Remember when you were invited to the yearly performance review with your manager? Did you like or hate those meetings – if you’re honest with yourself?

performance-evaluationSince you are the manager now, conducting performance review meetings with your employees is part of your job. And, if done right, it’s a crucial instrument for you to motivate your team to deliver great performance. The first thing to understand is that the performance review process does not start when you meet your employee for the discussion. It doesn’t even start the week before, when preparing for this meeting – it is a ongoing cycle throughout the year.

Don’t panic – these tips will help you navigate through the wilderness so that you end up being a rock star in conducting performance reviews!


Throughout the year

– Ensure that you understand the corporate process your organization wants you to follow and what is expected from you at what times. Be sure to communicate clearly to your employees about their parts of the process.

Track and Record
– Observe your employee’s performance as objectively as possible throughout the year and challenge yourself to avoid bias and stereotyping. Keep track of their performance and record client feedback, outstanding accomplishments, as well as negative incidents to ensure they will be taken into consideration during the formal review. It should be a balanced evaluation and whatever the outcome is, it  never can be a surprise to your employees!

Build Rapport
– Meet regularly to discuss projects and activities; give constructive feedback and direction regularly, making assessments and adjustments along the way, to build rapport and confidence with your team members. Schedule those periodic feedback sessions in your calendar, ideally right in the beginning of the year, to make sure that they don’t get lost in the rush of daily business.


Prepare for the meeting

Ideal Time to Meet
– Identify a time and date that is mutually convenient; make sure that you block enough time in your agenda (minimum 60 minutes per associate). If you have a big team, spread your review sessions over multiple days, do not try to squeeze them all into one day. If you do them well, these meetings require focus and energy and it will exhaust you if you try to do too many at once.

– Screen your notes documenting the informal feedback sessions held previously; the annual performance review meeting is only a culmination of the interactions between you and your employees throughout the year. Seek input from those who interact and work directly with your employee; for example talk to customers, relevant co-workers and other stakeholders. No supervisor can be expected to know and see everything.

Review Objectives
– Review objectives set in the beginning of the annual cycle and evaluate the employee’s performance against those objectives: expectations versus actual. List major positive and negative incidents (be specific, do not generalize) and use objective criteria to evaluate the employee fairly. Focus on results-based evaluations: You should have objective, fact-based measures upon which you judge performance.  Employees performing the same job function should be evaluated by the same measures.


During the meeting

Relaxed Environment
– Create a comfort zone in a private setting and establish an open and positive climate in a relaxed atmosphere that cultivates an open, productive discussion. Be present in the moment and role model desired leadership behaviors, embrace diversity of thought, style and perspective. Start off by building rapport and engaging your employee emotionally: Draw the overarching vision of your company’s ideals, goals and mission.

Feedback First
– Ask your employee for their self-assessment of job performance, achievements and progress during the review period; ask for specific situations and examples. Listen actively, ask coaching questions and encourage dialogue; don’t just tell the employee what you think of his or her work. Also give the employee a chance to discuss issues of concern; annual performance reviews provide excellent opportunities to discuss procedural and organizational issues that may affect employee performance.

Balanced Evaluation
– Once it’s your turn, be transparent and give candid, constructive feedback while maintaining focus on job performance, not on personality traits. Respectfully listen to statements of disagreement and work to resolve them until you reach consensus. Together, identify areas for growth and future contribution; explain that you will cover this in depth during a formal development discussion; ideally already fix a date for that.


After the meeting

Document and Follow-up
– Prepare a formal, written review document or ask your employee to provide an accurate summary of the discussion, including any plans, commitments made and areas requiring follow up. Once the final report is available, get the employee’s signature and agreement and sign the final meeting document yourself.

Effective Follow-up
– Make sure that you live up to any commitments made regarding further development, providing additional retargets, facilitating relationships or new task assignments. Otherwise, the entire review process becomes non-credible and untrustworthy.


Following these tips will help you run an effective performance review and turn the process into an engaging experience for your employees. Take some time to improve your leadership skills and don’t leave your first performance review cycle as a manager to chance.


About the Guest Post Author:

Martina Mangelsdorf created a unique First Time Managers’ Performance Review Toolkit that helps you to be fully prepared for this crucial conversation. It offers step-by-step guidance and plenty of practical tips to transform the performance review from a scary monster to a invaluable instrument to manage your employees. Click here to check it out.

Martina Mangelsdorf is a thought-leader on generational differences in the workplace and the founder of GAIA Insights, a boutique firm specialized in engaging, developing and retaining corporate Generation Y talent. She has cracked the code of Gen Y engagement in the workplace and helps clients decipher the DNA that drives talent motivation and employee commitment.