You Don’t Have to Dread Performance Reviews

We often receive ambivalent responses from employers when we ask about implementing a meaningful performance review system. And we hear frustration from employees, who complain that they are never reviewed. These negative perceptions of performance reviews are widespread; in fact, the Washington Post recently published an article titled: “Study finds that basically every single person hates performance reviews.”

It’s easy to understand why. Common problems with reviews are that they take too much time, don’t happen regularly, and are too much work. On top of all that, no one likes giving or receiving negative feedback.

However, performance reviews don’t have to be a dreaded activity. A better approach is to establish a system for frequent, meaningful conversations that happen throughout the year. In a review that covers twelve long months of an employee’s work, it’s easy to miss opportunities for improvement, as well as recognition for achievements or successful projects. But frequent, regular discussions about performance — held quarterly or even monthly — keep employees motivated, hold them accountable, and reduce the surprise factor if employment needs to be terminated. These meetings can be more collaborative and less formal. In addition, a concise, focused review that covers a shorter period of time is less onerous to write and, if negative feedback is required, it can be given in a timely way.

The goal is to make communications about performance more productive, with an outcome that benefits both the employee and the company. It’s important to reward employees who meet or exceed performance standards. By acknowledging their contributions, you’re showing their value to the team and company, and also providing a foundation for the reward. On the flip side, no one sets out to be a poor performer. Most employees want to do a good job, to improve if they have missed their key goals, and to be satisfied in their job. Performance reviews are an important way to motivate staff, turn around employees who are slipping, and set everyone up for success within the company.

A simple, effective system consists of:

  • Establishing company-wide goals
  • Job descriptions with general requirements for each position, and how each role will help the company meets its goals
  • Specific, measurable, and time-bound employee goals set for a designated period (e.g., month or quarter)
  • Assessment of performance against goals
  • Recognition of achievement of goals
  • Guidance on improving performance if goals are not met

An effective performance tool for your employees:

  • Holds all employees accountable
  • Rewards high-performing employees and identifies those who need further development or opportunities
  • Reduces turnover, since employees feel recognized and respected
  • Identifies areas for improvement and options for resolving issues around poor performance
  • Provides documentation to support unsatisfactory job performance in the event that termination is necessary

Whether you use a simple form or an online tool, your system should encourage open, collaborative discussions about an employee’s performance against expectations. By providing truthful feedback, you are communicating what’s expected of them, whether they are meeting those expectations, and how they can improve. This can be a very positive process, particularly for an employee who may have been previously unaware of how his or her actions were affecting others, and/or causing a breakdown in efficiency.

When written effectively, employee performance reviews contribute to the productivity of an organization. They provide you with the tools you need to gather information, as well as communicate company and individual goals to all employees. They also provide a structure for compensation, and other ways to reward employees for successfully achieving those goals. An effective review system leads to more productive, more engaged employees who can contribute to your company’s success.

For help with setting up and implementing an effective performance review system for your organization, contact us at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *