How better performance reviews can inspire better employee performance

By Franklin Buchanan

It’s human nature to want to know how you’re doing, especially in business when you may expect to find out only during the performance evaluation and review process. Sadly though, it’s a time that’s often ineffective and counterproductive.

According to a SHRM study, 87 percent of managers and employees found the review process to be ineffective. Perhaps more concerning, one survey of 13,000 employees found that 65 percent thought performance evaluations weren’t even relevant to their jobs.

If done correctly, employee reviews can be a strategically helpful exercise to build trust, cohesion, and accountability within your team.

One of the biggest keys to successfully evaluating an employee is setting SMART goals: goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

There are several keys to successful employee reviews:

Set goals on the front end. It’s impossible to fairly evaluate someone if you haven’t established expectations up front. We recommend setting several clear, SMART goals. That is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

Engage your employees early and often. Performance reviews cannot be effective without having the employee’s and the manager’s buy-in. That means you should engage your employee in goal setting upfront and give them an opportunity to provide feedback on how they think they’ve performed at review time.

Evaluations shouldn’t only happen annually. Make it a habit to have more frequent conversations with your employees. That frequency may be driven by your schedule, but we recommend quarterly or semiannual check-ins to ensure you’re continually engaging your employees and giving regular feedback on how they’re performing.

Document these conversations to reference for future reviews. Reviews should be informed by prior reviews. Was there something your employee needed to work on, perhaps some continuing education for them to advance? How did that go? What steps did they take? Document that and the next steps you expect they’ll take so you’ll be ready for the next conversation.

It can’t be a one-way street. Accountability goes both ways, so be prepared to ask for – and get – feedback from your employees. Seek their feedback on what you can do differently to better support them. You’ll build trust and become a better leader by getting their input. If you make it a priority to make employee reviews both fair and actually mean something, you’ll be delighted at how much happier, appreciative, and productive your staff will be.


Franklin Buchanan is the founder of Post Up Careers, which offers personalized career management services for professionals at every stage of their careers. These services, which range from professional resume writing and LinkedIn profile optimization to career coaching, are designed to ensure his clients make it past the applicant tracking systems and, ultimately, get hired. postupcareers.com

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