As a business owner, you want your employees to perform at the optimum level. There are many incentives you can offer to achieve this, including comprehensive onboarding and development, having competitive pay and benefits packages and encouraging a supportive working environment. However, research shows that by far the most rewarding practice from an employee’s perspective is to have a robust performance and development review process embedded in the culture.

An employee performance review should not be intimidating; either to the employees themselves, or the line managers who carry them out. Performance review meetings offer the perfect opportunity to build rapport, offer praise and encouragement, and identify ways they can add even more value to your organization by developing their skills and knowledge further.

Why you need to evaluate your employees

There are many significant benefits to carrying out employee performance reviews.

Firstly, a performance review enables regular opportunities for senior staff to ‘touch base’ with the members of their team, who they perhaps don’t have as much face-time with as they would like. This can positively impact the satisfaction of the employee, too, because they will feel in-tune with what their manager wants from them.

Performance reviews also enable you to:

  • Identify what training might benefit employees
  • Recognise and reward high-performing employees
  • Process requests for changes to working conditions (e.g. flexible or hybrid working)
  • Set clear goals that your employees can strive for
  • Maintain a positive, friendly relationship

For each employee, this is the moment to take stock of the previous year and look ahead to the objectives for the year to come. It also promotes ongoing dialogue between the employee, who can inform their manager of needs, and any desires for additional training to develop skills.

For the manager, an employee performance review is the perfect opportunity to listen to your employees: an opportunity to boost employee engagement and consolidates their support for the company’s vision, mission and long-term goals.

There are certain things a robust performance review must have in place to succeed. Read on for an in-depth look at how to get your employee performance reviews just right.

Getting the basics right

If your employee’s contract stipulates that they will be evaluated, the employee cannot avoid it. However, and in addition, it is sensible to have a robust set of policies, procedures are supporting documents that define:

  • The kind of evaluation that will take place
  • When and under what conditions will the performance reviews take place
  • (If adopting rating system) What are the success criteria?

Depending on your organisation and industry, employee performance can be measured in different ways, however the key principles are the same:

  • Set SMART objectives*
  • Set regular review periods
  • Empower the employees to monitor and report on their own performance with the line manager there for endorsement and redirection (if needed)

*For example, in a largely sales orientated company, it can be easier to measure success using quantitative measures – for instance, how many new clients have been secured in a set period of time.

On the other hand, job roles with less defined outcomes may benefit from qualitative measurement – for example, a customer service executive could be judged by whether any positive feedback has been received from a customer about their service.

Timescales and Logistics

Here are some of my top tips for ensuring a successful and timely review process:

  • Spread evaluations throughout the year – quarterly is perhaps optimal for most roles, however there are some that may need to be monthly (e.g. for newer employees, or employees who are new to a particular role)
  • Invest in training the managers who are leading the reviews – missing this step can be the difference between a successful implementation and a loss of engagement in the process
  • Spend some time reflecting on what you know of each employee’s ambitions before starting the evaluation – so your discussion can be geared towards giving them what they want
  • Personalise each review for every employee
  • Bring a clear list of all the employee’s key achievements over the year (although do not until the end of the year to give feedback!)
  • Listen clearly to your employee, and make it clear they have been heard

Self-assessment can play a critical role in an employee performance review. Often, you can glean insights to how an employee is feeling about the company, and themselves, through a self-assessment of their performance.

Finally, fully complete whatever evaluation documentation you decide on to create a detailed and comprehensive summary of the previous year’s performance and to serve as a record of the forthcoming year’s objectives and goals. This will help employees stay motivated towards hitting their goals.

How often should you carry out an employee performance review?

The regular meetings held throughout the review year cycle can be short and sweet. Bear in mind that it isn’t a time to review outstanding tasks and workload (unless this has directly impacted on their ability to meet their goals. The end of year review then becomes a summary of the previous twelve months, documented and agreed as a summary of performance.

As mentioned earlier, SMART objectives are critical to a successful performance review: Employees must be clear what they are being measured against, at the start of the review period. Otherwise, they will not know the targets they were supposed to be aiming for, to be considered ‘successful’.
Whichever type of measures you choose, you must ensure that it is applicable and relevant to the employee’s job role.

Employee evaluations – what do you need to consider?

There are several evaluation methods you can use. These can include:

  • The manager fills in an evaluation, which is then discussed with the employee in a meeting
  • The employee self-assesses, and hands this document in to their manager
  • Co-review, where both parties complete an assessment of the employee, and then discuss their differing perspectives
  • A ‘360-degree’ assessment: employees, managers included, are subject to evaluation by their colleagues, but also third parties such as customers, suppliers, partners, etc.

The best method to choose may depend on the individual’s job role. For example, a ‘360-degree’ assessment is useless for employees whose roles are not client or supplier-facing, because they will not be able to get any feedback from these parties.

Whichever method you choose, just make sure it is going to ensure the most valuable, productive discussion between you and your employee.

Get your employee performance reviews right – for you and your team

HR Initiatives have years of experience helping organisations to identify and carry out employee performance reviews. We also have the added advantage of being external specialists, which means that your employees may speak more ‘openly’ with us, without fear of judgement.
If you want advice on how to carry out excellent employee performance reviews, or if you want us to support implementing a performance review process for you, then contact a member of our team on 01438 742 056 or email