How to Write a Great Performance Review

Last update: December 13, 2016

Performance review time can be an opportunity to help your employees understand their past performance and prepare for a year of high performance – or it can be a complete bust that eats up a lot of time with little benefit. Fortunately – you can decide which it will be. In this tutorial, you will learn how to become a powerful reviewer – how to help your employees understand how they are perceived and how to improve their own performance. You can prepare for the next year so the annual performance evaluation is an enjoyable experience which yields benefits for your team. Too good to be true?

4 Secrets to a Great Performance Review

It’s unfortunate that many managers don’t know how to hold a great performance review and can’t teach their employees how to hold great reviews as they are promoted. Many MBA schools fail at teaching the nuts and bolts of great performance reviews. A great performance review can be achieved, but you need to understand the secrets of a great performance review.

1. Understand Why You’re Reviewing Your Employee

I’m amazed at the number of management resources that completely miss the most important point of the employee performance review process – understand why you’re reviewing the employee.

This might seem like an obvious point. We’re reviewing the performance of the employee so you can identify his areas of weakness and help improve for next year’s review, right? Right?

Probably not. The real reason you’re probably writing that review is so you can decide on compensation increases for your staff. There may be a great performance management process in place at your company, but chances are the underlying reason why you’re writing a performance review is to manage the compensation process, not the performance process.

Now that you understand why you’re reviewing your employee, let’s work on changing the perception of the performance review process.

2. Disconnect Compensation and the Employee Review

If you know the real reason why you’re writing a review for an employee, she knows the real reason as well. The trick for you – and the reason you’re paid to manage your employees – is to shift the thinking about what an employee evaluation is from compensation to a performance management process. How do we disconnect the two?

We change the annual performance review to a quarterly checkup.

I know this is easier said than done, but you’re not here reading this tutorial because you want to just breeze through your performance reviews just to get them done (but if you are here for that reason, let us help you – here’s a link to a bunch of sample performance review phrases you can use to speed up the process).

You can reset expectations for the review process by explaining at the start of the process that you are going to do quarterly performance checkups with the employee and that this is just the current quarter’s review process. Explain that you will be also doing a compensation review for the employee which will go to HR, but that the performance management process is separate and the purpose is to help the employee improve and excel at their job and career.

Disconnecting the performance evaluation from the compensation evaluation will reduce the stress of the process for both employee and manager. Now that you’re set the ground rules for the evaluation process, let’s work on including the employee in the process.

3. Engage With Your Employee for a Collaborative Employee Performance Review

No, we’re not just throwing out some fancy management doublespeak here – we are serious about this one. In order to have an excellent performance review with your employee – not an ok or mediocre one – you must engage with your employee and work on the review together. I’ve known a number of managers who take one of two tracks: write all of the performance reviews and deliver each one to the appropriate employee or have the employee write the performance review and use that one. Both are common tactics for delivering a performance review, but unfortunately, both are incorrect. The best way to actually engage an employee in the process and to have him buy in to the process is to work on the review together.

This doesn’t mean sitting down together to write the review, but each putting your thoughts together for the review, then meeting to discuss those thoughts and refine what the review should say together. This will help ensure there are no surprises in the process and that each employee feels respected – even if you think she is a poor performer. As you prepare the performance review, you can also work on the employee’s goals for the next year. We’re going to focus on an employee’s strengths in this process.

4. Focus on Excelling with Strengths, Continuous Improvement for Weaknesses

What was your least favorite subject in school? Are you good with numbers but not very creative? Excelled in English and grammar, but struggled in science? If you struggled in a subject in high school, did you find you excelled at it in college? Not likely. Most of us are strong in one area while weak in another.

Now think about your job. Impress others with your sales ability but weak in day to day management? Genius with the numbers but problem solving is not your strength? The same principle with your strengths and weaknesses in subjects in high school and college applies today – you have areas you are very strong in and areas you are very weak in. Chances are, those areas have improved somewhat since in the early years of your career, but the chances you flipped your weakness into a strength are pretty slim.

So why do many of us focus 80% of our time on an employee’s weaknesses when the proper focus should be 80% on their strengths?

We still need to focus on helping an employee identify and work on their weaknesses. We want them to be functional in those areas, but if I have an employee who is incredibly creative but lacks people management skills, I’m going to harness that creativity and not spend all my time trying to make him into a manager.

When you’re working on the reviews for your employees this year, think about how you can help an employee invest 80% of their time improving their strengths.

Next: Sample Performance Review Phrases

On the next several pages of this tutorial, we are going to provide hundreds of sample performance review phrases you can use for your performance review writing time. These samples will help spur ideas for you to prepare the written evaluations.

Performance review time can be a struggle for many managers to adequately review and rate their employees. In this ebook, we’ve written over 1,000 template performance review phrases you can use to review your employees. This is different than other performance review phrase books, we provide entire sentences to describe an employee which you can simply cut and paste into the review documents. We’re selling the ebook for $25 for an instant download.

View our Effective Performance Review Product Page – or –

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