How to Conduct a Performance Review That Motivates

Performance reviews are more than just a task on a manager's to-do list; they are opportunities to inspire and empower employees to achieve their full potential. In this guide, we'll explore the essential elements of conducting a performance review that motivates both managers and employees. 

How to Conduct a Performance Review That Motivates

Performance reviews are more than just a task on a manager's to-do list; they are opportunities to inspire and empower employees to achieve their full potential. In this guide, we'll explore the essential elements of conducting a performance review that motivates both managers and employees. From setting clear expectations to leveraging personalized feedback, each step is designed to create a collaborative and supportive environment for growth and development.


Performance reviews: a key element of performance management

Performance reviews are a cornerstone in your performance management cycle. Done effectively, performance reviews help managers strengthen alignment and coach to better performance. They help employees understand expectations, communicate progress, and develop a path for growth.

Managers should have many types of performance conversations—outside of an employee performance review—with employees throughout the year. Ongoing feedback that helps employees adjust and grow in real-time. But the performance review is an opportunity to formally assess an employee's work over a given period, through a face-to-face conversation.

Most organizations conduct annual performance reviews, but these reviews can also be conducted quarterly or even monthly.

Benefits of effective performance reviews 

Performance reviews have gotten a bad reputation over the years. This stems from outdated practices and ineffective implementation of reviews.

Employees at all levels have described performance appraisals as bureaucratic and time-consuming. Reviews often feel like check-the-box formalities, lacking meaningful feedback and opportunities for growth. The annual cadence and focus on past performance, as well as the emphasis on performance ratings, doesn't help managers course correct or employees develop and grow. And the subjective nature of reviews often leads to biases and inconsistencies that leave employees feeling disengaged.

That's a lot for organizations to overcome in their performance review process. But effective performance reviews offer benefits for everyone.

For leaders, performance reviews provide invaluable insights that can lead to more informed decisions around promotions, training, and resource allocation—ultimately improving the overall success of the business.

For managers, reviews offer a platform for providing feedback, setting goals, and aligning team member objectives with organizational objectives. They’re an opportunity to recognize and reward top performers—and address any performance issues or concerns in a timely manner. Done thoughtfully, performance reviews help foster open communication between managers and employees. They help strengthen relationships and promote a culture of transparency and accountability.

For employees, performance reviews can be valuable opportunities for growth and development. They can get direct feedback on their work, gaining insight into where they excel and where they can improve. Reviews can empower employees to set goals, track progress, and take ownership of their development.

Are your performance reviews motivating your employees?

Quantum Workplace research shows only 68% of employees feel their performance is fairly evaluated. And only 60% say their managers provide performance feedback that helps them improve. There’s a big opportunity to improve performance reviews!

A well-executed performance review can inspire employees to reach new levels of performance. When employees have a clear understanding of expectations and can see a path to growth, they can engage more fully in their work. Managers can help strengthen alignment, boosting success of the employee and the organization at large.

To make your performance reviews more motivating for employees:

  • Ensure the process is perceived as fair and transparent
  • Give employees a voice in the process
  • Incorporate feedback from multiple sources
  • Provide clear criteria for evaluation
  • Use constructive feedback, balancing strengths/achievements with improvement
  • Set clear and challenging goals
  • Support employee development with coaching, resources, and training

Preparing for a performance review

A performance review will only be as good as the thought that is put into it. Preparing for a performance review is essential for managers and employees alike.

Managers should spend time reflecting on and reviewing the employee's performance, gathering specific examples of successes and areas to improve. They should consider how to provide relevant feedback and coaching based on the employee's goals and responsibilities.

Employees should also take time to reflect on their performance during the review period. They should come prepared to discuss progress, obstacles, and opportunities with their managers. They should also consider their career aspirations and where they'd like to grow and improve.

When managers and employees both prepare for a performance review, the conversation can be much more productive and meaningful.

Drafting constructive feedback 

Providing constructive feedback is a crucial aspect of the performance review process. By offering feedback that is specific, actionable, and linked to performance expectations, managers can help employees understand how they can improve and excel in their roles. Here are some tips for drafting constructive feedback:

  • Be specific. Provide concrete examples of both successes and areas for improvement. This helps employees understand behaviors or actions that have impacted performance.
  • Be action-oriented. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, provide suggestions to improve. Offer coaching, resources, or training to help employees develop necessary skills.
  • Link feedback to performance expectations. Tie your feedback to the performance expectations set for the employee's role.
  • Balance strengths and areas for improvement. While it is important to address areas where improvement is needed, also acknowledge and celebrate the employee's strengths. Recognizing good performance can boost morale and motivation.
  • Encourage a growth mindset. Frame feedback as an opportunity for growth and development. Emphasize that constructive feedback is meant to help the employee improve and succeed in their role.

Check out our article on performance review example phrases, comments, and questions to help you draft constructive feedback and facilitate a more engaging review conversation!

How to conduct a performance review

You want to conduct a performance review in a way that is both effective and engaging. Effective in resonating with employees and boosting an employee's performance. Engaging in helping employees feel valued, heard, and motivated to grow and improve.

Make it a two-way conversation.

A performance review should not be a one-sided conversation. It should be a two-way dialogue between managers and employees that provides clarity and builds trust. Create an environment where both parties can share thoughts, feedback, and goals.

Managers should practice active listening. By actively listening to employees' perspectives, managers can gain a better understanding of their experiences, challenges, and aspirations. This helps build trust and engagement.

Two-way conversations also help align employee goals and expectations with the organization's most important goals. By understanding employee aspirations and providing guided coaching, managers can strengthen alignment and boost performance.

Provide detailed and specific feedback.

Vague or generic feedback can leave employees unsure of what they need to improve or how to excel in their roles. Detailed and specific feedback provides employees with clarity on what's going well and where they need to do better. It helps them understand specific behaviors and actions that impact their performance. And it makes it easier for employees to act on feedback and make meaningful changes.

It's most helpful when managers go beyond pointing out examples, offering guidance and coaching on how employees might improve. This helps employees feel like managers are a partner in their development.

Don't save feedback for the performance review.

Regular feedback is crucial for driving continuous improvement in employee performance. It involves providing ongoing feedback and guidance, rather than saving feedback for the annual performance review.

Ongoing feedback helps employees make timely improvements and adjustments to their performance. It provides them with immediate guidance on how to excel in their roles. It also helps managers identify performance issues early on, allowing for timely course correction. Managers can prevent small issues from escalating into more significant problems that can affect employee performance.

Prioritize honesty and transparency.

Honesty and transparency are table stakes in performance reviews. It's the only way to build trust and create an environment of open communication. If employees sense dishonesty or don't think the process is clear and fair, you'll start on a shaky foundation.

When employees believe their manager's feedback is genuine and unbiased, they're more likely to accept it and take steps to improve. Clear expectations paired with open and direct communication helps employees and managers collaborate better. They create better goals, come up with better ideas, and increase the likelihood of buy-in, change, and better performance.

Master the art of active listening.

Active listening is an essential skill for managers conducting performance reviews. It involves fully focusing on and understanding what the employee is saying, both verbally and nonverbally. Active listening allows managers to gain a deeper understanding of the employee's experiences, challenges, and aspirations. It helps managers see the situation from the employee's point of view.

Lead with empathy.

Leading with empathy involves understanding and acknowledging the employee's emotions and experiences—and responding with compassion and support. When employees feel understood and valued, they are more likely to engage and perform at their best. Empathy creates a safe space for employees to share their thoughts, concerns, and challenges and fosters a culture of trust and collaboration.

Align feedback with goals and role expectations.

Aligning feedback with role expectations and organizational goals is crucial for effective performance reviews. It ensures that feedback is relevant, meaningful, and aligned with what matters most to the organization.

When feedback is aligned with role expectations, employees have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. It helps them focus on the key areas that drive performance and contribute to organizational goals. It makes it easier to understand how to improve performance and where to prioritize efforts.

Consider context and structure of the review.

The context and structure of performance reviews can significantly impact their effectiveness.

A positive and supportive review context creates psychological safety, where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns. It encourages open and honest communication for a more meaningful conversation.

A well-structured review ensures fairness and objectivity in the evaluation process. It provides a consistent framework for assessing performance and reduces the risk of bias or favoritism. Clear structure and guidelines provide employees with a sense of direction and clarity. It helps them understand what is expected of them and how they can improve their performance.

A structured review also allows for a focused and efficient conversation. It helps both managers and employees stay on track, cover all relevant topics, and make the most of the review time. Consider using a performance review template to help with structure.

Check your biases at the door.

Checking biases is an essential skill for managers conducting performance reviews. Biases can affect the objectivity and fairness of the review process, leading to inaccurate assessments and hindered employee development. Checking biases helps ensure that performance appraisals are fair and objective. It allows managers to assess employee performance based on merit rather than personal preferences or prejudices.

Turning reviews into opportunities for development

Performance reviews can be turned into valuable opportunities for employee development. By reframing the review process as a chance for growth and improvement, managers can help employees see the value in receiving feedback and actively participating in their own development. In the following sections, we will explore various strategies for leveraging performance reviews for employee development.

Goal setting: a collaborative approach

Goal setting is a crucial aspect of employee development, and performance reviews provide an excellent opportunity for collaborative goal setting. By involving employees in the goal-setting process, managers can create a sense of ownership and commitment to achieving those goals.

Involving employees in goal setting increases their engagement and commitment to achieving those goals. It allows them to have a voice in their development and aligns their goals with organizational objectives. It creates a sense of purpose, ownership, and accountability—ultimately increasing the chances of goal achievement and success.

Incorporating employee self-assessment

Incorporating employee self-assessment in the performance review process can provide valuable insights and enhance employee engagement. By allowing employees to reflect on their own performance and provide input, managers gain a more comprehensive understanding of their strengths, challenges, and goals.

Self-assessment allows employees to express their thoughts, concerns, and aspirations. It provides managers with a deeper understanding of the employee's perspective and experiences. By involving employees in the assessment process, they take ownership of their performance and become accountable for their development.

After the performance review

Performance review follow up is an important step in the performance review process. By agreeing on next steps and areas for growth, managers can nurture employee development long after the review is over.

Regular check-ins post-review can help in addressing any emerging issues promptly and keeping performance on track. This might look like a combination of quarterly performance check-ins, monthly progress and engagement discussions, and weekly 1-on-1s to tackle opportunities and obstacles in real-time.

Following up effectively 

Once the performance review is completed, it is crucial to follow up effectively to ensure the feedback provided during the review is acted upon. Following up entails setting clear expectations for improvement, discussing any additional support needed, and establishing a timeline for progress checks.

This phase is an excellent opportunity to reinforce positive behaviors or address any lingering concerns from the review. By maintaining open communication channels post-review, managers can support employees in reaching new heights and achieving their set goals. Regular follow-ups indicate a commitment to employee development and show that their growth is a priority for the organization.

How Quantum Workplace can help you streamline performance reviews

Performance conversations don’t need to be hard. Keep your managers and employees on the same page with engaging performance reviews. Our performance review software gives your teams reliable context to help them have more objective and engaging conversations.


1. Customize reviews to fit your needs. 

Easily measure what you want, when you want with flexible review modules that you can tailor to fit the needs of your culture and the various groups within it. 


2. Help your managers build positive performance habits.

Make it easy for manager to coach to performance by integrating your process into their existing workflows. Set up formal conversation cycles to create the right frequency and consistency of touch points.






3. Easily track review response rates. 

See the status of each review cycle to help your teams stay accountable and monitor performance ratings in real-time. 


4. Embed performance goals directly into reviews.

Our platform makes it easy to include goals as part of performance evaluations—and helps coach managers have objective, effective, and growth-oriented conversations.






5. Orient reviews around multi-rater feedback.

Incorporate feedback into your review cycles to gain valuable insight from the individuals your people work with most, and better orient  performance conversations around development.


6. Visualize and align on performance data across teams.

Get a comprehensive view of your organization’s talent with our talent dashboard. Zoom out and see the big picture, to help you make more informed decisions on how to keep and develop your best talent.




In conclusion, mastering the art of conducting a performance review that motivates requires managers to adopt a collaborative, empathetic, and transparent approach. By providing constructive feedback, setting clear goals, and fostering open communication, managers can create one of the best ways to empower employees in the performance review process. This approach allows employees to reach new heights and contribute to the success of the organization.


Make your performance review process more effective, efficient, and engaging. Quantum Workplace's performance review software helps your managers and teams prepare for, facilitate, and follow up for better reviews and better performance.

Published January 10, 2024 | Written By Kristin Ryba