Workforce Management

5 Easy Steps to Conduct Successful Performance Reviews

By Ande Kempf

performance reviews: 5 steps

You walk into the office, coffee in one hand, to-do list in the other. Everything on your list is checked off. Twice. It’s practically Christmas.

Your 10:00 a.m. performance review is with an employee you’ve been evaluating for months, and you’re about to share your brilliant notes on how he can improve his skills. You’ve got this. Life is copacetic.

Is that even real life? Ever? We are guessing not often. And if so, we applaud you.

Now, imagine it’s a normal morning. Your to-do list is now multiple pages, you have meetings all day, and on top of that performance reviews are due at the end of the week. You aren’t prepared at all – the only adjectives you can think of for this employee are “nice” and “friendly.” How do you conduct a successful performance review?

Have no fear. Here are five things you can do to prepare for a performance appraisal meeting, that will ease your mind and prepare you to evaluate your employees’ performance fairly and accurately.

1. Create a guideline

Remember when you first hired your employee? Well, you most likely had a job description that accompanied the job posting.  Grab the job description and layout a guide to evaluate how well they have measured up to expectations.

If this employee has previously had a review, pull up their most recent performance appraisal and use that as your benchmark.

2. Rate each skill

Ever heard of a Likert scale? Take each skill from the job posting or past performance appraisal, and assign it a 1-4 scale, 4 being exactly what you’re looking for, 3 being acceptable, 2 needing work, and 1 being a red flag.

3. Print two copies of your guideline

After you have typed up a guide for the evaluation, print two copies. Sit down and fill out one yourself, evaluating the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Give the other to the employee to fill out prior to meeting. This way you are both on the same page about what’s being evaluated and more prepared to discuss performance.

4. Evaluate yourself

After they fill out their copy, read it. Are they totally unaware of performing poorly in a specific area? Or have you been communicating to them what’s expected in each area?

The golden rule of successful performance appraisals: Nothing that is said during a performance appraisal should ever come as a surprise to an employee.

If there are any discrepancies between what you see wrong and what they see wrong, ask yourself if you provided the training they needed for that knowledge or skill, and if you gave clear direction and established expectations.

5. Set goals

Discuss the results of the evaluation with the employee, and work with them to set S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) goals that are focused on results. Set up regular meetings to review their progress and identify any problems they encounter as they strive to meet these goals.

Feel better? You should.

You can use that evaluation guide for next time, and that’s one more thing off your list – it may still be multiple pages, but at least you’re ahead of the game.

Need more help in preparing for your performance review meeting? Check out our how-to guide on performance appraisals.

Ande Kempf researches and writes on a variety of business topics, including workplace dynamics, HR strategies, and training trends and technology.