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Conducting Quarterly Performance Reviews

According to Officevibe, regular feedback is something 96% of employees see as positive. Still, 32% of workers wait on feedback from managers for more than three months. With many businesses using an annual review model, many employees are left wondering how they’re doing without any formal feedback. Switching to quarterly reviews helps you stay in touch with your employees and gives them the feedback they want.

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Benefits of conducting quarterly reviews

Quarterly reviews might seem like a lot of work, especially if you’re used to annual reviews, but they can benefit you and your employees in many ways. Here are some benefits of quarterly employee reviews to consider:

  • Better recall: It’s sometimes difficult to remember what you did last week, so trying to think back to how your employees performed last year can be challenging. Also, a recent success or struggle can overshadow everything else the employee did in the last year since that’s the most current and memorable event. This can skew the review because it doesn’t capture the full year. The shorter period of quarterly reviews allows you to review employee performance more effectively because you’re looking at recent work and repeatedly reviewing it throughout the year.
  • Faster correction: If an employee’s performance isn’t adequate, waiting a year to address it can make the situation worse. Quarterly reviews make it easier to catch and address the issue quickly.
  • Frequent check-ins on issues: Once you identify an issue, quarterly reviews let you touch base on improvements regularly. You can verify that the employee is following the plan you create to correct the issue and make adjustments if necessary.
  • Improved goal-setting: Setting goals is an effective way to help your employees improve their performance. With quarterly reviews, you can check in on goal progress, adjust goals and set new goals more effectively.
  • Alignment with business quarters: This performance review schedule aligns with your business quarters, which can help you naturally coordinate your review with business activities such as quarterly sales numbers.
  • Actionable feedback: Quarterly reviews let you provide faster feedback, which gives employees actionable information they can implement immediately.
  • Decreased compensation focus: Annual reviews are often tied to raises, which can be distracting for employees. They care more about whether they’re getting a raise and how much they’re getting than what you think of their performance. Quarterly reviews focus more on performance and regular improvement than on compensation.
  • Relaxed and informal: One major annual review can make employees nervous. They’re often one-sided and formal. Quarterly reviews take more of a check-in approach with two-way conversations. The more relaxed vibe of a quarterly review might help employees be more open.
  • Less time: In many cases, a quarterly approach is less time-consuming for managers. Since you’re constantly evaluating your employees, you have a better idea of their performance. You don’t have to dig back through files or your memories to complete the evaluation.
  • New employee support: Quarterly evaluations mean your new employees don’t have to wait as long before they get structured feedback. They should get regular informal feedback from supervisors and coworkers as they learn the job, but sitting down for an evaluation can also be helpful.

Monthly reviews are also an option, but they can become time-consuming if you do formal, written evaluations every month. Quarterly evaluations make the process manageable while providing more frequent feedback than annual reviews, making them a good balance. You can supplement the quarterly reviews with informal weekly or monthly check-ins to give employees quick feedback and hear their concerns.

When to conduct a quarterly employee review

Timing is important since you need to schedule four reviews per year for each employee. Time the quarterly performance review near the end of the quarter or at the beginning of the next quarter. For example, your Q1 reviews for January through March should happen in the last week or two of March or the first week or two of April. This allows you to rate employee performance while the data is still fresh, and you can evaluate performance before you get too far into the new quarter.

Schedule your quarterly reviews around the same time each quarter for consistency. This gives you a review period that’s roughly the same length each time and spaces out the reviews better. If you schedule the Q1 review for March 15 and the Q2 review for July 15, you go four months instead of three months between meetings. Following that with a Q3 review on September 15 would shorten that period to two months.

Scheduling them in advance also ensures you make time for the reviews so they don’t get pushed off or skipped. The end of the quarter is often a busy time for companies, so planning ahead and scheduling the reviews makes it easier to fit them in with other end-of-quarter activities.

What to cover in a quarterly performance review

Your quarterly reviews can cover the same types of topics as your annual reviews, just on a more frequent schedule. Creating a checklist for the quarterly reviews helps you stay on track and makes the reviews consistent across departments. Consider including these things in your quarterly employee review:

  • Evaluation of skills, behaviors and performance over the last quarter using a rating system or series of questions
  • Review of the employee’s goals from the previous quarter
  • Adjustment of goals or setting new goals for the upcoming quarter
  • Plan for correcting any issues that come up during the review
  • Open discussion period to get feedback from the employee on things such as the working environment, conflict and tools they need to be successful
  • Raises and compensation discussion if the quarterly review aligns with the employee’s work anniversary or at a time when you’d normally consider a raise

Tips for effective quarterly reviews

The following tips help you handle the quarterly performance review process more effectively.

Start small

If you have a large company and you’re used to doing annual reviews, start the transition to a quarterly employee review system in one department. Moving to more frequent reviews can have a learning curve to make the reviews meaningful and effective. A slower rollout allows you to work out the kinks and figure out what works well for your company. Continue rolling it out to other departments gradually. You might add a new department each quarter, for example.

Create a quarterly employee review form

Keep the quarterly reviews consistent with a form that covers key areas. Include relevant performance review questions to guide your managers. Make the rating system clear and consistent. Managers should complete the form before the scheduled review. You might also include a self-evaluation portion that employees complete before the meeting.

Look at past reviews

Look over previous quarterly reviews to check the employee’s progress. There may have been some concerns about the last quarter’s performance, but when you look back, you might notice an improvement. This helps you give actionable advice that builds on past performance.

Be detailed

Even though performance reviews happen more frequently with this schedule, it’s important to include impactful statements to make the assessments valuable. Provide specific examples that back up your ratings, and give employees actionable feedback they can use to improve their performance.

Meet one-on-one

When discussing the review, schedule a one-on-one meeting with the employee. This can be a face-to-face meeting in the office or via videoconference if your employees work virtually. Schedule the meeting when you won’t be distracted and don’t have to rush. The meeting will likely only take 30 to 60 minutes, but it’s best to have a buffer to avoid rushing the conversation if it goes longer.

Make it a two-way conversation

A quarterly review is more effective when you make it a two-way conversation. Instead of just telling the employee why you gave them certain rankings or what they need to work on, ask them questions about how they feel their performance was during the quarter. Let them give open feedback beyond the structured questions. This helps build trust and gives you information you can use to improve the work environment.

Follow up on reviews

Even though reviews happen every three months with a quarterly schedule, it’s still necessary to follow up on the meetings and take action before the next one. If you set new goals or give an employee a plan to correct behaviors, check in regularly to see how they’re doing.

If you get feedback from an employee that calls for change, take action on those changes. That might mean ordering new equipment or getting the employee the training necessary to do the job. The reviews aren’t as useful if you don’t also take feedback from them and use it to improve the company.

Offer more frequent feedback

Your formal reviews might happen quarterly, but it’s important to provide feedback to your employees more frequently. Don’t wait for the quarterly review to speak to your employees. Provide feedback and guidance when you see a problem, and recognize exceptional performance when it happens.

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