Employee Management

Do's and don'ts of employee performance reviews

Learn how to conduct employee performance reviews.

Published: December 09, 2013
Updated: February 13, 2020

By HR360

Performance evaluations are an essential part of managing your employees and your business. The review process provides a formal opportunity to analyze employee performance, identify any problem areas and align your employees' professional growth and development with your business goals.  

Keep the following do's and don'ts in mind for successful performance reviews:

Do establish performance standards

Performance standards provide an objective basis for measuring and evaluating employee performance. Identify the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform the essential job functions, and outline the specific criteria you will use to evaluate each employee. Also determine how you will measure performance – for example, qualitative measurements (such as customer satisfaction), quantitative measurements (such as number of sales), or other measures.

It is important to regularly communicate your expectations for performance so your employees have a clear understanding of their key responsibilities, the conduct and results required of them and the standards against which they will be judged. Be sure your performance standards are specific, measurable and realistic.

Don't wait until the review to provide feedback

Companies typically conduct performance reviews once a year – near each employee's work anniversary or for all employees, within the same few weeks every year. However, ongoing communication and feedback throughout the year is critical to effectively manage employee performance.

Discussing (and documenting) negative performance issues as they arise gives the employee a chance to correct any problems early on and work toward improvement. Likewise, providing timely positive feedback can help to reinforce desired performance.

Do prepare ahead of time for the meeting

Taking adequate time to prepare for the performance review meeting helps ensure that your evaluation is organized, thorough and focused so the employee receives the most valuable feedback possible. It can also reduce stress on the part of the employer or manager before and during the meeting.  

Remember to evaluate the employee's performance over the entire review period (and not only the months leading up to the review). Key performance areas to review include:

  • How well the employee manages his or her day-to-day responsibilities

  • Whether the employee meets performance goals

  • Areas where the employee has demonstrated improvement, as well as areas where improvement is needed

When scheduling the performance review meeting, be sure to select a date and time that is convenient for your employee so that he or she can focus on the review. Choose an office or small conference room that is quiet and private to avoid distractions or interruptions. Allow at least one hour for the review.

Do be direct, factual, and detail-oriented

The key to providing objective, meaningful feedback is to base your review on the employee's performance as measured against defined standards and expectations. Focus on specific, job-related criteria and provide concrete examples of performance problems. Avoid negative comments that attack an employee's attitude or personality traits, which may be construed as discriminatory.

Remember to be honest with your evaluation. Giving an employee a positive review that is not deserved is counter-productive and might make it more difficult to defend a subsequent decision to discipline or terminate. Ask the employee for ideas on how to improve performance and develop a plan of action.

Don't forget to keep performance records

It is very important to thoroughly and accurately document employee performance, as well as all points covered in the performance review meeting. In addition to helping you keep track of an employee's progress, performance records may provide important documentation in the event a disciplinary action, termination, or other adverse personnel decision becomes necessary.

Using a standard performance evaluation form can help focus your review and ensure that employees in the same job category are judged against the same standards. Place a copy of the employee's written review in the personnel file and give him or her a copy. Be sure to comply with any state or local laws regarding performance and personnel records (for example, allowing employees to access files or submit a statement disagreeing with a particular record).

Do follow up after the review

Check in with your employee a few weeks after the performance review meeting to follow up on problem areas and ensure that the employee is receiving any training, resources or other assistance necessary to meet performance goals.

Remember to treat all of your employees equitably when evaluating performance, and avoid any statements or actions that can be construed as discriminatory. If you have any questions regarding the performance review process or discrimination matters, contact an employment attorney who knows your state's laws.  

HR360 is the award-winning online HR library featuring easy-to-understand guidance on federal and state labor laws and Health Care Reform, along with interactive HR tools and hundreds of forms and posters. HR360 also features step-by-step guidance in key HR areas such as hiring, performance reviews, disciplining, and termination. Reviewed and maintained by a team of attorneys, HR360 helps employers nationwide successfully manage their employees while complying with changing employment laws.

The content herein is provided for general information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or other advice or opinions on any matters. This information has been taken from sources which we believe to be reliable, but there is no guarantee as to its accuracy.

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