Employee reviews, otherwise known as employee performance reviews, function to assess or evaluate an employee’s workmanship or job performance. Most often, it happens on a regular basis. Some companies do it annually on a fixed month for all employees, while others do it annually on an employee’s service anniversary. In a few instances, it may be done more frequently, such as once every half-year or even once for every quarter. 

What is the purpose of an employee review?

An employee performance review is a valuable tool for businesses and managers, which is why it is a common practice among many organizations. It serves the following purposes:

  • It allows the employee to better understand the expectations of the company, such as adherence to rules and regulations or job performance standards.
  • The manager has the opportunity to get to know his or her people better.
  • Employees identify behaviors or shortcomings that they need to modify or improve in order to become more effective.
  • It serves as documentation and basis for management decisions regarding promotions, compensation reviews, and even termination.
  • Help align the employee’s performance with the company’s values and vision.
  • Helps formulate individual employee goals that directly link to the organizational goals.

Dos of effective employee reviews

Below are some of the best practices for managers when conducting employee reviews.

Goals, goals, goals

Just as with almost any endeavor, you should start your employee’s performance review with goals. In fact, the entire process revolves around and depends on goals for it to be genuinely effective—the goals in an employee review touch on the past, present, and future.

What did your employees plan to achieve in their past performance reviews? What is the goal of your current performance review? Which goals might you set in your employee’s future performance?

Have a conversation

The review should be a two-way conversation. What tends to happen in lousy employee reviews is that managers do all the talking, not getting any feedback. The best thing to do to encourage a conversation is to ask questions. You can try asking the following questions:

  • Which of these goals do you think pose the most challenge for you?
  • In what ways do you think can the company or the team help you to achieve these goals?
  • How can I be a better manager?
  • How often would you like to receive feedback?
  • What schedule can we set in terms of input so that I can coach you as needed without making you feel like you are experiencing micromanaging?

Fostering a conversational environment during a review promotes trust and makes the employee see that you are there to help them become better.

Be honest

If you know that there is an issue or a flaw with the performance of an employee, it is best, to be honest about it. Tiptoeing around it, sugar coating it, or blatantly ignoring it won’t fix things. Being honest about your feedback and doing so in an ethical and professional manner will help your employee improve. They’ll even thank you for it.

In a formal setting

Make sure to set aside face-to-face time with your employee in a conducive environment. Meeting with them in person is more formal and will allow you to gauge their reaction to your feedback. Also, doing so in a quiet environment will free you from distractions so that your message is clear and your goals understood.

Curate your words

Your choice of words has a significant impact on the performance evaluation. If you feel unsure, look towards resources such as Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals: A Guide to Successful Evaluations or even online courses for managers.

Use terms such as achievement, creativity, communication skills, and improvement to convey the skills that your employee possesses or needs improvement on.

End on a positive note

Every employee review should always conclude with both parties experiencing clarity and feeling respected. Ending on a high note ensures that your employee is motivated and determined to achieve the new goals you just set. Make sure that you reached a mutual agreement on the goals and that your employee understands the rationale behind the plans.

Provide regular feedback

Just because your employee reviews only happen once a year does not mean that you can only provide feedback during that time. It is an excellent idea to provide informal feedback every now and then to verbally appraise the employee and let them know how they are doing. This gives them an idea of whether they’re on the right track or if they have to adjust their pace and direction.

Don’ts of employee reviews

Here are a few examples of behaviors you should avoid when conducting employee reviews.


When conducting a review, make sure that you are solely focused on the employee and the review at hand. It is in bad form to be doing something else (such as eating, checking emails, or signing papers) while conducting the review. It sends the message that you are insincere with your feedback and that the employee’s career advancement. 

Exclude negative feedback

Excluding all negative feedback, especially in the written review, can have major complications in the long term. One must accept that no worker is perfect. Everyone has imperfections and some room for improvement or skills to update. If you exclude negative feedback and need to reprimand that employee or give disciplinary action, you will not have a concrete basis for your action.

Leaving things in the dark

A conclusion is one of the most essential things in employee reviews. If you parted ways after the conversation with no clear goals and no mutual understanding, you would not likely see any improvement with the employee. 

Learn more about harnessing your employees’ skills with Talent Management: How To Develop And Retain Top Employees.

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