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3 Steps To Better Employee Performance Reviews

3 min reading time

A survey of Fortune 1,000 companies by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) found that 66% of employees were disappointed with their performance review experiences.

And, 65% rated performance evaluations as irrelevant to their role.

So there are clearly many pitfalls to effective performance management but with a change of approach it can transform the way you develop your teams.

Performance reviews can be testing, angst-ridden experiences for both managers and employees. This is because most organisations deliver lackluster performance reviews that distance and confuse, rather than engage employees.

This is largely due to:

  • Bias
  • Unfair reviews
  • And inadequate attention to employee development

In this post, we share 3 ways to remedy the issues above with modern practices for performance reviews that boost employee engagement and align staff goals with organisational objectives. Let’s begin...


1. Introduce Frequent Check-Ins

Adopting 15-30 minute concise check-ins every week or month saves your organisation from having to rely on hazy, hour-long annual appraisals.

This prevents the dangerous dilemma of an employee underperforming or doing something wrong, and only learning about their mistake in annual appraisal at the end of the year (which harms the organisation and the employee).

Frequent check-ins strengthen the relationships between staff and management and create alignment. Employees are more likely to share potential issues or concerns, and managers can identify and prevent performance issues before they snowball into bigger problems.

To ensure each check-in session is productive:

  • Build rapport by discussing development needs, satisfaction and progress towards individual and organisational goals.
  • Maintain a regular check-in cadence that employees are aware of.
  • Take notes and if needed, create follow-up actions for the next meeting.


2. Set SMART Goals And OKRs

Setting expectations at the start of the year and reviewing them at the end results in poor employee engagement and alignment.

For the manager, it becomes an annual tick-the-box exercise that lays down evaporating expectations. For the employee, it’s a vague mention of what’s expected of them and company goals. This nebulous approach creates out-of-touch managers and apathetic employees.

Modern performance management rectifies this by setting clear, achievable goals that are backed by metrics and underline the benefit to both, the employee and the organisation.

Using popular goal-setting frameworks such as Objective and Key Results (OKRs) or SMART goals, these goals and metrics complement consistent check-ins and conclusive appraisals - which gives employees real-time feedback on their development and equips managers with metrics to monitor and motivate progress.


3. Communicate Negative Feedback (In A Humane Way)

Communicating feedback, be it negative or positive, is a key part of a manager’s role.

But delivering negative feedback is unpleasant. It’s easy to see why most managers would rather brush disruptive feedback under the rug or rush through a negative performance review.

Because it summarises performance as a one-time numerical score or rating, traditional performance management makes delivering negative feedback harder for managers and harsher for employees on the receiving end. A more humane and professional way to deliver negative feedback is to:

  1. Share feedback in real-time. 94% of employees would prefer that their managers share feedback in real-time rather than waiting until the end of the year.
  2. Ask for permission. This shows respect to an employee. It also changes the interaction from a top-down echo to a two-way conversation.
  3. Stop and listen. Give the employee a chance to tell their side of the story. If they’ve made a few mistakes, listen to why they’ve made them. You may find the source of the problem is a lack of information, guidance or tools.
  4. Agree on a positive next step. Feedback is only useful if it influences behavior. Make sure you both agree on the follow-up steps to negative feedback. This might include more training, mentoring or acquiring better tools for the tasks in question.

Empower management with an effective performance management system, 81% of HR teams are actively improving their employee performance management programs.

We’ve outlined the difference between poor and effective performance management above, but knowing how to implement better performance reviews will only take you so far. You need the right tools to implement better processes.

Totara Perform is an adaptable performance management system with productivity at its core. Whether you’re a remote or in-office workforce, or still in the midst of changing your performance management process, Totara Perform will help you create evidence-based performance reviews and accurately review employee performance to drive productivity and growth.


Learn more about Totara Perform by visiting our website page or contact our friendly team of experts.


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