However, adopting continuous feedback doesn’t mean removing measurement and metrics from your performance review process and reports altogether – it just means you should be using them in a different way. Metrics and measurements can provide valuable clarity and focus for employees and managers, acting as a framework for planning and prioritizing future efforts.
To be useful and realistic, measurements for progress need to be balanced across all the relevant elements of performance. Appropriate measures might cover a range of aspects like quality, quantity, timeliness, and/or cost-effectiveness of the work.
Expectations placed on employees also need to be credible – the employee can visualize the results and the means of achieving them, and feel confident about getting it right.
To that end, performance expectations must be:
- based on job function
- clear and understandable
- reasonable and attainable
- measurable – observable or verifiable
- results oriented
- communicated in a timely fashion
- geared towards fostering continual improvement in productivity and skill development
How to set the right goals in a performance review
When it comes to employee goals, striking the right balance is everything. Goals can’t be too easy, or they won’t leave employees feeling satisfied — most people enjoy a challenge. They want to be stretched, expand their knowledge, and develop new skills. Equally, however, goals that are too challenging can be demotivating. Employees will burn out trying to accomplish them, or they won’t try at all, believing them to be impossible.
Effective goals should be set collaboratively between manager and employee. They should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Based) and tracked regularly. In addition, regular meetings should be held to discuss goal progress and what can be done to support the employee in meeting the target.
Performance review templates
Nobody can, or should, conduct an off-the-cuff performance review. It’s essential to use customizable templates that cover all the necessary feedback areas and metrics, and also deliver a positive review that energizes, motivates, and engages individual employees.
Read more about performance reviews
Performance review examples: phrases and questions
Whichever performance review model you’re working within, providing feedback with clear, positive language is the key to keeping the review goal-focused and productive. Writing performance reviews requires managers and other raters to be specific with their feedback, stay constructive, and provide solutions needed to help the employee grow.
You’ll find criteria will vary depending on the size, scope, and culture of your organization. However, there are a few elements that come up for almost all companies. Here are a few sample areas of focus to get you started with planning your employee evaluation criteria:
- Sets challenging goals for him/herself
- Helps others achieve their objectives
- Prioritizes his/her work based on the needs of the organization and its customers
- Achieves his/her objectives even when faced with obstacles and challenges
- Takes team members’ ideas and opinions into account when making decisions
- Helps team members resolve work-related problems
- Holds team members accountable for achieving their objectives
- Actively listens to others
- Tailors his/her communication to the needs of the audience
- Communicates clearly and concisely
- Collaborates effectively with other team members
- Gives constructive and helpful feedback to others
- Treats others with respect
- Values and respects differences among team members
- Actively listens and participates in a work-related discussion
- Lives company values every day
- Acts as a role model
- Creates a positive work environment
The content of a performance review will vary depending on job role and organization, but it may be valuable to develop some universal questions for managers to ask, such as:
- What is [Subject’s Name] greatest strength and what can he/she continue to do to grow?
- What is [Subject’s Name] greatest opportunity and what can he/she do to improve in the area?
To help you in composing your employee evaluation criteria, you can download free performance review templates from Qualtrics.
Performance review phrases to avoid
Although performance review templates and performance reviews themselves are customizable, it’s important to be mindful of the messages you are giving out. Great review conversations nurture an employee’s performance, development, and manager-employee relationship, whereas thoughtless ones can damage employee engagement and even business success as your top people leave.
Here are some real howlers – while some of these may seem a little over the top, they do demonstrate neatly what NOT to say, and why not:
“You do so brilliantly, I have nothing to give you feedback on”
Even your very top talent will have some areas they can improve or develop skills in. Comments like this give the impression you haven’t bothered to look at their work in any detail.
“If you double your targets this year, then we might look at promotion to the C-suite next year”
Avoid ‘if/then’ statements, as they sound like empty promises, based on unattainable goals.
“You’re never at your desk on time. And you’re always late to meetings”
Avoid absolute words such as ‘always’ and ‘never’ – no one is late 100% of the time.
“You’re a great employee. Keep it up”
This says nothing about what the employee does that is great, how they can be even greater, or what they can do to ‘keep it up’. You need to explain in detail what the employee did that was great and their development goals to continue their good work
“I heard you handled that financial services account badly, which was disappointing, to say the least”
The reviewer is relying on hearsay here rather than first-hand observation and gives the employee no chance to put over their version before being criticized. True, it may be peer observation, but using 360 feedback rather than the office gossip mill is much more constructive.
“You knocked the other two designers into a cocked hat. Their prototypes were trash compared with yours.”
Comparing colleagues and co-workers in a performance review is a big NO. You’re reviewing only one person’s achievements, so leave the disasters (and triumphs) of others to their own, separate performance discussions.
“I can’t believe you! I thought you would do a good job of this, but it’s very poor”
The reviewer is bringing emotion into this feedback, which will only upset or rile the employee having the review. There is no constructive feedback and this level of hostility is likely to drive the employee to look for another job.
“You’re lucky to get this promotion. Don’t waste the opportunity”
Condescending and begrudging much? You never want to undermine your employees but rather praise them and encourage their successes. Forcing employees into a promotion does not mean its the best option for them, they deserve to choose.
How to prepare to conduct a performance review
If you’re a manager or team leader tasked with running appraisals for your team, you’re likely to have an established performance review process to guide your approach. However, you can still make the review experience go as smoothly as possible by preparing in advance.
Clear your calendar
If you’re going to be meeting with team members one on one, make sure you won’t be distracted or interrupted by other priorities during the meeting. Try to minimize commitments earlier in the day to reduce the risk of getting waylaid and having to postpone the review or turn up late. This way, employees know that the review is as important to you as it is to them.
Brush up on your employee experience data
Before the meeting, look through your notes from the most recent review with the employee to see what happened last time. What were the main themes of the meeting? Was there anything either of you said you’d follow up on?
Be ready to take feedback as well as give it
Make sure you allow enough time for the employee to share their feedback with you regarding the way you manage and bring a laptop or notebook to record it so that you can follow up later.
Prepare for curveballs
Although you shouldn’t be telling the employee anything they don’t already know about their performance, it’s very possible that they’ll bring up matters that are news to you. Because they’re private one-to-one exchanges, reviews may be seen as an opportunity to raise issues or share news. While it might not be pertinent to the review itself, be receptive to whatever the employee brings up and table it for a later conversation if required.
Performance review pitfalls to avoid
As you’re planning or reviewing your performance review process, you can save time and expense by being aware of these potential failure points.
1. Losing the link between process and purpose
Make sure the goal of your performance management systems drives the process, and be ready to make changes if required. Understanding how well your organization’s goals line up with the day-to-day work of individuals and teams is key here.
2. Not prioritizing a culture of feedback
If you don’t already have a culture of feedback, invest time and resources on the front end to communicate the true purpose of performance reviews and build trust in the process to develop a feedback-based culture.
3. Failing to engage your stakeholders
Getting decision-makers and business leaders on board right from the very beginning will improve buy-in, increase participation rates, and set your program up for success.
4. Not building in a support network
Follow-up and feedback need to be built in at the forefront of the project. Set expectations for employees and managers early on so they know who they can go to for advice and support
5. Lack of communication
Communication is the most critical component of implementing a new or improved performance management system. Performance management systems succeed when communication about the process is authentic and transparent.
6. Insufficient training and enablement for managers
No performance management system will be successful if the people involved don’t invest in the process. If employees sense that their managers are apathetic about the performance management system, they will mirror this attitude. Managers need to take control and lead by example, and they need support and adequate training to do so.
Alternative ways to collect feedback
For many businesses, performance reviews are the most helpful way to share and collect employee feedback. But thanks to the uptick in experience-led business and a new understanding of the value of employee experience, new methodologies are emerging.
In a 360 feedback, staff members can receive feedback not only from managers, but from peers and junior staff members. They can also review themselves, resulting in a complete – or 360 degree – view of their strengths and opportunities. However, this kind of program should only ever be used for development, not to gauge performance.
Some companies prefer to avoid the formal structure of a performance review and instead share feedback on a continual ad hoc basis. This might be a suitable option for very small businesses and new start-ups. However, there is a risk that without a formal checkpoint, staff lack clarity on how they’re progressing and what they need to work on.
Employee pulse reviews
The employee pulse review can be seen as a happy medium between continual feedback and a big once-a-year performance review. It’s a smaller-scale employee review that’s conducted on a more frequent schedule, such as monthly or quarterly. Pulse feedback is more commonly associated with employee engagement surveys, but it works just as well for sharing feedback in the other direction since it offers clear measures and is quick and easy to complete.
Incorporate 360 feedback in a performance review
Many clients ask us about the ideal use case for a 360 assessment. Some of them use it for performance management while others purely for development. With performance reviews moving away from critique of workers and more towards continuous development and employee engagement, 360s are a valuable part of performance management software.
At Qualtrics, we believe that 360 is ideal for development because feedback should be seen as an investment into an employee through feedback from peers, direct reports, managers, leaders, and customers rather than a tool that determines their pay, performance, or promotion. To ensure fidelity of responses and to be seen as an authentic review (not a political tool), our recommendation is to incorporate 360 into your performance management software as a review process for developing your employees and not evaluating them.