Are Performance Reviews Effective?

Most certainly. At least . . . when done right, performance reviews can be very effective at evaluating room for improvement, holding employees accountable, aligning individual and company goals, praising a job well done, and keeping an open dialogue between the ranks.

However, in order to be effective, follow these few general practices for performance reviews as well as the more specific advice in the following sections:

  • Make sure the person reviewing the employee is an immediate supervisor or manager who has accurate day-to-day results.
  • Don’t make it a one-way, top-down process. Have your employees evaluate themselves and back up their marks. 
  • Time the reviews as far away as possible from the time of year when salary decisions are made. Untying employee development and compensation limits the chance that employees will only be paying attention to the money. 

This is that time of year when managers begin planning for an effective performance review with each person that reports to them.  Performance reviews can provide excellent documentation for the company’s performance management process

Yet if not properly or effectively done – performance reviews can result in a lost opportunity for the performance management process or at least make your life miserable.  Performance Reviews are traditionally held at the end of the year or within the first part of a new year.  Below are proven techniques that can help you conduct a productive and highly effective performance review.

How to approach the Performance Review

While leaders should be coaching throughout the year, the yearly Performance Review is the one time when the leader has a formal opportunity to provide his or her employees feedback.  Leaders owe it to the employee to take this process very seriously.  The Annual Review should be an opportunity to create open and candid discussions.  Typically the annual performance evaluation should not be a surprise to the employee. Your goal in the review should be to link performance to employee capabilities and to a developmental plan. Be SPECIFIC!

Performance_Appraisal_Don't Replace_Bottom_Line_Leadership14299393_XSHow to write the Performance Review

Start by providing the employee the opportunity to “tell their story”.  You might even have them write it in 3rd person – “Jeri did….  This provides an opportunity for coaching –know the employee’s successes as well as the areas for developmental opportunities.  Review  their comments as well as your own.

Review the last year’s Performance Evaluation.  Where were they last year?  Are they still being coached on the same things?  Where has significant improvement been made?  How have they impacted the team?  The department?  The organization? How have they increased workplace productivity?

Open your files.  Hopefully, you have developed a system that records your routine coaching with the employee.  Your records might follow a coaching guide or simply contain notes about the employee’s capabilities or competencies.  You can have notes from meeting notes / participation, feedback sessions, and team input
Your file should also have productivity metrics or scorecards, specific examples via observation and be linked to any performance management issues.

Do not include vague comments such as “Kelly is a great employee.”  These are useless without the specific behaviors on why the employee is good, outstanding, etc.   Also be careful  of the “halo” and the “pile-on” effects.  Good employees need direction on specific areas for them to grow, improve and do better.  Get examples of when or where the employee showed strong performance, weak performance, new employees.

Remember, in order for the Performance Review to be most effective, obtain employee feedback and write the plan together.  Have the employee take ownership
Let them make the first draft   Provide feedback, input and recommendations.  Collaborate together to finalize the plan but remember – this should be their plan

What to Say In a Performance Review

During a performance review, you want to keep the conversation on topic. Meaning, this is not a personal evaluation, but a professional one. 

There are a few areas you want to be sure to cover, for example:


  • “Has developed programs/strategies that have delivered X results.”
  • “Improved production by X% through X.”
  • “Exceeded the original goal of X by X% through X.”


  • “Lends support and guidance by X.”
  • “Shows interest in employees and is respected for sharing problems and opportunities.”
  • “Collaborates and shares expertise.”


  • “Develops workable action plans such as X.”
  • “Effectively puts plans into action by X.”
  • “Formulates strategies to drive X results.”

It can also be very important to avoid any of the following missteps:

  • Monologuing
  • Sharing criticism of others
  • Asking closed questions
  • Being falsely positive
  • Generalizing with “always” or “never”
  • Failing to offer support
  • Doubting, humiliating, or threatening

Where and When to Conduct a Performance Review

Conduct review in semi-public places, an office suite, a meeting room, or break out room.   The area needs to be relaxed area, not intimidating.  A desk can provide a barrier and the bosses office can be intimidating.  Do not meet in restaurants or hotel lobbies (too loud and no privacy).

Schedule a time when you can talk without interruptions.  Make certain that the employee knows that this is their time.  Most leaders preferably like to conduct reviews at the beginning of the day so the employee can reflect upon the review and start implementation of any development plans

How to Follow-up a Performance Review

Following up with the employee should be part of the performance evaluation.  Review the plan at least quarterly – how is their progress?  How is your support?  What changes need to be made, if any?  Set a specific time with the employee to check in on actionable items.  Note dates/times for follow up on capabilities / competencies and don’t forget.   If you can’t meet at the time set, make new arrangements before.

Performance Evaluations – when done effectively, can increase workplace productivity, provide welcomed feedback and are rewarding to the quality performers.  They also serve as a useful tool for the manager in a performance management situation.

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About the Author
Steve Reese
Steve has 29 years of leadership and training experience with one of the world’s premier Corporations. Steve is a dynamic and results-oriented leader with a record of success in developing staff for promotional positions. He is an innovative and inspirational leader. As a Senior leader he has a proven track record for building high-performing, financially successful organizations. He has extensive experience in interviewing, hiring, training and performance management. He has trained and developed over 1,000 representative and managers.

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