One of the most challenging tasks business leaders face is providing employees with performance reviews. Feedback needs to be realistic, yet motivational, which requires striking a delicate balance. Without enough critical feedback, the employee will not evolve. However, too much criticism can leave them feeling deflated. When it comes to a performance review, feedback is usually given in a formal, written manner, which makes it even more important to give a fair overview. Overall, managers who give thoughtful reviews can build strong relationships with their teams and push everyone to develop their skills thoroughly.
The following are some of the best tips for writing motivational, thoughtful performance reviews:
1. Prepare thoroughly for the review.
Busy business leaders often push performance reviews to the bottom of their to-do list. Unfortunately, this may mean that they do not give adequate time or attention to the review. When this happens, it can violate the trust between employee and manager. Employees can tell when their managers have not put enough time or thought into the review.
As such, you should make sure that you block off part of your schedule for completing the reviews so that you do not have any excuses not to. Ideally, you will give yourself enough time to reflect holistically on an employee’s performance in addition to finding specific projects that are representative of their work product. Doing this helps to ensure a balanced, representative review.
2. Solicit feedback from other stakeholders.
When it comes to reviewing the performance of an employee, you should not look at it as a task you do alone. You should ask for feedback from other key stakeholders, including people who work closely with the employee. Getting this input helps to gain a more accurate perspective on the employee while ensuring that the review is as balanced as possible.
In addition, you can encourage some form of self-reflection from employees themselves. Understanding how an employee feels about his or her performance is extremely important and can serve as a strong basis for writing the larger review. In addition, asking for self-reflection helps to ensure that employees have done the work necessary to get the most out of the review process.
3. Ask for feedback from the employee.
The review process should not be one-sided. In the end, if an employee is not performing up to par, that may because they are not getting the right kind of support. Even employees who are excelling can be capable of achieving even more with the right kind of assistance. Asking a simple question like “What can I do to better support you?” opens the door to meaningful conversation. You should also emphasize that the conversation can continue beyond the review should new thoughts or ideas arise down the line.
4. Pay attention to the whole year of work.
Too often, leaders focus primarily on recent achievements and shortcomings during the performance review process. While it makes sense that these issues are at the forefront, you should make an effort to look back at the entire year of work leading up to the review, and potentially even how employees have responded to feedback they received in the past.
Looking at the entire year as a whole will help you to see important trends that can inform your review. Noticing problematic trends can help prevent major issues from cropping up down the line, while pointing to good developments over time can boost an employee’s confidence in effecting meaningful change in work habits.
5. Focus on the positive, not the negative.
Highlighting an employee’s strengths is just as important as pointing out areas for growth. Generally speaking, the positives of a person’s performance should outweigh the negative. Focusing on these points can motivate an employee to achieve even more moving forward and makes them understand their value to the company.
When it comes time to talk about targets for improvement, you should address the issues directly and avoid talking in circles, as that can send a wrong impression about the seriousness of the problem. For both positive and negative aspects of an employee’s performance, point to specific examples rather than talking in generalities.
6. Work together to make new goals.
Performance reviews are a great time for employees to set new goals together with their managers. These goals may focus on identified areas of improvement or push them to achieve even more in relation to their strengths. While leaders play a critical role in goal setting by identifying what is expected of employees, the entire process should be a conversation. In the end, both parties should have a clear idea of what the new goals are and how progress will be tracked and measured. During this conversation, it could be beneficial to set some interval meetings in which both parties can talk about progress and reformulate the goals if necessary. Making this a conversation demonstrates the investment that you are making in your employee.