10 Tips To Give Useful Performance Reviews (With Examples)
By Jennifer Herrity
Updated July 6, 2022 | Published December 12, 2019
Updated July 6, 2022
Published December 12, 2019
Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.
It is often necessary to review an employee’s work and offer feedback about their strengths and challenges. Performance reviews, also called “performance assessments,” “employee appraisals” or employee evaluations, allow individuals to reflect on their work and set goals for improvement.
In this article, we provide tips for creating effective employee evaluations along with a few employee performance evaluation samples.
What is an employee performance review?
An employee performance review is a formal assessment of an employee’s work habits, productivity, demeanor and effect on other employees. Each performance review focuses on an employee’s actions during a specific period. Depending on the company’s preference, you may conduct these reviews annually, biannually, quarterly or monthly. The reviews may be held at the same time for all employees or based on each employee’s hire date.
Employee evaluations can focus on many areas, but the basics include:
Adherence to company rules and standards
Communication and interpersonal skills
Customer service (if applicable)
Delegation (if the employee leads a team)
Record for meeting goals and deadlines
When grading an employee’s performance, your company may have one of the following systems:
Grading employee performances using a grading system (A, B, C, D, F)
Using a weighted grade that relies on percentages (60%, 77%, 93%)
Scoring employees on a scale (1-5, 1-10, 1-100)
You can give performance reviews face-to-face, in written form or both. Consider prioritizing the positive aspects of an employee’s performance and offer opportunities for improvement, if applicable. Encourage the employee to ask questions and conduct a self-assessment.
The importance of regular employee performance evaluations
Evaluations help management determine which employees to prioritize for raises, promotion or dismissal. Performance reviews can help employees re-focus workload and motivation according to strengths and opportunities for improvement.
Consider how frequently you conduct these evaluations. Employees might prefer an annual formal evaluation with more frequent informal assessments, like a monthly “check-in,” to let them know how they’re doing. The right frequency of evaluations should help the employee feel comfortable in their position but also focused on continued success.
How to give useful performance feedback
It’s important to make a performance evaluation a tool that employees can use to understand their strengths and weaknesses. The following 10 steps will help you develop an effective evaluation:
1. Keep up-to-date information about each employee’s position
When you are deciding how to write an appropriate employee evaluation, tailor the review to the specific employee. Part of this process involves noting their position and comparing their performance to what the company requires of that role. While writing your evaluation, ask yourself these questions:
Does the employee understand what the job entails?
Does the employee meet expectations, exceed expectations or underperform in their position?
Does the employee seek to grow within the company?
Does the employee participate in continuing education for their position?
2. Make regular notes of employee performance
In preparation for an employee performance review, make regular notes of things like productivity, teamwork and interpersonal skills. Alternatively, some employers ask team members to prepare a self-evaluation first, outlining the tasks they performed and the successes they had in that period. It is often easier for an employee to remember specific details about their work than it is for a manager, especially one who oversees multiple people. In this way, it can be helpful to compare your notes during the review.
3. Solicit information from other managers
Before finalizing an employee evaluation, you should ask other managers or supervisors about the employee, if applicable. Questions you might ask include:
How well does the employee work with and communicates?
How does the employee keep up with company guidelines and attendance, for example?
Do you think the employee is meeting expectations and understands how to do their job?
How does the employee treat customers, if applicable?
What areas does the employee excel in? What are their strengths?
What areas could the employee improve in? How could we help them improve?
Do you have any other details about the employee’s work performance you’d like to contribute?
Do you recommend a raise, promotion, warning or dismissal, if applicable?
Related: What Is Work Culture?
4. Get to the point
Managers were once encouraged to fit potential criticism with positive feedback. The technique, known as “sandwiching,” is highly discouraged. Employees see through it. When used as a way to ease into negative feedback, praise is diluted. Also, delaying the inevitable causes anxiety for both the reviewer and the employee. If you are delivering negative feedback, be direct.
5. Note opportunities for improvement
Each criticism you give an employee about their work should include some notes on how that employee can improve. Suggestions for improvement are often just as important as noting the positives and can provide solid direction for goal-setting Be direct and specific on what you’d like the employee to do and offer guidance to help them work towards these objectives.
6. Use clear, actionable language
When assessing an employee’s performance, avoid using terms like ”good,” ”excellent” or ”poor,” since these terms are often too general. Instead, use specific action words and phrases like:
Allocates: “This employee allocates …”
Assists: “This employee assists co-workers …”
Encourages: “This employee encourages teammates …”
Motivates: “The leader motivates everyone on the team.”
Understands: “This employee understands all aspects of the job.”
Additionally, you should list any information that indicates the person receiving the performance review improved productivity by a specific amount or produced specific positive results.
7. Solicit a dialogue
It’s essential to get feedback from an employee you’re evaluating during a performance review. To be a productive conversation, the employee should do much of the talking during these evaluations.
Part of the challenge of performance reviews might be from the employee’s notion that this evaluation is one-sided. If you do most or all of the talking, employees may feel like you are scolding them and could respond negatively to the review. Ask employees questions and get them to talk about ways they can improve and what they like about their jobs. You could also encourage them to set their own goals for their position.
If the employee has provided a self-evaluation, pay attention to their comments and concerns. Respect the opportunity for them to reflect on their performance in the workplace. You may learn that they would like additional training, new opportunities or other steps to help them grow within the company.
8. Ask the right questions
A performance evaluation should never be one-sided. What the employee has to say is just as important as what you share with them. Ask questions that allow the employee to give feedback and be open with you. You might consider asking questions such as:
What goals do you have for the next year?
What accomplishment(s) from the last year are you most proud of?
What obstacles are standing in your way of achieving your goals?
How do you feel about your place on the team?
How can I improve as your manager?
9. Communicate regularly with the employee
You can help make the performance review process less stressful by interacting with the employee regularly between evaluations. These conversations could include informal performance reviews or regular words of encouragement. If the employee talks to you daily, it may be easier for you to assess their performance and for them to accept your criticism.
10. Wrap up the evaluation with the next steps
Before the evaluation meeting ends, make sure you and the employee understand the next steps. Defining an action plan is essential. What exactly does the employee need to do to improve? How will those steps be measured? As a manager, what will you do to help the employee achieve success?
Employee performance evaluation samples
Below are a few employee performance evaluation examples to help you create your own:
Example 1: Employee exceeds expectations
Louisa exceeds expectations as a web content team leader. She delegates appropriate tasks to the writers on her team, communicates with them regularly and proudly updates management of her teammates’ accomplishments. Under her leadership, we have consistently produced web content and increased traffic to our website by 30% over the last nine months
As a teammate, Louisa has not only established herself as one of our top problem-solvers, but she has developed into a reliable troubleshooter. She consistently looks to improve our processes and finds solutions to improve efficiency. Now, the writers on her team have a clearer understanding of what is expected of them and they’re able to publish content on a regular schedule.
Jamel has exceeded expectations in his role as supervisor. He offers guidance to less experienced teammates, has developed a rapport with all teammates and promotes cooperative relationships on his team.
Jamel is also reliable in a crisis. When needed, he finds creative solutions and steps up when someone is absent to ensure that his team’s production flow remains steady.
Example 3: Employee meets expectations
Gayle has met all requirements on the product development team. She arrives on time and closely adheres to job and company standards. However, based on some input from her co-workers, Gayle only commits to doing the minimum required and tends to look to her teammates for direction.
In the future, we would like to see Gayle take more initiative. While asking questions shows that Gayle has a willingness to communicate with her team, she needs to take some extra time to do direct research and apply new concepts to her work.
Doyle has met all the requirements of the sales team. He is cordial to customers and makes an effort to attend to customers in need of help. However, Doyle shows a minimum commitment beyond that.
In the future, we would like to see Doyle offer customers more specials and make more of an effort to introduce customers to more of our deals, sales and products.
Example 5: Employee fails to meet expectations
Bill lacks the communication skills needed for his job. He rarely communicates with his teammates, seems distant from his supervisor and often avoids dealing with customers directly.
Communication is integral to Bill’s job. He either needs coaching to improve his communication skills or he needs to make an independent effort to improve the way he reacts to co-workers and customers. If Bill refuses to make these efforts, he is in danger of being let go.
Jill has a problem with attendance. She rarely arrives at work on time but leaves before the end of her shift. As a result of her lateness, her team is often shorthanded during the early mornings. If Jill does not improve her attendance, she is in danger of being terminated per company guidelines.
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