How to give a performance review that will actually help the person

Most people have endured a performance review at different points throughout their careers. At many companies, these employee evaluations happen on an annual basis and can sometimes result in a raise (or lack thereof, depending on performance).

If you’re the person in charge of giving the review, it can feel like a lot of pressure to offer feedback and identify the strengths and weaknesses of each individual employee. You want to offer constructive criticism and praise where it’s earned, but beyond that, you want to give a review that results in positive changes moving forward.

Here are some tips to help you give a performance assessment that will make a real impact and help both you and the person you’re reviewing in the future.

Provide feedback regularly

Even if you’re only doing performance reviews once a year, you should be consistently assessing your team and offering feedback throughout the year.

“Don’t catch your people off guard in a performance review,” Erika Rasure, assistant professor of business and financial services at Maryville University, said. “This should not be the first time that they are hearing from you that they are not performing as expected. Be clear in writing [and] sending calendar invites, and setting expectations and the tone for the meetings.”

In some cases, it may be ideal to set up monthly or quarterly assessments to regularly check-in on performance. However, this might not be possible for every company or manager. Therefore, it’s important to take notes on employee performance throughout the year, so that when review time does come, you can provide a full assessment.

You should also take constant notes on employee performance – especially when there are no performance reviews on the horizon.

“Employees deserve a robust assessment of their work for the entire period being covered,” Gary Schneeberger, founder and president of ROAR, said. “Far too many performance reviews are based only on what the manager can remember from the last few weeks before the evaluations are due to HR. Managers have to be intentional about taking and filing notes.”

Indeed.com echoed the importance of note-taking in their Career Development Guide. They also said that asking employees to complete a self-evaluation may offer additional insight and help managers remember details they might have overlooked on the front-end.

It may seem time-consuming to meet to discuss performance on a regular basis. However, keep in mind that by meeting more frequently, you can have shorter, more effective conversations that result in long-lasting changes.

Be transparent

If you want to provide feedback that’s actually beneficial to the person receiving it, it’s important to be upfront and honest in your evaluation. Beating around the bush won’t help anyone improve in the long-run.

James R. Bailey, professor of leadership at the George Washington University School of Business, said it’s best to give someone criticism the way you would want to receive it. In other words, you should be honest, but try not to be unkind.

“If someone is a poor performer and you don’t squarely address it, know that everyone else in the office knows that the person is a poor performer, and [employees] will brand you as weak or cowardly for not addressing the situation,” Bailey said.

One way to help reduce anxiety and prepare your employees for what’s to come is to involve them in helping plan the meeting. Again, an employee self-assessment could be helpful in getting a gauge on their perspective and opinion on their performance.

You should also be transparent about when and where the meeting is and what you’ll be discussing. This way, there shouldn’t be any major surprises, which will make offering honest feedback a little easier.

When offering constructive criticism, be sure you offer tangible examples of areas where performance needs to improve. You want to make sure there is no confusion about what isn’t going well and what is expected moving forward.

“There needs to be crystal-clear clarity on both sides of the table, both in what the manager expects from the employee moving forward and in what the employee needs from the manager,” Leon Rbibo, president of Laguna Pearl, said.

Gather feedback from other resources

If you want to give a well-rounded evaluation, you should utilize other resources to gather as much feedback as you can offer. Don’t just rely on your own memory and experiences.

Indeed suggests asking other coworkers and bosses about their experience working with the employee you’re evaluating. You could ask questions about their communication style, attendance, work ethic, and more — whatever will allow you to get a full picture of how they do their job.

You can also utilize other resources to gather intel. Check engagement surveys, notes you’ve taken from past meetings, strengths and personality style tests, and examples of recognition.

This allows you to offer a more realistic and fair perspective on an employee’s performance over the year based on a variety of factors.

Always end on a positive note

It’s possible, and even likely, that you may need to address some concerns about an employee’s performance while doing an annual evaluation. It’s important, even when bringing up an issue or area for improvement, that you remember to affirm the employee in areas they are succeeding as well.

Try to leave things on a positive note and be sure to set clear, attainable goals that your employees can look toward as they move forward.

“Use the review process as an opportunity to set attainable goals specific to addressing the expectations the employee isn’t meeting, but which also makes the employee feel like they have a clear, reasonable plan of action that can get them back on track,” Rasure said.

If you start and end the review by praising your employee for what they are doing well, that will help motivate them to improve in the areas you mention in between.

Agree on next steps

After the review, it’s important to make sure you are clear on the next steps. Again, setting goals is important. Write them down to look back on in your next review. Then, make a plan with clear expectations on how to move forward.

It’s also important to check back in with your employees before the next annual review.

Even if it’s informal, schedule a time to meet and discuss any roadblocks or accomplishments that have come up. Offer additional feedback if necessary, and just continue to communicate. The more often you check-in with your team, the better their performance will be in the long run.