How to Conduct an Effective Performance Review?

When your employees hear about the next performance review period, do you think the first tune that pops into their minds is the Christmas song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"? If it is not, you are doing something wrong. 

These days, the performance review season continues to be a source of stress and dissatisfaction for managers and employees alike.

Regardless of the appraisal process frequency, employees at every level of the organization find traditional performance appraisals time- and energy-consuming, daunting, and intimidating. Performance reviews represent a challenge for managers as they must find the right approach and avoid crossing the thin line between coaching and criticizing.

One-sided conversations, biases, or ambiguous messages leave both parties feeling like they have the same tedious, going-nowhere discussions each time.

Nevertheless, when conducted in a structured and impactful manner, performance reviews are an excellent opportunity to consolidate solid behaviors, improve poor traits, and boost employee professional growth.

In this article, we will answer your questions about performance review so that this strategic process reaches its full potential to create positive experiences that motivate employees, boost teams' morale, and drive high performance.


  1. What is a performance review?
  2. How do you prepare your performance review?
  3. Leading practices to conduct an efficient performance review 
  4. What should a performance review assess?
  5. How do you measure employee performance?
  6. Types of performance review 
  7. What should you do after the performance review period? 
  8. The importance of performance review 
  9. Effective performance review categories 
  10. Most used performance review templates 

1.    What is a performance review?

A performance review is the systematic and periodic evaluation of an employee's work performance against a set of established requirements, objectives, and goals of the job. 

Performance appraisal is a one-on-one, open, and honest discussion between a manager and a team member to measure the employee's work performance impact on the overall organization, establish strengths and weaknesses, provide constructive feedback, and set goals for future performance.

The purpose of the performance review is two-folded:

  • Managers use it to motivate employees to find new career development opportunities and clarify their job responsibilities.
  • Employees use it to reach their fullest potential by redirecting their efforts toward meaningful performance goals

2. How do you prepare your performance review?

Performance review is a two-way conversation between the feedback provider (manager) and the receiver (employee). To have an impactful dialog, both parties must prepare their assessments in advance.

Here are the main steps to get you ready.

As a manager

Step 1. Describe your evaluation criteria

Your employees need a clear understanding of what constitutes excellent performance or underperformance. Use metrics such as communication skills, creativity, collaboration, job knowledge, or meeting deadlines to ensure consistency in your appraisal. 

Step 2. Collect significant employee data

Gather consistent qualitative and quantitative data from the employees, their peers, superiors, or customers and create a comprehensive, 360° picture of your employee's performance. 

Step 3. Use a performance review template

You can find various performance review templates tailored to your specific process online. They help you save precious time while ensuring you cover all relevant areas for an efficient appraisal. 

Step 4. Schedule the face-to-face meeting

Decide with your employee the best date and time to give your undivided attention to the performance review meeting. To have a result-oriented and impactful conversation, avoid scheduling it during stressful periods. 

As an employee

Step 1. Conduct a self-evaluation

Review your job description and the objectives established during the previous performance review to understand what is expected of you. Gather feedback from all your collaborators and identify your accomplishments and areas of improvement

Step 2. Clarify your goals

This step is crucial for an effective performance review meeting. Once you know your clear objectives, you can align them with your company's goals and start working toward them. Ensure your goals are SMART, ambitious, and attainable.

Step 3. Communicate assertively and effectively

Improve your communication skills beforehand. Rehearse your key talking points and provide examples to illustrate them. Detail your achievements and obstacles, actively listen to your manager's feedback, and ask relevant and meaningful questions when you need clarifications.

Step 4. Leverage the meeting for your future career growth

Use this excellent opportunity to discuss your long-term goals, aspirations, and available resources for your professional development with the manager. Highlight your value to the team and ask for advice on your areas to improve and grow. 

3. Main practices to conduct an efficient performance review

As a manager, you are responsible for guiding your employees and giving them direction and purpose. 

How you conduct your performance review is crucial and has the biggest impact on the outcomes. When done well, it improves employee morale and retention

When executed poorly, performance review leads to disengagement, stress, and burnout among your team members. Don't expect great results if you don't invest enough time and resources in this process. 

Consider the following best practices to conduct a highly efficient performance review.  

1. Know your company policy regarding performance review

Before starting the evaluation, you must know what types of performance reviews are appropriate for your team and how frequently you will conduct them.

Whether you conduct an annual or monthly performance review, ensure you provide your employees with the feedback they need whenever they need it. 

2. Encourage a culture of informal feedback

As a manager, you must provide relevant feedback all the time. Don't rely exclusively on the performance review period to discuss with your employee; offer consistent appraisal throughout the year. While performance reviews may involve difficult conversations, ensure you focus on giving constructive feedback. 

Providing timely, specific, and results-oriented feedback keeps your team members in the loop and ready to improve and acquire new skills. 

3. Make performance reviews two-sided conversations

When it comes to actually conducting the performance review, you may be tempted to monopolize the conversation. You must avoid one-sided conversations where you tell your employees what they must start, continue, or stop doing.

Encourage your team members to share their insights, and be open to hearing and implementing their suggestions on improving your role. 

4. Honesty is the best policy

One of the least efficient things you can do while conducting your performance review is to sugar-coat your message. The golden rule is to tell your employees what you want to hear if the roles are reversed.

Be tactful while providing your honest feedback. Clearly express your concerns and expectations, leaving no room for ambiguity or mixed messages. 

5. Use specific details and pertinent examples

Avoid being vague when conducting your performance review. Use as many details as possible, especially when discussing areas of improvement. Provide clear examples of good performance to show your employees you are invested in their activity. 

Be specific, provide evidence, and highlight the impact of your employee's behavior and performance on the rest of the team. Train yourself to take constant notes, especially when the performance appraisal process is not so frequent. 

6. Conduct a face-to-face performance review 

Crafting and sending an impersonal email may seem more manageable and less time-consuming. But don't fool yourself: no email can be as efficient as a face-to-face meeting, no matter how well-written. 

Find a date and location for a relaxed, honest conversation with your team member. This approach demonstrates that you care enough about your employees and are willing to provide and receive feedback.  

7. Complete your performance review on a positive note

Regardless of the feedback, complete your performance evaluation on a positive note. Your understanding and respect will encourage and motivate your employees to work harder and improve the quality of their work and results until the next review. 

When completing your performance review on an optimistic and goal-oriented note, your workforce feels inspired, trusted, and appreciated. 

4. What skills should a performance review assess?

The list of skills you decide to assess during the performance review is fluid. It is really up to you and your company's policy on what you want to focus more and what needs less attention. 

However, there are eight specific skills to consider for most professionals. 


When measuring collaboration, you assess the employee's ability to cooperate with team members and ensure the projects and tasks flow smoothly. Excellent cooperation skills lead to high levels of productivity within your team.

Quality of work

Work quality assesses how well an employee performs their tasks on average. The more efficient, the more cost-effective the employee is for the team. This is the reason you should assess this skill during your performance review.

Time management and attendance

Time management, attendance, and punctuality are key factors to measure in your employee performance review. Insights such as punctuality, attendance, or absences are accessible using HR software with leave management and time-tracking features.


Being accountable for their work and outcomes, good or bad, is a crucial trait to assess in your employee's performance review. Assuming responsibility is a sign of professional integrity and commitment and maintains high levels of efficiency within the team.


The problem-solving soft skill assesses your employee's ability to detect an issue and its cause, identify solutions, and decide the most efficient one. Ask and encourage your team members to discuss how they overcame obstacles. 


This crucial skill measures how clearly the employee conveys ideas in words. Open lines of communication, horizontally and vertically, are essential to the success of every business. Effective communication leads to better work relationships and increases productivity. 


In our fast-moving world, changes are unavoidable, both personally and professionally. In terms of workplaces, adapting quickly to changes and new challenges is now more important than ever.

Creativity and innovation  

Your company grows when your employees can identify new opportunities, bring original solutions, and use their imagination to solve problems, ensuring you stand out from the competition. Creativity and innovation are the most desired future skills, so they must be evaluated during your performance review process. 

5. How do you measure employee performance?

To acquire the most valuable findings from the performance review, you must make this an ongoing process and a part of your company's culture. For this reason, knowing how to measure your employees' performance is critical for your organization.

Here are the main five strategies to help you.

  • Choosing specific OKRs (objectives and key results) is an excellent method to engage your employees (by setting significant objectives) and help them move forward (by breaking the objectives into key results) in a given period. 
  • Implementing sprints involves your team members working against the clock to complete an amount of work during a time-boxed period (usually for 5 days).
  • Provide training programs and encourage your employees' professional growth. Ultimately, training effectiveness impacts the overall success of your organization.
  • Tracking and analyzing KPIs provides your team with goals and milestones to measure progress. Monitoring KPIs helps you make data-driven decisions while optimizing your employees' performance.
  • Conduct a skill gap analysis to identify the difference (gap) between your staff’s current capabilities and competencies necessary to meet and exceed ongoing and future business demands. 

6. Types of performance review

Employee performance reviews vary according to their frequency, participants, and topic or focus. 

Performance review types based on cadence:

  • An annual performance review allows one to reflect on the employee's contributions, challenges, growth, and achievements during the last year.
  • Mid-year performance review allows you to make adjustments and corrections halfway through the year so the employee improves their performance by the end of the year.
  • Quarterly performance reviews are ideal for cultivating a mindset of continuous improvement, and they align with the way organizations divide their operations into four clusters (Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4).
  • A monthly performance review is most useful when evaluating short-term employees’ or new hires' performance and progress during their onboarding process
  • Weekly or fortnightly performance reviews evaluate employee performance during a week, focusing on short-term goals and ensuring a project stays on track week by week. 

Performance review types based on participants:

  • The self-assessment review helps employees evaluate their challenges and achievements and improve their accountability while providing you with feedback on how to coach and guide them better.
  • 360-degree performance review lets you gather insights about your employees' performance from their direct collaborators (colleagues, superiors, or clients), creating a more objective, bias-free evaluation.
  • Peer review is a standard practice where co-workers assess and provide honest and meaningful feedback on another team member's performance.
  • A team performance review is a tool where workers rate the whole team's performance. When using this method, you emphasize teamwork rather than an employee's performance
  • Upward performance review is an excellent evaluation method, allowing direct reports to give feedback about your leadership skills

Performance reviews based on topic or focus:

  • Impact on behavior is an excellent method to review your employee’s performance by connecting productivity to behavior, addressing gaps, and enhancing efficiency. 
  • Career development: One of the primary purposes of conducting a performance review is to identify the skill set your employee needs to accomplish professional goals. This tool is excellent for determining the job's requirements for upskilling or reskilling.
  • Monitoring progress toward goals: conducting frequent informal conversations during face-to-face meetings allows you to track the progress toward short- and medium-term goals established with your employee. 
  • Alignment to established goals is a type of performance review that allows you to ensure that every employee understands their objectives and they are on the right track working toward individual, team, and organizational goals.
  • Promotions, compensations, and perks: You must recognize your employee's contribution to avoid disengagement and turnover. Performance reviews are valuable tools to decide if your team member qualifies for a promotion, salary raise, or more incentives. 

7. What should we do after the performance review period? 

The employee performance review continues after a face-to-face meeting. Here is what you can do to ensure your process reaches its ultimate goal: to improve the organization's outcomes while the employees continue to grow.

1. Follow up

Once the performance appraisal ends, you will need to remain connected to your employee's performance and provide continuous guidance. 

Let's assume that one of your employee skills that needs improvement is time management, as identified during the performance review process. Give it two weeks or a month, and then schedule a one-on-one meeting to ask questions about specific steps and challenges and provide additional support or resources. 

By scheduling a follow-up meeting, you demonstrate your willingness to support your employees' growth. Your commitment improves employee experience and enhances the company's bottom line.

2. Keep the performance conversation open

Performance appraisal conversations should happen frequently throughout the entire period until the following performance review. 

Establish an open-door policy and cultivate a workplace environment that encourages honest, ongoing communication. These regular meetings create a space for your workforce to discuss their achievements and obstacles and seek feedback on how to continue their work.

8. The importance of performance review

People are your most valuable resource, the core of your business. When they are happy and satisfied with their job, your company thrives and surpasses the competition. 

Performance reviews are more than an opportunity to reflect on the past - they allow you to check the pulse of your workforce and optimize performance in the future. 

Here are some additional benefits of a well-conducted performance review process.

A clear definition of job roles and responsibilities

Performance review clarifies and eliminates ambiguities regarding the job's duties and expectations.

Align individual goals with organizational goals

Once employees understand their roles, they can align personal goals with the company's mission and vision.

Improved communication

Performance review allows you to provide and receive constructive feedback. 

Career development

Performance review allows you to plan and set objectives for your employee's professional development. 

Make fair reward decisions

Performance reviews are also a starting point for discussing compensation, bonuses, and promotions and making an objective decision.


What are the effective performance review categories?

To build a successful performance review process, you should master the art of crafting meaningful feedback. Here are some positive performance appraisal phrases to inspire you during the next evaluation.

  • Punctuality & Attendance: "You are one of our most punctual employees, with no registered delays in the last year."
  • Time Management: "You have exquisite organizational qualities that reflect in your work. Never missed a deadline."
  • Productivity: "Your commitment to high standards of productivity inspires your coworkers."
  • Teamwork: "You are a fantastic team player under any circumstances."
  • Leadership: "I appreciate your way of including everybody, building confidence, and offering transparent feedback to your team."
  • Customer service: "You have a friendly attitude that calms people down and helps them understand our products and services."

Find more examples of positive appraisal or need-to-work-on phrases to deliver a clear message to your employees.

What are the most used performance review templates?

You don't need to start from scratch when preparing your performance review process. Check our templates:

  1. Simple performance review 
  2. Quarterly performance evaluation
  3. Peer performance review
  4. Numerical scale performance review
  5. Mid-year performance review
  6. 90-Day performance review
  7. GOOD performance review
  8. Annual performance review.

You can download and use the one that fits your purpose perfectly for outstanding outcomes. 

Who runs a performance review?

Usually, the employee's line manager conducts the evaluation process as they know most about the job's roles and responsibilities and the person's behavior. A project manager, team leader, or HR representative may sometimes lead the review. 

What are the key performance review mistakes to avoid?

There are many mistakes, especially among new managers, when they are involved in performance reviews. Among them, we would like to highlight the following: 

  • Being too vague
  • Presenting everything as being perfect
  • Not being honest with employees about their performance 
  • Overly focusing on recent events and facts
  • Showing up under-prepared
  • Not giving enough recognition for hard work and excellent results
  • Using too many acronyms, business, or technical jargon.

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