Employee Assessments

How to Make Performance Reviews More Insightful for Everyone

Molly Allen
6 min read

Does anyone really like performance reviews?

For managers, they are often viewed as just another task to add to the growing list of non-income-producing projects that they are required to complete.

For employees, performance reviews are frequently dreaded as an ego-draining and demeaning exercise.

At most companies, the best that can be hoped for is that no one leaves the review with hurt feelings. At worse, a badly-executed review can cause employees to leave the company.

According to a study cited by Forbes, only 55% of respondents felt that performance reviews benefited their companies and a somewhat startling 28% actually felt that the process worked to do harm to their company. It doesn’t have to be like that.


The True Goal of Performance Reviews

Done well, performance reviews can help to keep a dialogue open between management and employees as well as to make sure that everyone knows what is expected of him or her in the workplace.


Managers Take Note: 6 Things You Can Do for Successful Performance Reviews

Making performance reviews as useful as possible depends, in large part, on how the manager presents the project. There are a number of things the manager or supervisor can do to help yield positive results from annual or quarterly reviews.

1. Make sure everyone understands the process.

One of the best things a manager can do to take the stress out of the review process is to make sure that everyone knows exactly what is going to happen and when it’s going to happen. It’s also a good idea to share the form or format that you’ll be using and tell employees the areas you’ll be discussing.

2. Start with an open-ended question.

Too many supervisors treat performance reviews as an opportunity to lecture and pontificate to their employees. Is it any wonder that employees get defensive? Instead of lecturing, set the employee at ease by asking them a broad question at the beginning of the review, such as “tell me what you liked best about the past year/quarter?” or “what would you most like to accomplish in the next quarter?”

3. Be specific.

The most useful performance feedback is something that an employee can grasp and work on during the next review period. For example, instead of telling your receptionist to be more responsive, tell him or her that you’d like the phone to be answered before the third ring and for him or her to greet each visitor immediately.

4. Ask lots of questions.

A performance review is a great time to get to know more about the things that are important to your individual employees, things that you can help you better motivate and mentor them in the future.

5. Avoid surprises.

A performance review isn’t the time to spring a major performance concern on an employee. Used properly, a review will serve to reinforce issues that you’ve been talking about throughout the review period. No one appreciates being blind-sided with negative feedback.

6. Resist the temptation to divide issues into good and bad.

Since life isn’t divided into black and white, your reviews shouldn’t be either. Resist the urge to say “this is what you did well this year and this is what you didn’t do so well.” Such an approach is almost always too simplistic.


3 Things Employees Can Do to Get More Out of Performance Reviews

There are also a number of things that employees can do to get the most from their reviews. We find these three to be the most helpful for the most people. And, happily, they’re easy for employees to implement on their own!

1. Prepare.

Performance reviews should ideally be a conversation, not a soliloquy. Take some time to jot done any questions you may have of your manager. This is an ideal time to clarify anything that you may have been uncertain about. Sharing some of the burden of the discussion will also make it easy on your supervisor.

2. Bring your goals.

Your manager may have no idea what you’d like to accomplish during the coming review period. She or he may not expect as much of you as you expect of yourself. Your performance review is the perfect time to share your goals.

3. Remember that there is always room for improvement.

No one should get a perfect score on his or her performance review. If so, it’s likely that the manager didn’t spend a lot of time preparing the review. Everyone can do a little better in at least one or two aspects of their job. Instead of feeling threatened by such feedback, take it as a compliment that your manager wants to help you succeed and took the time to thoroughly consider your performance.


2 Reminders for Both Managers and Employees

With so many stakeholders at every level of your organization, it’s important that everyone starts on the same page when the time comes again for performance reviews. Start with these two tips.

1. Don’t make it personal.

One of the prime reasons that all parties–both managers and employees–dread performance reviews is that they are afraid that someone is going to make them feel bad about themselves. This can be true even if the person is doing a stellar job. Striving to remain objective and not get defensive can go a long way towards making your reviews as productive as they can be.

2. Make sure to listen.

It’s equally important for both managers and employees to listen as much as they speak. That’s the only way that true communication can happen.


Improve Performance Reviews for Everyone

Performance reviews don’t have to be stressful, ineffective–or even harmful. For best results, make sure that you prepare well for the review, make sure to not take the review process personally and to try to take at least one actionable thing away from the discussion.

An important piece of the puzzle is creating a user-friendly, easy, fast way for employees to complete reviews for themselves and their coworkers. SurveyGizmo has solutions tailored specifically for your Human Resources department. Read more articles on this topic.

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