Performance reviews are often met with mixed feelings, from anxiety to dread. But they don’t have to be that way. In fact, if done well, they can be a powerful part of an effective employee evaluation system.
In this article, we’ll talk about why performance reviews are sometimes less than helpful. We’ll then explore ways to approach them so they benefit your employees and your company. We’ll also share an employee performance review template to help you make sure you’re on the right track.
What’s wrong with performance reviews?
Before we dive into what makes a good employee performance review template, let’s take a moment to understand why performance reviews often fail.
- Organizations view performance reviews as a one-time event. This means that feedback is only given once a year or even less frequently. This makes it difficult for employees to gauge their progress—and improve their performance.
- Unconscious biases can result in unfair evaluations. If you don’t train your leaders to recognize and eliminate unconscious biases, they’ll affect how they rate employees. For instance, managers may have more favorable things to say about in-office employees over their remote counterparts because they see their work on a daily basis.
- Feedback isn’t tied to company goals. If you focus feedback on behaviors rather than outcomes, it can hurt performance. For instance, say an employee gets low marks for not turning around customer requests quickly enough. They then start to rush through incoming requests to ensure they finish a high number. But they stop spending time ensuring they’re actually meeting customer needs.
- Organizations use performance reviews as a tool for punishment or reward. Instead, they should be used as an opportunity for growth and development. A negative performance review can lead to employees feeling undervalued or unappreciated.
What are the key components of a good employee performance review? (Plus a template)
Using a template will ensure that you have a consistent and equal performance review process across all employees. Here are the basic elements of a good employee performance review template looks like (All included in our customizable template):
Employee evaluation criteria
Ratings on specific criteria will give a high-level picture of where the employee stands. These criteria should be objective and relevant to the employee’s role within the organization.
Include a quantitative way of rating each criterion. For example, use a scale from 1–3, where 1=needs improvement, 2=meets expectations, and 3=exceeds expectations.
Criteria could include:
- Job knowledge
- Time management
Include key questions that give more insight into the employee’s performance evaluation. These will offer specifics about how or why the employee needs to improve. Or about how they exceeded expectations in the most recent review period.
Tailor questions to the employee’s specific role to encourage discussion about the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. You might include questions like:
- What are the employee’s strengths?
- What areas does the employee need improvement in?
- How can the employee improve in these areas?
- Is the employee meeting the expectations of their job role?
- Are there any additional responsibilities or training opportunities that would benefit the employee and the organization?
Include the specific metrics used to gauge the employee’s performance. These will be quantifiable measurements directly related to the employee’s role. And they should give objective insights into your initial evaluation ratings.
Regular reviews will allow both the employee and employer to measure progress and track performance over time. Performance metrics may include things like:
- Sales figures
- Project completion rates
- Customer feedback
- Attendance records
We saved the most important element for last. Each review should end with clear goals and a plan for how the employee will achieve them. The performance review should be an opportunity for employees to work with their managers to plan out their career paths.
If the purpose of your review is to support employee development (and it should be), offer actionable steps both of you will take to improve performance and achieve goals.
Include the following information:
- Employee goals: What do they want/need to achieve?
- Employer support: How will you help them achieve their goals? (e.g., training, tools and resources, one-on-one coaching)
- Timeline: When will you provide the support listed above? When will the employee complete/achieve their goals? Give specific dates to make sure things move forward after the performance review.
- Follow-up review: When will you revisit the employee’s progress and re-evaluate their performance?
Building a meaningful performance review process
Now that we understand what makes a good employee performance review template, let’s look at some performance review tips.
Set the stage for productive performance reviews
Lay the groundwork for a helpful and engaging discussion.
- Set expectations up front. Let employees know what you’ll discuss during the review and what the goals of the review are. Clear expectations create a positive environment. They also ensure that you and the employee are on the same page.
- Communicate clearly and use active listening skills. Engage the employee and show your concern for them by sharing clear, helpful performance evaluation comments. Then listen to their responses. Ask follow-up questions to gain a deeper understanding of their perspective.
- Focus on growth and development. Make sure the discussion centers on identifying areas for improvement and providing the employee with actionable steps to help them improve.
Customize the employee performance review template to fit the needs of your organization
Don’t just give a generic review. If you want your process to get results, make sure it’s targeted to your company’s needs and expectations. That means taking into account trends in the workplace, such as remote work, inclusion, and employee well-being.
Here are some tips to help you tailor your template:
1. Consider the unique aspects of your organization
Each organization has its own culture, values, and goals. Your performance review process should reflect this. Consider what’s important to your company and how you can incorporate these aspects into the review.
For example, say innovation is a core value of your organization. You may want to include a question about how the employee has contributed to new ideas or projects during the review period.
2. Take remote work into account
Remote work has become more and more common, and many organizations have shifted to hybrid or fully remote work. If you’re one of them, think about discussing how it impacts performance in your template.
For example, you may include questions about the employee’s communication skills in a remote setting. Or how they have adapted to working from home.
3. Emphasize inclusion and diversity
The modern workplace is increasingly focused on improving inclusion and diversity. If you want to boost employee support for these principles, build them into regular performance reviews.
Incorporate questions or metrics that reflect your organization’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment.
For example, you may want to ask questions about how the employee has contributed to diversity initiatives. Or about how they have demonstrated cultural competence in their work.
4. Focus on employee well-being
Employee well-being is a key factor in productivity and job satisfaction. If it’s a priority in your organization, consider how you can incorporate questions or metrics that reflect your commitment.
For example, you may want to include questions about the employee’s work-life balance. Or about their access to resources such as mental health support.
Making performance reviews work for your organization
Remember, the goals of a good performance review process are to create a positive environment for feedback and to help employees grow and develop in their roles.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to conduct performance reviews that have an impact. A good template, some solid principles, and a little thought on your part are all it takes. These will ensure that the review process is relevant, meaningful, and supportive of your employees.