How to Conduct a Performance Review: 6 Tips for Success

how to conduct a performance reviewThe annual employee performance review is no longer an ideal solution to evaluate employee performance. It's slow, outdated, and unable to keep up with the fast-paced nature of the modern workplace.

This three-part blog series will focus on a more effective approach to employee performance: ongoing performance conversations. We’ll cover three areas: how to prepare for a performance review, how to conduct a performance review, and performance review follow-up.


Download: Performance Review Checklist for Effective Performance Conversations


In the classic Nintendo video game, Super Mario Bros., your objective is to journey across an enemy-filled landscape to rescue a princess locked up in a faraway castle.

Mario is a capable hero in his own right, but he receives additional boosts by collecting power-ups littered throughout the world. Various items grant him the ability to grow to twice his normal height, shoot fireballs, and even temporarily fly, increasing his chances of victory.

Similar “power-ups” exist in performance conversations. These discussions pack plenty of potential on their own, but there are ways to boost their impact. 


Here are six power-ups that will help you conduct an effective performance review:


1. An upbeat intro.


The intro sets the tone for everything that follows. Start off on a good note, and the employee is more likely to be objective and open-minded throughout the discussion.

Receiving feedback can be uncomfortable, and most employees enter performance conversations with anxiety about receiving negative or disciplinary comments. Already on edge, employees are more likely to feel defensive or defeated if you immediately jump into a performance evaluation.

Overcome that attitude by starting the conversation with positive vibes. Take a few minutes to ask about some good news the employee experienced recently, whether from their professional or personal lives. Doing so shows that you care about them as an individual and helps build trust. It lowers barriers and lessens the tension your employee might feel.


2. Positive emotions.

Emotions have an enormous impact on employee behavior. If the employee enters your performance conversation with anxiety, fear, or stress, their defenses will be up as they brace for critical judgment. But if they feel comfortable and calm, they’ll be more open to giving and receiving important feedback.

In an ideal situation, you’ve already built trusting relationships with employees, so they feel safe around you. Let employees know this is a two-way conversation and you want to hear from them as well. Ask thought-provoking questions that help employees reflect and self-evaluate, then to their answers and look for opportunities for follow-up questions.


3. Background research.

As you’re preparing for the performance conversation, share notes with the employee so you both know what will be discussed. Check in on employee goal progress and source feedback from other team members to get a well-rounded, objective view of employee performance.

Gathering background information helps you understand what an employee is doing well, how they can improve, and how you can help with potential roadblocks to success.

When you enter a conversation with detailed knowledge of goal progress and recent performance, the employee feels important and valued. You took time out of your busy day to prioritize this individual meeting, and that effort is not lost on employees.


4. A focus on the future.

Although it’s important to reflect on the past through reviews and evaluations, it’s just as important to think about what lies ahead. People think about their futures all the time, whether it’s a promotion, raise, additional education, a new job, family matters, etc. These aspirations pull back the curtain and reveal their motivations. Employees may have untapped potential just waiting to be unearthed.

Ask about future goals, then brainstorm and research opportunities for development, stretch assignments, job crafting, or an entirely new role. Not only will employees feel you care about their future, they’ll also use these development opportunities to grow and enhance their skillsets.


5. Your full attention.

Distractions are everywhere in this age of instant information and constant communication. There’s always another email, text, or Slack message to respond to, another person with a question, or another decision awaiting your approval. You’re overloaded with different voices trying to get your attention.

Make conscious decisions to reduce distractions, such as putting your phone in “do not disturb” mode and meeting away from other employees. When you ignore the pull of these notifications and devote your attention to the conversation, employees understand their importance. You are choosing to ignore other aspects of your work to focus on the employee and your conversation.


6. Continuous communication.

Don't stop communicating after the performance review is over. Make sure to follow up and keep the conversation going throughout the year. We recommend monthly or quarterly performance check-ins to make sure everyone is still on the same page and rowing in the same direction.

Wrap up your performance review with goals and action items and be sure to address these in your next one on one meeting. Continually check in with employees on goal progress, pain points, wins, and life outside of work. This will help you keep up with the ever-evolving needs of each employee.



Download our free Performance Review Checklist, the perfect cheat sheet to accompany you to every performance review.

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Published March 25, 2019 | Written By Dan Hoppen