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How to write an effective performance review

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Last editedJan 20212 min read

Employee performance reviews are a vital component of any business, giving management the chance to discuss important issues and highlight opportunities for growth. Keep reading to learn more about how to give effective feedback.

Benefits of writing a performance review

A performance review can be performed quarterly, monthly, or on an annual basis. The process can be beneficial to the team, strengthening company culture by opening lines of communication. The performance review gives both sides the chance to discuss performance, goals, and company-wide objectives within a constructive framework. This begins with the written report, supplemented with a face-to-face meeting and follow-up session if necessary.

What to include in an employee performance review?

To write an effective employee performance review, you can break performance down into several key areas or skills. Most reviews will include sections pertaining to the following:

You can also slot in sections related to your specific industry, such as sales figures or design creativity. It’s helpful to make a list of these assessment areas, before evaluating the employee’s performance in each area to create a comprehensive report. Some managers will choose to score the employee numerically or with letter grades, while others will prefer written descriptions.

How to write a performance review

When determining how to write a performance review for the first time, here are a few key tips to keep in mind.

1. Set achievable goals.

Keep your review clear-eyed and concise, setting attainable goals for employees. These goals could address targets that aren’t currently being met, or they could relate to the employee’s growth potential. The aim is to inspire your employee to move forward and perform their very best.

2. Keep your criticism honest, yet constructive.

It’s tempting to write a glowing report to boost employee morale. Yet even with the highest-performing individual, there’s always some area that could use improvement. As such, don’t be afraid to be honest in your performance review. Management expectations should be clearly spelled out, with helpful feedback included to address each issue. For example, simply stating “you haven’t met your sales targets this quarter, please improve next time” isn’t very helpful. Instead, provide actionable suggestions or a method that the employee could try to boost sales.

3. Back up statements with examples.

Whether you’re highlighting strengths or weaknesses, back these up with examples. This part of the written report is easiest if you take notes whenever you see an employee shine, or notice room for improvement. That way, you can refer to your notes as a source for performance reviews.

4. Use action-oriented words.

Vocabulary is what brings your performance review to life, so pepper the report with words that inspire action. Here are a few examples:

  • Communicate

  • Develop

  • Create

  • Administer

  • Achieve

  • Manage

  • Reinforce

  • Improve

  • Construct

Begin your statements or suggestions with industry-specific action words to more effectively highlight strengths and areas for improvement.

5. End on a positive note.

Even if your performance review has offered multiple suggestions for improvement, you should end it with positive feedback. In fact, it’s ideal for employee morale to find multiple positive comments to counterbalance each negative one. Positive feedback helps employees feel valued in their work, improving performance over the long term.

Schedule regular follow-up and feedback

Finally, remember that the written performance review is only one component of how to give effective feedback. Schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the written report in person, giving employees the chance to ask questions and provide feedback of their own. It’s helpful to have regular, informal check-ups so that these formal reviews don’t come as a complete surprise. This keeps company expectations at the forefront for all parties involved.

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