A performance review is most effective when everyone involved is on the same page. Sharing a plan beforehand (or better yet, building it together) can help create a less intimidating environment.
You can also give the team member a more active hand in the meeting. Your evaluation should be a conversation, so try creating the talking points collaboratively. You could even let the employee pick the location so they’re in an environment where they feel comfortable.
Reflecting on the past is key to performance reviews. It’s how you highlight where a team member can improve. But if all you focus on is past successes or failures, you don’t pave a path for them to improve their performance. That’s not to say you can’t talk about their previous performance at all! Just try to nest that conversation into a goal-setting process so the employee knows how to do even better.
A common mistake that managers make during performance reviews is approaching the whole thing as an “evaluator.” Yes, questions are key, but make them too pointed, and the review can start to feel more like an interrogation. That’s a bit too combative for what’s supposed to be a conversation. You should be on the employee’s side – you want them to improve because you care about them.
So, before coming into the meeting, try and write down some questions that shift your mindset from judge to coach. For example:
Being unclear and wordy can complicate performance reviews. It’s just as bad for an employee to leave a meeting confused as if they left discouraged. Miscommunication can cause the employee to try improving in areas where they’re already great without addressing the actual issue.
Getting into specifics without being long-winded helps to avoid this issue. When setting employee goals and expectations, include timeframes for improvement so the goals are clear. Additionally, when going over strengths and weaknesses, provide clear examples so the employee knows exactly what you want.
Conversation requires more than just letting the other party speak – you need to listen to what they say. Admittedly, since you’re the one who called the meeting, it’s easy to end up dominating the discussion, especially if the employee is nervous. But two-way communication drives employee productivity, especially after a performance review. It keeps employees engaged and gives them an active hand in their growth.
To listen more actively, make sure the employee is comfortable enough to share their opinions. From there, just show genuine interest in what they have to say. Ask questions that let them lead the conversation, then delve further into their answers with follow-ups. Then, reiterate what they’ve said to clear up any misunderstandings and work together toward better performance.
A performance review isn’t just about encouraging employees to improve. It’s also how you lay the foundation that allows them to do so. Think about it like this: It’s easy to talk about improving an employee’s performance. It’s a bit harder to make that improvement without a clear path.
Once the review is complete, go over the notes you’ve taken and put together some actionable goals for the employee. Then, make yourself available to help the employee through any challenges as they continue to grow.
For managers, we provide guidelines on how to conduct performance review meetings.