their careers within your organization.

Get Employees To Evaluate Their Own Performance

To ensure that your employees are fully engaged in the performance review process, you need to get them to evaluate their own performance. Self-evaluation can help you unearth some of the hardest challenges, self-doubt. If employees score themselves significantly lower than you do, it’s time to have a chat about their work esteem and how they can feel more confident in their own work.

You can use the same rubric you’ve created and a few open-ended questions for the self-evaluation you share with workers.

Conduct A 360 Review

To ensure you are getting a complete picture of your employee’s performance, conduct a 360 review.

A 360 review is another form of professional feedback that allows employees to review one another. These reviews allow you to evaluate the performance of your employees from a different angle. You can also include customer feedback into a 360 review, which allows you to better understand how your employees are impacting their customers.

You should be looking for any significant issues that your employees may not be aware of and any inconsistencies affecting your team’s performance. If you find any issues they may be unaware of, you should address them during your employee performance review.

Connect All Of The Evaluation Results

Once you’ve completed your evaluations, reviewed your employee’s self-evaluation, and looked over the 360 results, you can compare your results. By the time you are through, you will have a much clearer picture of where your employee stands within the organization. All of this data will help you understand whether or not they are meeting expectations.

Looking at the bigger picture will also help identify any areas where your employees need help. Look for any significant issues or inconsistencies that may be holding them back from meeting their goals and yours. If you find that they are not meeting expectations, suggest how they can best improve their performance.


What Should Happen During A Performance Review?

The performance review is a significant milestone in an employee’s career. It is an opportunity for the employee to share their thoughts, plans, and aspirations. It is also a chance for the manager to assess the employee’s performance and provide feedback. Unfortunately, many managers fail to make the most out of this opportunity and don’t do enough to ensure that the employee is completely engaged.

Here are some of the most important things that you should be doing during a performance review:

Review Their Past Year

The performance review should be a time to review the past year of your employee’s work. Your yearly review should include any significant projects they worked on and any improvements to their performance. You must have a good understanding of what they have accomplished and what they have improved.

You need to use these performance reviews as more than a chance to identify weaknesses or wrongdoings. In fact, surveys show that 40% of employees put more energy into their work when recognized for their successes. So, make sure you are taking the time to highlight some of their most positive achievements over the past year.

Of course, you also need to use this opportunity to highlight any areas that you feel they could improve. For example, if you feel they are not meeting job expectations, you should be making a concerted effort to address this. If you aren’t addressing them, then your employee may be unaware of the issue. If they are aware and you aren’t addressing the problems, they may take advantage and continue their unproductive, negative behaviors without fear of consequences.

Go Over Any Prepared Review Reports

While you’re in the midst of reviewing your team member’s past year, be sure you refer to any prepared review reports that you’ve collected during your preparation.

Ideally, if you’ve completed a 360 review, you’ll want to begin there. That’s because you’ll have a wealth of information from both inside and outside the company. These reviews will also help eliminate any bias on your part. The information usually collected as part of a 360 review comes from various individuals who don’t always have direct contact with you.

From there, you’ll want to go over your prepared rubric with each employee. This will allow you to go over any of your comments and concerns about the staff member you are talking with.

You should also review the employee’s self-evaluation, which should have been submitted to you before the performance review. Going over this information will allow you to understand where the employee is coming from and address any gaps between your rating and the team member’s rating.

With multiple reports to review with your employee, you’ll be able to back up all criticism and positive feedback with factual data from multiple sources.

Ask For Feedback From The Employee

Once you’ve gone over all the collected data and started to discuss the employee’s wins and shortcomings from the past year, you need to take time to ask each employee for feedback.

Opening these lines of communication between you and each employee during a performance review allows each person a chance to ask questions and express opinions without fear of retribution. Studies show that employees who feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered and do their best work.

During each employee performance review, make sure you take the time to ask each person how you, as upper management, can help them continue to succeed. The idea shouldn’t be to press on shortcomings – but focus more on their long-term success. You want your employees to see you as someone they can trust. So, make sure you are taking the time to foster an open and honest relationship.

Do Some Future Planning With Each Employee

After you’ve had a chance to go over everything with your employee and receive feedback, it’s time to move on to the final stage of your employee performance review: future planning.

If the review has gone well and you’ll be continuing your partnership with the employee, then you’ll want to take the time to set some new goals for the year ahead. Take a few moments to ask questions such as:

  • Where do they see themselves a year from now?
  • What do they wish to accomplish in the next 3, 6, 9, and 12 months?
  • What can you do to help them accomplish their goals?
  • Do they see themselves in the same position? Or do they envision themselves moving up the ladder?

You want to encourage each employee to express their wants/desires and discuss how they see themselves reaching their goals.


Question To Ask During An Employee Performance Review

Are you stuck on what to talk about during your performance review? First, you want to make sure that you have a list of questions to ask your employees. Many of these questions will resemble those included in your employee onboarding process and your employee performance review rubric.

Here’s a list of questions you can ask during the review:

  • How do you define success?
  • What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
  • What have you done in the past year that you would consider a success or failure?
  • What was your most significant accomplishment or failure in the last # months?
  • What are your future personal goals?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What do you want to be doing in # months?
  • What do you enjoy most about your current role?
  • What would you change about your current role?
  • How do you deal with setbacks?
  • What has your experience been like with your current team?
  • How do you work with others?
  • How do you think your role helps the company meet its goals?
  • Which goals have you achieved so far, and which have you missed?
  • What motivates you to do your best work?
  • Is there anything I can do to make your job more enjoyable?
  • What are your ideal working conditions?
  • What type of work comes most effortless to you?
  • What skills do you possess that you believe could be used more effectively?
  • What do you want your next position within the company to be?
  • How would you prefer to receive feedback and recognition?
  • What do you think you could contribute to the company?
  • What could we do to improve the work environment?
  • What could we do to improve the company culture?
  • What would you like to have in a manager?
  • What do you think your manager would like to have in you?
  • What do you think of the company’s future?
  • What do you think of the company’s products, services, and reputation?

Of course, with any productive employee performance review, you need to be ready and willing to answer questions from the employee. Some questions that your employees may ask you include:

  • What do you expect of me in this role?
  • What do you want me to do differently?
  • Is there something I can do better?
  • What do you want me to change?
  • What do you want me to do more of?
  • What do you want me to do less of?
  • Is there room for continued growth within my current department?
  • Are there specific goals you think I should be working towards?
  • How do you measure my progress?
  • Is there any way I can support my team better?
  • Is there anything I’m focusing too much of my time on?
  • Is there anything I need to focus more time on?
  • Is there any available training or resources that can help me progress within my current role or the company?

How Long Should You Schedule For A Performance Review?

Each employee’s performance review will vary in length depending on what you need to discuss. Ideally, you should plan for each review to take a minimum of 30 minutes, if not an hour. This time ensures that you can cover all necessary topics and allow room for your employees to ask questions and have their voices heard.

You may also want to plan for a follow-up meeting with employees who have received unsatisfactory reviews. The gap between meetings will allow your employees an opportunity to implement tips and tricks for success. It will also allow you a chance to check in more often to see if they are intentionally slacking off or if there is something you can do to help them further improve their daily performance. Ideally, you should schedule your follow-up meeting approximately 30 days following the initial performance review. You should, again, allow for a minimum of 30 minutes to go over all the necessary information.

What Are The Next Steps After An Employee Performance Review?

Finally, once you’ve taken the time to go over all necessary reports and have allowed your employee to express their thoughts and plans, it’s time to sit down and draft an action plan as well as a formal employee performance review.

The action plan should include the following:

  • A list of all areas in which the employee needs to improve.
  • A timeline for when the employee should begin to make improvements.
  • If the employee has a history of poor performance, you should also include a formal warning. Your warning should be scripted and consist of a list of unacceptable behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors.
  • A list of all areas the employee excels in and the specific goals they should strive to achieve.
  • A list of any additional training or resources that you feel will help the employee reach their goals and any other resources or help you can provide.

The formal employee performance review consists of documentation of the performance review and the action plan that your employee should have signed off on before the end of their review. You should get your employee to sign off on this document and add this to your employee’s file. If you use an employee onboarding software like WorkBright, you can upload this to the employee’s supplemental records. Make sure that employees have a copy of their complete review, signed by both of you.

Approach Your Next Employee Performance Review With Confidence

Employee performance reviews are an excellent opportunity for you to talk with your employee about their performance as well as their career goals and aspirations. This is a great time to catch up on progress and answer any questions your employees have about their role and company culture.

You must approach your following performance review with confidence and enthusiasm. You want to make sure that your employee feels valued and heard, and that they can put any concerns and questions they may have to rest.

If your employee feels this way, they will work harder, be more productive, and help you achieve company goals.

Employee Performance Review Frequently Asked Questions

To wrap up this guide, let’s run through a few more frequently asked questions when it comes to performance reviews and evaluations:

Should Companies Switch To Quarterly Performance Reviews?

There has been a lot of energy around switching to quarterly reviews. While this can potentially help your team, it requires a lot of energy to manage. If you have hundreds of employees, your leaders will constantly be reviewing employees. Instead of quadrupling your workload, take time to review and discuss performance during one-on-one meetings. Your employee shouldn’t be surprised by what they hear during their performance review, after all. Make sure that you are providing informal feedback throughout the year.

How Should Companies Encourage Honesty And Openness During Employee Evaluations?

If your employees don’t feel like they can be open or honest with you, performance reviews won’t be helpful. Honesty starts from the moment an employee walks through the door. You’ve got to be willing to share and open up with your team to build trust with them. If your organization isn’t building a company based on these principles, you will have a hard time connecting with your team. Start by using ice breakers and asking questions during the employee onboarding process. Anything you can do to improve team bonding early can help you during the review process.

How Should Performance Reviews Be Handled Digitally?

Having tough or important conversations on Zoom can be a challenge for HR professionals and managers. If you are a remote company, you have to handle these conversations remotely. Here are some tips to help out:

  • Keep the meetings private. Take these conversations in a private office and reduce the number of people in the room. You might even want to create a password-protected room for your performance reviews with staff members.
  • Ensure that employees have as much of your full attention as possible. Remove distractions and spend this time with your staff member. Listen to their concerns and work through the agenda together. Turn off notifications from other programs so that you can be present. Keep your camera on so that your team member can read facial cues.
  • Leave space for your employee to talk. Digital conversations aren’t easy. There is always a bit of a delay, making it difficult for back and forth communication to occur. Make sure you are leaving space for an open dialogue to occur, even if it feels awkward.