A manager's guide to delivering effective performance reviews

Managing a team is no easy feat! Your team is a mixture of diverse personalities with different perspectives and skillsets. Monitoring each employee and guiding them towards their goals is all part of a manager’s role. Think about this:

We all have had different experiences with different managers. Many of us have met that manager who’s liked by the majority of their team. They trust his/her decisions to always be fair and rewarding. What did that particular manager do to win the trust of their entire team? There might be many influential factors, but it’s mostly how they handle problems, the way they communicate, and how they treat others. They understand the dynamics of human behavior.

Feedback and psychology go hand in hand. Delivering timely and constructive feedback improves employee behavior and productivity. While many organizations today are embracing a continuous and 360-degree approach, managers play an indispensable role in making these initiatives successful. In our previous post, we discussed the different ways that managers can increase retention and build engaged teams. Today we’ll dive into the details of how managers can deliver effective performance reviews that’ll set employees on the path of development and high-performance.

Performance appraisals – Best practices


  • Gather information

While your organization likely has a continuous feedback culture, it’s your responsibility as a manager to be aware of your employees’ goals, progress, achievements, setbacks, self-appraisal details, and feedback thus far. Only 34% of employees agree that their managers are aware of their current projects or tasks. If you have proper HR software, it can go a long way in helping managers gather all the required information without spending endless hours on data collection.

  • Be aware of bias. Solicit feedback.

It’s only human to have a bias. When you’re aware of and accept this fact, you can incorporate healthy checks into your work life. Request feedback from an employee’s peers or other managers they’ve worked under to dive deep and make fair, objective decisions. If your performance management system provides multi-rater feedback, ask employees to choose their multi-raters so that the feedback is all recorded and comes in handy during the review meeting.

Once the data is gathered, organize your thoughts. What feedback would you like to give to your employee? Think about their strengths and weaknesses and what you’d like to see them work on. Finally, choose an appropriate pay raise that reflects the employee’s performance. With these details in mind, you’ll have an agenda to follow for the review meeting.

 The review meeting

  • Communication is key. Set the right tone.

One of the trickiest parts during performance review meetings is that your emotions can easily influence you. Like you, your employees would have also thought about the multiple things they want to talk about and sort out. It’s important to create a comfortable environment for your employees to feel safe to speak their mind. Before you start your part of the conversation, ask for your employee’s thoughts. How do they feel they performed during a particular time? What do they think about their work and the team?

  • Give constructive feedback

Always strive for a conversation rather than criticism. Starting with negative feedback or an accusing tone will make employees feel their contributions are not valued. Remember that our brains see criticism as a threat to survival. Start off with the positives, and gradually move on to the negatives.

Providing negative feedback can be a scary prospect. In a recent survey, 44% of managers agreed that giving negative feedback was stressful. But try to employ the mindset of a coach, and bolster your negative feedback with concrete examples. This will not only strengthen your argument but also provide employees a better understanding of what they did wrong and how they can improve in the future. Motivated employees will always be happy to hear constructive feedback as long as it is communicated in an appropriate manner.

  • Manage disagreements

Not all your employees are going to be okay with your feedback. Some may become reactive or defensive. Others may find it difficult to accept your thoughts. Review meetings and pay raise negotiations are generally where conflicts arise, and it’s important to maintain your calm and come to a mutually acceptable action plan. Act as a coach, and reaffirm their strengths to help them move forward and work through their mistakes.

  •  Create a development plan, and emphasize on future goals

While a review of past performance is important, focusing on future goals and development plans is equally important. Draft a performance improvement plan, and discuss any training required. Teaching an employee how they can perform better is a great way to end the review meeting. This leaves them with a clear-cut idea of where they stand and how they can improve in the upcoming term.

Final thoughts

As managers, you are not just helping a product or project grow, but you’re also helping the people on your team grow in their careers. This means you’re in the people business as much as you’re involved with products and projects. Feedback is the most important tool you have, to take your employees to great heights. When delivered at the right time and in the right way, you will build a thriving team that stays with your organization longer.


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