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An HR Glossary for HR Terms

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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Performance Review

What is a Performance Review?

A performance review is a formal assessment in which a manager evaluates an employee’s work performance, identifies strengths and weaknesses, offers feedback, and sets goals for future performance. Performance reviews are also called performance appraisals or performance evaluations. In the past, many organizations conducted annual performance reviews for their entire workforce; however, more and more companies are moving toward a frequent feedback performance management system in which managers conduct quarterly, monthly, or even weekly reviews. In fact, some organizations are doing away with formal performance reviews altogether in favor of more casual manager check-ins and one-on-ones.

When done right, performance reviews can help employees understand what they’re doing well, how they can improve, how their work aligns with larger company goals, and what is expected of them. Managers who use performance reviews effectively can more easily recognize high performing employees, correct issues before they become insurmountable, communicate expectations, encourage growth and development, and foster employee engagement.

How Should Employees Prepare for Performance Reviews?

Regardless of whether a performance review is formal or casual, employees should be encouraged to prepare for it. Here are a few suggestions to offer employees that will help the review be successful for both parties:

  • Prepare notes. Encourage employees to make notes before each performance review. They should document topics they want to discuss, strengths, weaknesses, and goals.

  • Brainstorm examples. Employees should be able to share concrete examples of how they have met goals set at the last review and how they have improved overall.

  • Self-evaluate. Employees should practice self-evaluation by giving themselves a mock performance review. They should identify new strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, and goals.

  • Come with questions. Employees should have a safe environment to ask questions in performance reviews. Preparing questions ahead of time can help ensure everything that needs to be asked is asked. 

What Should You NOT Say in a Performance Review?

When giving a performance review, it’s expected that the employee and manager both take it seriously. However, since management is giving the review and has the authority to substantially affect the employee’s career, a lot of the responsibility for keeping things civil and productive falls on them.  Here are a few topics and comments for managers especially to avoid in order to help maintain a positive environment.

  • Criticism without an example: Giving an example and providing ideas for improvement can help an employee better their performance rather than leave them feeling defensive. 

  • Comparisons: This is not a space to rank employees or pit them against each other. Focus only on the performance of the employee you are evaluating.

  • False praise: While you should look for something positive to say in every performance review, giving false praise will only mislead an employee into thinking they are doing better than they are and rob them of the opportunity for improvement.

  • Speculation: Sharing rumors about the company or raising hopes for a raise or promotion that may not be possible causes unnecessary speculation and sometimes disappointment. 

  • Repetitive commentary: Some important things bear repeating, but if you find you are giving the same advice and same praise in every performance review, try changing things up. Maybe the message isn’t getting through in the way you are currently sharing it and needs further discussion. If both managers and employees keep notes of what’s talked about in performance reviews, you can build off of advice and goals from each meeting rather than rehash the same thing over and over again. 

  • “Always” and “never”: There’s an exception to every rule. Ultimatums and blanket statements are rarely accurate and can make people feel defensive.

“I wish I had more time”: Performance reviews should be a priority for managers and employees. They help make sure everyone’s personal goals are aligned with the company’s goals and give valuable insights on ways the employee and the manager can improve. When performance reviews are put first, the entire company can benefit.

Related: Performance Management

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