How to Write a Great Performance Review in 10 Steps

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Performance Management

How to Write a Great Performance Review in 10 Steps

No matter how long you've been a manager, most of us struggle with writing employee performance reviews.

We want to be fair. We want to help our employees. We want to do them well. We don't want to cause conflict.

So I thought I'd share what I think are the 10 steps you need to take to write a performance review that will truly help support employee performance and development, and strengthen your working relationships.

Here they are…

1. Start by familiarizing yourself with your performance review process and forms

From year to year, HR groups often make small changes or improvements to their employee performance review process and forms; I know we do here at Halogen. And sometimes they reengineer the process all together to better follow best practices.

If you don’t know already, find out if your organization’s process has changed, what all the steps and tasks are, and what forms to use. That way you'll have a good understanding of what's expected of everyone, and what information you'll need to write your performance reviews.

If your HR team offers any training for managers, sign up for it.

2. Refresh your skills at giving feedback, coaching and developing employees and setting goals

Giving feedback, coaching employees, identifying learning needs, writing goals — these are not easy tasks. Even experienced managers struggle sometimes. And we're continually learning new ways to do all of these more effectively.

So before you sit down to write your employee performance reviews, spend some time further developing your own management skills. If you don't have time to sign up for a course, there are lots of online resources available that can help you. (I’ve linked to a few resources above. There’s also this great employee feedback and coaching template you can download).

3. Gather information about your employees' performance

However your organization conducts the performance review cycle (be it monthly, quarterly, annually, what have you), remember that the performance review is exactly that — a review. You need to consider your employees' performance over the entire timeframe of the review cycle; not how they’ve performed recently.

Now's the time to comb through the notes and reports you've been making about your employees’ performance since their last review. Look for emails from others that give feedback or recognize contributions. Collect up any awards and course certificates.

4. Familiarize yourself and your employees with organizational goals for the coming year

Since you'll be drafting employee goals for the next review cycle, as part of your performance review meeting, you need to make sure both you and your employees are familiar with the organization's goals. That way you can draft role-appropriate goals that help contribute to the organization's goals.

5. Ask your employees to complete a self-appraisal

Invite each of your employees to complete a self-appraisal, draft their goals for the coming review period and identify some desired learning activities. Don't forget that your employees may also benefit from some training and support to complete this task. Here is a great resource that can help.

Ideally, your process should automatically include this step, so you don't have to ask them to complete one. Even if it doesn't, make sure you do ask them to complete a self-appraisal (at least once or twice a year). Self-appraisals are a great way to engage employees in the review process while giving you insight into how they perceive themselves.

6. Gather performance feedback from others

Another important step to take is to gather performance feedback from others. If you can, take advantage of any 360 degree assessments your organization offers. They're the best way to anonymously gather feedback and performance ratings from others who've worked closely with your employees.

If you don't have access to a formal 360 degree assessment process, you can always meet with people individually to solicit their perspective.

360 degree assessments are a great way to get a broader view of your employees' performance and to fill in any knowledge gaps you might have.

7. Write a draft of your employee performance reviews

Now that you've done all that preliminary work, you're ready to draft your employees' performance reviews. Remember to provide detailed feedback explaining all your ratings. This qualitative information is what will really help your employees develop and improve.

8. Book meetings with each employee

Once you've drafted your performance reviews, it's time to start scheduling your one-on-one meetings with staff. Make sure you choose a private location and allow enough time to discuss performance, goals, development needs and career aspirations. It can take longer than you think.

It's also helpful to choose times when you can both bring your full attention to the meeting and discussion. First thing in the morning and last thing in the day, particularly on Mondays and Fridays, may not be ideal.

9. Together review and discuss each employee's performance, development needs, goals for the coming year and career aspirations

It's really important to remember that your performance review meeting is a collaborative discussion. You're not there to tell the employee what you think of their performance and how you've rated them. You're there to have a larger discussion.

Your goal is to come to a shared set of expectations, and a shared plan for helping the employee improve and succeed.

10. Document everything in your performance review forms

Now, you're finally ready to write your employee performance review. Based on the discussion you've just had with your employee, update your draft of their performance review. Once you're done, both you and the employee should sign-off the document to demonstrate that you're both aware of its contents. If you're not using an automated system to write performance reviews, make sure you, the employee and HR get a copy.

10b. Make a plan to meet regularly, one-on-one, with each employee to review and discuss their performance, development, and goals.

While technically, you're done writing your performance reviews, most experts would agree that performance management needs to be an ongoing activity.

So make a plan with your employees to meet regularly so you can review and discuss their progress. How often you need to meet is up to you. I'd suggest that you meet at least once per month, but often short, weekly one-on-one meetings are most effective.

Looking for additional resources?

And that’s it. 10 steps to writing a better performance review. I hope you find the above information helpful.

If you’re looking for additional resources, we’ve put together some fairly comprehensive performance appraisal process checklists for HR, managers and employees. These checklists walk you through much of what’s discussed above, so go download them. They’re ready for you to use as is (as Word forms), but you can easily modify them to suit your needs.

Your Turn: What do you think? When it comes to writing a performance review, would you add any important steps or actions?

Employee Performance Appraisal Process Checklists

Get comprehensive best practice checklists that walk HR, managers and employees through the entire performance review process.


Download Now
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Employee Performance Appraisal Process Checklists

Get comprehensive best practice checklists that walk HR, managers and employees through the entire performance review process.


Download Now


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