An employee performance review is a regular assessment of an employee’s work performance. Many employers conduct annual performance reviews, although that’s not a requirement. More frequent reviews might be ideal, depending on the size of the company, the role the person has, and your business’s needs. 

To successfully conduct employee reviews, it’s important that the employee already knows what the expectations are of them and what standards they’re supposed to meet. They should feel comfortable speaking freely about their strengths and challenges, and asking for help where they need it. 

Provide clear feedback, and be open to answering questions. You want your employees to leave the meeting feeling confident and assured, not stressed out or troubled. Share positive feedback and provide honest, respectful, and actionable guidance on areas for improvement. Remember to discuss the employee’s entire job, not just one or two aspects. For example, if the employee is in a sales role, include discussion about how they communicate with co-workers or manage their time. 

Try not to use general comments, like “You’re doing good work.” Instead, be specific about what they do well, such as “I really appreciate how well you communicate with our clients.” That helps employees feel that their efforts are noticed. 

As much as possible, give clear and specific examples. Instead of noting that the employee doesn’t manage their time well, show them when they’ve missed deadlines or handed in rushed work because they waited until the last minute. Then provide guidance on addressing the situation, such as recommending a calendar be used to track progress. 

Avoid any temptation to compare employees with each other. No two workers are exactly the same, and comparison only creates tension. Instead, focus only on the person in front of you and how they are doing at their role. 

When you ask questions, ask specific questions and, where possible, avoid yes/no questions. Some good questions to ask:

  • What do you hope to achieve within the company in the next period?
  • How can I provide more support for you in reaching your goals?
  • What resources do you need to help you reach your goals?
  • What areas do you feel confident in?
  • What areas do you feel you could use additional training or support?

Asking employees what areas they need support in, or where they feel less confident, is more helpful and open than asking them about their challenges or areas where they need improvement. 

Note: An employee performance review should not prevent ongoing feedback. If an employee is doing a great job, let them know throughout the regular course of work. If there are ways to improve, tell them and work together to identify obstacles and ways you can support them. There shouldn’t be surprises at the review–the employee should already have a good idea of where they stand. 

Before the meeting

  • Set a regular schedule for performance reviews or check-ins
  • Set a date for the evaluation
  • Send the employee a list of things you’d like them to be prepared to talk about
  • Schedule time for the meeting (an hour, usually)
  • Set a place for the meeting (try to avoid your office if possible
  • Review the employee’s goals
  • Review the employee’s performance record
  • Prepare a list of expectations to discuss
  • Review the employee’s file (if you’re not overly familiar with them)

The day of the review

  • Write out the performance review
  • Ensure any necessary documentation is available
  • Ensure time for meeting is uninterrupted

During the evaluation

  • Set all notifications to silent
  • Review employee’s job description
  • Review employee’s goals
  • Ask employee about their progress
  • Ask employee about any obstacles hindering progress
  • Ensure employee has resources to achieve goals
  • Discuss employee’s professional goals
  • Give clear direction for professional development
  • Update goals for the next review period
  • Update job description if necessary

After the review

  • Revise job description if needed
  • Communicate any changes to the employee
  • Follow up with the employee to see how they are progressing towards their goals