Management Tips, Employee Goals | July 28, 2020

A Performance Review Template that Really Works

image representing A Performance Review Template that Really Works

Performance reviews get a bad rap. Many of us have been in situations where a not-great manager used a review as an opportunity to parade failures and mistakes in front of us. Done poorly, performance reviews breed resentment, not motivation. That's not exactly productive.

But done well, annual (or biannual) one-on-one performance reviews can be key to fostering employee engagement and growth. If you're a new manager or want to change the process your team uses for reviews, read on. We've compiled a template based on decades of experience leading highly effective teams. 

How Do You Conduct a Performance Review?

Some general principles:

  • Do it in cycles. The first step should be asynchronous and individual, and the second should be a meeting in real time (whether virtually or in-person)
  • Start with a template of questions that the employee fills out about themselves (a self-appraisal) and the manager fills out about the employee. If your team wants to try 360 performance reviews, add a set of questions for the employee to answer about their manager.
  • A manager and employee should both share their answers with each other prior to meeting. Springing information on an employee in the moment helps nobody. Give each other time to process and think about the information in the review, whether positive or negative.
  • Prepare questions and comments prior to your meeting. If you've done most of the work in advance, you're ready to have a productive discussion when you meet.

How Do You Start a Performance Review?

So you've written your self-appraisal, you've read the review from your boss, you've written your team's reviews, and you're about to log into a video chat or step into a one-on-one. What do you say? How do you start?

Whether you're the manager or the employee, we recommend starting with positivity. Beginning a review with meaningful praise and celebration creates an environment in which team members feel valued and in which constructive criticism can be heard. If you start with criticism, praise feels like a consolation prize. If you start with celebration, critique feels more fair and is more likely to be adopted.

At the beginning of the review, find a few specific things to celebrate from the last 6 months. If you're the employee, come prepared with notes of things you did that went well, specific people on the team that contributed to that success, and personal growth you've achieved. This is your time to brag about yourself; use it.

If you're the manager, come to the review with a few specific things to celebrate about your employee. Avoid being vague; instead of complementing someone's work ethic in general terms, for instance, praise their performance during one particular week when they really showed up. 

How Do You Give Good Feedback in a Performance Review?

If you've started with meaningful praise (not empty celebration), then giving good feedback will probably flow naturally. To keep up the constructive, effective process, remove blame from negative feedback.

We recommend focusing constructive feedback on learnings, future changes, and growth. Don't waste time rehashing bad blood or scolding someone for a mistake that happened months ago. Instead, provide an opportunity for your team to talk about what they've learned, what didn't go well that they'd do differently, and what growth they hope to make before the next review. Criticism that feels like improvement and like cheering for each other, not blame or chastising, is more likely to be heard and implemented.

Often, this is a matter of a simple rephrasing. Reviews are vulnerable situations that call for thoughtful wording. This is particularly true when giving constructive feedback. 

Strety Users: Drastically reduce prep time for reviews by filtering recent 360 feedback, 1:1 notes, and Check In responses for each person on your team. 

How do Goals Come Into Play?

There are two types of goals to consider in the performance review process:

  1. Company goals that an employee owns or contributes to, and
  2. Goals the employee has for their own professional development.

When the two intersect, it's serendipity. They won't always intersect, so it's important to speak about both and prioritize both whenever possible. When speaking about company goals, document initiatives well in advance and ask your team what they want to impact and help them find role-appropriate ways to do so. Give your team time to think about it, solidify ownership or areas of impact in the review, and spend proceeding meetings checking in on that goal's progress.

Company goals are crucial to the business, and an employee's goals for their own development are crucial for employee retention. Make space to discuss both.

In Review: The Template

Create a list of 2-3 questions for each of the following categories:

  • Celebrating
    • What went well?
    • What are you proud of?
    • Who else on the team do you want to celebrate? etc
  • Learning
    • What did we learn?
    • What might we do differently in the future? etc
  • Growth and Goals
    • Which company initiatives do you want to own?
    • What impact do you want to have on the company before your next review?
    • What personal goals can I help you achieve? etc

If you're ready to incorporate better reviews into your continuous performance management system, contact Strety for a demo of our tool. We'll make this easy!


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