A Manager's Guide to Giving Proper Employee Performance Reviews

A Manager’s Guide to Giving Proper Employee Performance Reviews [2024 Updated]


This guide will help you learn the necessary steps to successfully give a proper employee performance review.

We will take you through performance management fundamentals: what, why, and how. 

Furthermore, we’ll outline proven steps you can take right away to improve your employee performance review process.

Let’s get started:

What Is an Employee Performance Review?

What Is an Employee Performance Review?

An employee performance review is a two-way, individualized conversation between a manager and an employee focusing on the employee’s performance, development, and growth within a specific period.

Depending on the company’s preference, you may conduct these reviews biannually, quarterly, or monthly. Additionally, you can give performance reviews face-to-face, in written form, or both. 

Here’s the Study.com Definition:

“A performance review, also known as a performance appraisal, is a tool to measure and assess employee efficiency and effectiveness. Managers can use performance as a rational and objective basis to determine whether further training is required, a wage or salary increase is warranted, or an employee should be promoted to a higher-level position.”

Traditional Vs. Modern Performance Review

Traditional Vs. Modern Performance Review

Ideally, performance reviews are helpful for both the employees and managers. But most of the organizations run them traditionally, and this breeds disengagement more than anything else. 

According to Gartner, The two main concerns with traditional performance reviews are (1) effort is too high (time-consuming, complex), and (2) the output is too low (inaccurate, unmotivating)

Thus you need to let go of old practices in the review process and adopt modern ones. But this begs the question: what’s the difference between traditional and modern performance reviews? 

Here’s a comparison table:

Traditional Performance ReviewModern Performance Review
One-way conversationsTwo-way conversations
Held annuallyHeld quarterly or bi-annually
Review past performanceReflect on the past but focus on the future
Tightly linked to payLinked to growth and development
Closed-door policyOpen door policy
No transparencyTransparent and collaborative
Result in rating and no-followupClose with next steps and regular follow-up

Elements of Effective Employee Performance Review

Elements of Effective Employee Performance Review

Employee performance reviews give the employees and the managers a chance to discuss how they are working and how they can progress together. Here are some key elements of effective performance reviews:


Conduct quarterly or monthly performance reviews, paired with notes, progress, and next steps. This helps managers and employees to stay on the same page regarding performance, progress, and goals.

Two-way conversation

Managers and employees should equally participate in the reviews and conversations. Here are some topics they can address: 

(i) engagement challenges 

(ii) career growth, 

(iii) challenges in achieving goals, 

(iv) recognition, 

(v) peer feedback, 

(vi) customer feedback, etc.


Your performance reviews should focus on future goals. Of course, it’s good to talk about past performance, but it is more important to work on the goals aligning with the organization’s future progress.


Involve employees in the process and make the process more transparent. You must create a clear, shared, and collaborative agenda with all the important discussion points—there shouldn’t be any surprises.


No more subjective opinions. Your statements should be fueled by data from various sources such as recent recognitions, peer feedback, one-on-one notes, goal progress, and more.

Why Employee Performance Review Is Important

Why Performance Review Is Important

So why are employee performance reviews important? 

Because they have a big impact on the success of your employees, teams, and your organization as a whole. Performance conversations play a crucial part in employee engagement and retention. Let’s see how:

Impact on employee success

An open, honest, and regular performance review helps build trust among your employees, the organization, and you. Employees deserve to know where they stand in terms of their performance. Moreover, you can boost employee motivation by helping them identify their requirements and challenges.

  • Organizations with continuous performance processes are 39% better at attracting top talent and 44% better at retaining talent. (Source)
  • Four out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they don’t get performance reviews. (Source)
  • 68% of employees who receive accurate and consistent feedback feel fulfilled in their jobs. (Source)

Impact on team success

Performance reviews and conversations help you as a manager evaluate team performance and give them a clear picture of each member’s performance. 

You will get to know your team’s strengths, and weaknesses, where they need guidance, how to set goals, and the team’s potential to achieve larger goals.

  • Teams led by managers who focus on their weaknesses are 26% less likely to be engaged. (Source)
  • Gallup found teams who received strength feedback had turnover rates that were 14.9% lower than for employees who received no feedback. (Source)

Impact company success

The companies won’t face any challenges in achieving their goals and objectives if employees are aligned and towards a clear path to their own success. 

Effective employee performance reviews allow employees to connect with the company values and goals. The company also gets the data they need to make important decisions related to compensation, promotions, employee development, exits, and more.

  • Companies with continuous performance management outperform traditional ones  by increasing productivity (66%), motivating the entire workforce (65%), achieving the top goals of the organization (64%) – Source
  • Nearly two-thirds of HR professionals rate their organization as having a supportive feedback environment with an average rating of 6.1 out of a 1-10 scale. (Source)

10 Key Tips to Give a Proper Employee Performance Review

Tips to Give a Proper Employee Performance Review

Keep up-to-date information about each employee’s position

Analyze every employee’s position and compare their performance to what the company requires out of that role. While writing a performance review, bring data from:

You can use some top employee engagement survey apps to make the process automated.

Create notes of employee progress and goals

Create a performance document or notes for each employee. Keep records of their notable accomplishments, productivity, or positive and negative performances. 

You can also ask employees to go for a self-evaluation first, outlining their tasks and achievements they made in that period. This can help compare your notes during the review.

Align on expectations for your employees

When employees face challenges in achieving their goals or objectives, performance review meetings can help determine how they can improve. Here are a few tips for aligning expectations with your organization’s established performance criteria:

  • An employee should review the agenda, add topics they’d like to cover, and know the time and location the meeting will take place.
  • Let the employee know things need to be kept prepared for and information that might be referenced in the discussion.
  • An employee should have a clear idea of their responsibilities after the meeting and action plan.

Use clear, actionable phrases and sentences

When reviewing an employee’s performance, try to use words and phrases that motivate the employee. Here are a few tips for choosing effective phrases: 

  • Use clear and specific language 
  • Use actionable words
  • Speak in a constructive and positive manner
  • Use problem-solving language
  • Focus on opportunities for growth 
  • Focus on the individual and avoid bias 
  • Recognize them for good performance.

Collate feedback from other managers and peers

Involve input and 360-degree feedback from other managers or colleagues. This practice ensures an unbiased picture of the employee’s overall performance, rather than just your observations and opinions.

Ask the right questions

Ask correct performance review questions to focus on the important topics for your employees and the organization’s growth. Here are a few good questions you can ask the employees to spark conversation and receive valuable feedback:

  • What achievement(s) from the last quarter are you the most proud of?
  • What are your goals for the next quarter?
  • What resources/ support do you need from the department to reach your goals?
  • What obstacles are standing in your way?
  • What new skills would you like to develop this year? Is there any training which you want from the company to learn it?
  • How can I improve as a manager?

Give employees constructive feedback

Everyone prefers positive feedback. Who doesn’t like to be complimented, right? Thus you need to make sure you regularly recognize your employees’ contributions to the organization and make improvement an ongoing process. Constructive feedback helps employees feel more valued and recognized throughout the year.

Make time and space for performance review

Here are a few elements to consider when making time and space for your performance review:

  • Will your performance review meeting take place inside or outside?
  • Will it be a closed- or an open-door meeting?
  • Will other people be allowed to see your meeting in action?
  • How much time are you allotting to the conversations? Thirty minutes or 1 hour?
  • Is this a good time for you and your employee?
  • What distractions can be present during the meeting?
  • Are you sitting in big, comfy recliners or traditional chairs? Or are you standing?

Be an active listener

Employee performance review meetings should be two-way. Listening to your employees first helps you learn and understand their situations and ideas. Then, you can ask some follow-up questions to dig deeper and visualize a clear picture.

Use emotional intelligence to tap into your employees’ and your emotions. Show empathy and seek to understand how the other person might be feeling.

Wrap up the conversation with the next step

After the meeting, you, along with your employees, should review notes, decide the next steps, and follow up with shared feedback. If you want your review process to actually improve performance, creating an action plan is important.

Recommended Post: A Manager’s Guide to Improve Communication Skills at Work

How to Handle an Employee With Poor Performance

How to Handle an Employee With Poor Performance

Let’s go through 5 proven ways to handle an employee with poor performance effectively:

Talk to the employee

One of the first steps that you should take is talking to the employee. Do not take stern action and review them on paper without understanding their perspective. 

Try to understand any issues they might be facing and if your support can help them get back on track. Then, try to find a solution and make the employee feel valued.

Give appropriate training

Training is an essential aspect of work. Sometimes employees lag in achieving targets simply because they are not trained well. For example, they might not know how to use a tool in your organization. If that’s the case, try to hold training sessions for your employees to benefit from the knowledge and pace up their work accordingly.

Make a clear plan and goals

Define the plans and goals for your employees clearly. It can be followed by a one-on-one meeting with the employee and help them understand their duties, daily tasks, and what does and doesn’t lie in their work periphery. 

As a manager, you must inform them how their performance will be evaluated and the key metrics they should focus on for their growth. 

Similarly, have a discussion with the team so that everyone knows about each others’ roles and responsibilities. This way, they can reach out to the right person for a particular task.

Regularly monitor the progress

Regular monitoring of progress helps identify any issues with your employees’ performance at an early stage. Similarly, if the employee is working remotely, keeping a check on the performance is good for the organization. It helps the employee feel connected to the workplace and stay on track of work.

Praise and reward positive changes

As crucial as it is to highlight if somebody is underperforming, it is equally important to praise and reward positive change in them. If you find someone performing well, acknowledge the positive change to motivate them and make them feel valued. 

It helps your employees feel good about their work, and it also pushes them to shatter further glass ceilings.

Encourage a healthy work-life balance

Encouraging a healthy work-life balance is an effective technique that supports an employee’s growth and also prevents underperformance from occurring in the first place.

When people spend too much time on the job, it can cause stress, fatigue, and burnout. And this results in decreased motivation and poor performance. As a manager, you must encourage employees to take time off when required, take frequent breaks in a workday, and offer wellness benefits that can help them feel more productive.

BONUS: Effective Employee Performance Review Checklist

This quick checklist is the jumping-off point for preparing, executing, and evaluating your performance conversations.

Step 1: Before conducting a performance review

  • Select the right setting: The vibe of your meeting is influenced by the location. So think about the message a particular setting will send when choosing.
  • Establish a regular meeting time: Schedule the meeting at least a week before to give your employees time to prepare. 
  • Set clear expectations: Make it crystal clear what will be covered so that the employees avoid anxious wondering.
  • Create an agenda: Outlining your plan for the meeting makes it easier for you and your employees to come prepared.
  • Prepare and share your notes: Getting on the same page about an employee’s performance before your meeting will lead to a more transparent and constructive conversation.
  • Gather data: Come to the meeting prepared by collecting background information about goal progress and feedback from coworkers.

Step 2: During the review

Lead with positivity: When you lead with positivity, employees will feel relaxed and more comfortable during the review.

Start with an ice breaker: Kick off the meeting by asking some fun questions to lighten the atmosphere.

Be a good coach: Approach the review as a two-way conversation. Encourage employees to ask questions in return to show their support. 

Avoid distractions: Devote your attention to the meeting at hand, so employees know you value their time.

Schedule the next conversation: End your meeting with the next steps for your employee to work on. 

Step 3: After the review

Document agreed-upon next steps: Ask employees to share feedback based on their takeaways from the meeting. Document the conversation to use as a reference for your next conversation.

Track individual goals: Regularly review goal progress to determine what’s going well or where employees need help. 

Leave the door open: Let your employees know that you’re still there to help them succeed even though the meeting is over.

BONUS: 5 Alternatives To Annual Performance Reviews

It is not an exaggeration to state that annual performance reviews create a culture of fear. Yet, it is a process well ingrained into the system. All employees must be assessed on their performance so that managers can decide which way their career graph can move.

However, the modern-day manager believes that there must be alternatives to annual performance reviews because of the apparent gaps in the system. Here are five options that organizations can apply to judge employee performance instead of the conventional performance review methods.

One-On-One Weekly/Monthly Meetings

The manager and his team can have one-on-one meetings weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly to get real-time and practical feedback on projects. They can identify the positives and negatives and tackle the problem areas. The managers and the employees can address the challenges as they come up, allowing for quick course correction.

Project-Based Reviews

Project-based reviews are gaining popularity in many organizations and are a more practical annual performance review alternative. This type of review focuses on the last project an employee has completed. It is a fair way of assessing performance, as the review is directly relevant to the work put in by an employee. In addition, it allows the leadership to evaluate the employee and the team against the project goals.

Project-based reviews may happen more frequently. It creates the opportunity to reward good performance or detect weak areas and improve them as needed. This is an excellent alternative for replacing performance reviews that happen once a year on an arbitrary annual schedule.

A drawback of project-based reviews is that both the manager and employee may have to spend more time reviewing projects, especially if they come up many times in a year. The feedback and evaluation may be inconsistent, as not all employees and teams do the same number and type of projects every year.

Ongoing Feedback

Constant input at regular intervals throughout the year will help employees know their strengths and weaknesses at any point. It can create a more productive and conducive work environment. 

This approach can also allow managers to detect areas where an employee needs to focus more. It gives them the chance to hone their skills in those problem areas. Employees can address performance challenges right through the year and take corrective steps before the problem gets entrenched deeper and becomes a habit.

Moving from annual performance reviews to set up an ongoing feedback system may take time and effort. You may have to bring the managers on board and convince them that this is a more practical way of replacing performance reviews.

360-Degree Feedback

The 360-degree feedback is an employee review format that allows employers to collect employee feedback from various resources, including managers, supervisors, subordinates, and peers. They can also solicit feedback from those who interact with the employees professionally, such as clients, suppliers, and colleagues.

With information coming in from multiple and independent sources, this method of a performance review is considered more reliable. It can help provide a more comprehensive picture of employee performance and nearly eliminate any chance of bias influencing the review process.

Quarterly Reviews

Also known as quarterly check-ins, this type of performance review happens four times a year instead of one. The frequency of the performance review can result in employees getting more opportunities to course correct actions and improve overall performance on an ongoing basis. It also results in less stress for the employees than the traditional annual performance reviews.

As one of the logical annual performance review alternatives, quarterly reviews create an opportunity for ongoing dialogue. This helps better engage with employees, making them more efficient and productive.

Employee Performance Review FAQs

What is an employee performance review?

An employee performance review, also known as a performance appraisal or evaluation, is a formal assessment of an employee’s job performance. It typically involves a discussion between the employee and their manager to review achievements, areas for improvement, and set goals for the future.

What is the purpose of the performance appraisal and review process?

Here are some objectives of performance management tool:

– Focus on future performance through clarity around performance expectations, goals, and behaviors. 
– Focus on employee’s strengths and opportunities for growth. 
– Encourage open and ongoing dialogue between you and your employees.

When should performance review take place?

Depending on the company’s preference, you may conduct these reviews biannually, quarterly or monthly.

How should employees prepare to participate in a performance review?

– Keeping notes on accomplishments, feedback, training, and issues throughout the review period.
– Completing a self-evaluative summary form to reflect on the prior year’s work. 
– Preparing discussion points for the review.

What criteria are used to evaluate employee performance?

Evaluation criteria can vary based on the nature of the job and organizational goals. Common criteria include:
Job knowledge and skills.
Quality of work.
Communication and teamwork.
Initiative and innovation.
Leadership and management (for supervisory roles).
Goal attainment.

How often should performance reviews be conducted?

The frequency of performance reviews can vary by company. Many organizations conduct annual reviews, while others may have semi-annual or quarterly reviews. The key is to have regular and consistent feedback sessions to ensure ongoing communication about performance.

Originally published on July 13, 2021 2:26 PM, updated Feb 02 2024

Pawan Kumar

I'm a Content Marketer at Springworks. I've been featured in many reputed publications and online magazines! I'm an avid reader and movie buff. Let's connect on Social Media.

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