Performance reviews should be short or sweet, just like this article (I promise).
While employee performance reviews can be a smooth sail for employees, it is a rocky bend for employers.
Employers pack all their feelings into one lunchbox; appreciation, criticism, guilt, and respect. They go through a series of contemplations before holding that annual appraisal meet-up.
As soon as the year ends, employers take to their performance management system to put the year in a retrograde, evaluate employee performance with respect to HR goals and chart a future development or training plan.
Clear the air between expectations and outcomes in a subtle way. Evaluation of performance is important, but the way you do it marks all the difference.
In keeping with the theme, we’ll try to get right to the point.
What are employee performance reviews?
Employee performance reviews are feedback or roundups given to employees after a specific time frame of service. Their immediate manager reviews an employee's progress, and the manager receives return feedback to complete the cycle. An increment or a promotion usually follows it.
To ace your performance evaluation interview, exude the willingness to perform and improve. Performance speaks volumes, but the will to build on weaknesses is greater. No amount of written feedback can supersede that. However, as an employee, self-reviewing and critiquing yourself is the first step.
How to write a performance review
It sounds bullish to rate or elucidate your work performance over a specific timeframe. But hey, that's how the clock ticker moves around. With the passage of time, all eyes go upon you, your work, and your progress. To prove your worth as a skilled professional, you would have to take the plunge.
Performance reviews can be shortened or lengthened based on the employee's preferences. It also depends on what period of the year you are writing a review in. If you're writing an annual review and feel like you have outshone your responsibilities, a well-suited dissertation works. If it is a weekly or a monthly check-in, oral verbiage sounds better than written feedback.
Following these practices will help you calm your inner trepidations and write stronger reviews:
- Be candid: Mellow yourself down and write your review in a cheerful and confident tone. Each sentence should lead to the next sentence without any uncomfortable or unreadable patches. Go on a memory detour and talk about the experiences you've had, what could be improved, and what additional efforts you would put in. Don't worry if your writing doesn't have flair; your thoughts should have it.
- Do not shrug away from weaknesses: Get off your high horse (you need to). While it seems eminent to get carried away with your wins, take a step back and look at your weaknesses. Everyone has sudden bursts of "wins" and "losses." Our weaknesses shape us and give us a mantra to excel. Next time when you are writing your review, dedicate a section to your weaknesses and your coping strategy for them.
- Speak in a clear voice: Be water-like. Remain at bay from difficult words and an elitist tone. Overcluttering your review will only result in negative points. Be firm, believe your words, and don't shy away from everything (big or small) you tackled in the course of your professional journey.
- Laud your manager/workplace: Even though it's your relay race, your manager did pass you the baton. Put in a word of appreciation for your immediate supervisor. A flower blooms in a flourishing environment. In the same way, a professional excels under the guidance of an illustrious leader.
- Don't oil the palms: Praising the who's who of your workplace is a good practice: unless it goes off limits. Keep the moot of the reviews clear and crisp. Evaluate your knowledge base, skill base, and accomplished tasks rather than crediting someone else. The review process in most organizations is free of bias, opinions, and favoritism.
- Be honest about your expectations: As a worker who has spent a considerable amount of time, be wary of what you expect from your workplace. Do not keep the management in the dark by accepting everything they send you. Take ground for yourself, your salary expectations, and your role expectations. This will inform the management that you have the zeal to work and are aiming toward smart career growth.
- Highlight team collaboration opportunities: As much as praising someone seems artificial, do take the time to highlight cross-departmental and team collaboration initiatives. No matter how stellar your work is, if you cannot contribute to the system as a team, you will always be one step behind. Learn the projects you collaborated on and drove towards success and elaborate on that.
What is performance appraisal?
Performace appraisal or self-appraisals entails asking employees to review their performance over the last 12 months. It is a predeterminant of an employee appraisal that decides how much increment or bonus the employee will receive.
For a manager, employee reviews translate into a more complex amalgam of implicit and explicit organizational expenses. They chart a birds-eye view of an employee's performance and what the employee garnered in terms of the organization's ROI, job requirements, team success, and senior leadership team's (SLT's) expectations.
Tips for writing performance reviews for managers
If this is your first time providing feedback to employees as a manager, then embrace a few common tips to provide a holistic performance overview and avoid any micro-supervision.
- Review last quarter's goals and what percentage of those conversations have been accomplished.
- Cross-question them on previous years' stints, knowledge and mentorship sessions, and additional projects your employees took.
- Seldom believe what the employee has written and confront them about projects they are actively working on, completed, or postponed.
- Maintain a skill and performance development plan for their personal and professional growth. Tick off items and project action plans for the future.
- If you feel the company's ROI expectations haven't been met, discuss the matter with your employee and suggest a performance improvement plan.
- Build a peer review tracker to understand and gauge the impact of your employee's key performance indicators.
- Set expected goals in relation to conduct, outcomes, and objective key results (OKRs)
- Refrain from pinpointing health-related concerns, visual impairment, or any mental issue your employee might struggle with.
- Establish endurance, care, and empathy so that your employee remains motivated to work.
- Be direct and accountable while presenting the scope of improvement or expectation graph for the next financial year.
How to improve your employee performance reviews
There is always a scope for improvement, whether you are a manager or an employee. Being firm and clear in the very first leg of the performance review cycle is not possible. Grave errors are imminent but can be debugged as you learn and persevere.
Being on the same page and conquering the concerns of another peer are ideal ways to deal with mistakes. Your employees might be very sensitive to what the management thinks of them, and vice versa. One wrong move can destroy the rapport, so peddle on carefully.
1. Ask fewer questions
We’ve seen employee review templates that go on for pages. It can take an hour or more to fill one out, so it’s easy to see why doing so for a dozen or more employees would fill managers with dread, not to mention decision fatigue.
Instead of asking more questions, consider what you really want to know and cut the number of questions down to half a dozen or fewer.
2. Limit your responses
Asking fewer questions doesn’t solve anything if you get essays in return. Try asking for a single, specific thing: the employee’s most recent "win" or a short list of bullet points. You can limit word counts and use multiple-choice questions in which the reviewer picks the closest matching response.
3. Assess more frequently
Recency bias, the tendency for people to focus on recent issues, is a big issue in employee performance reviews. Why not work with it instead of against it? When reviews are done quarterly instead of annually or semiannually, managers can feel free to focus on what they really remember (the last three months) instead of trying to encapsulate an entire year of ups and downs.
4. Stop relying on numerical scoring
People aren’t easy to quantify, and by asking for numerical scores, you’re asking reviewers to form and retain their own internal translation of what your rating system means. For example, on a five-point scale, a three could mean “barely adequate,” “about average,” or “I have no opinion one way or another.” But if you replace or pair numbers with actions, like, “(5) I’d do everything in my power to keep Gary on the team," you’ll know that the scale is consistent for every employee.
5. Get peer feedback at the same time
Nobody knows employees better than their coworkers. Adding peer feedback to reviews is a great way for managers to see more clearly at the ground level, and it makes for a much less stressful load on managers of large departments. One or two questions applied with the same attention to brevity and specificity as your reviews are all it takes to grant insights that a supervisor might never see otherwise.
Why write short performance reviews
More isn’t always better, and that’s especially true for the questions you include in employee performance reviews. The trick to getting the most out of your employee reviews is to simplify the format and increase the frequency.
1. They're easier: Short reviews take less time to perform and less time to read. That makes them easier on managers and employees alike, allowing you to do them more often.
2. More frequent reviews are more topical: Fresh and important is better than stale and trivial. The more frequently you perform employee performance reviews, the more likely you are to cover issues that are fresh in the employee’s mind. With less space for tangents, you’ll discuss what really matters.
3. Subjectivity is a review’s worst enemy: You don’t want opinions; you want facts. When questions are vague, and answers are open-ended, they leave more room for personal relationships and value judgments to enter the fray. On the other hand, direct, specific questions about accomplishments and shortcomings make it easier to spot subjectivity and eliminate it from your assessments.
4. They aid engagement: Millennials are rapidly taking over the bulk of the workforce, and surveys show they love not only avocado toast but also constant feedback. Short, quarterly reviews, especially combined with monthly 1:1 check-ins, deliver that always-on channel of critique and validation. That leads to higher engagement and an even better employer brand for your organization.
Congratulations on making it this far!
It is time to look at your performance review from a different angle and spread the sparkles of love and care among your longing employees.
Addressing the issues calmly does more than save time and money; it makes the entire process more effective while simultaneously changing the negative perception of reviews for employees, managers, and entire organizations.
Set a strong foundation in the recruitment industry by establishing a strong company culture and beating up against the odds.
This article was originally published in 2019. It has been updated with new information