How to Give a Constructive Performance Review: 5 Best Examples

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Posted by: David Garcia February 15, 2024

Performance reviews can be pretty painful if they aren’t done correctly. From awkward conversations to downright uncomfortable feedback, both you and your employees need to know how to set goals appropriately. That’s where we come in.

In this guide, we will be taking you through everything you need to know about performance reviews.

We’ll start with a simple explanation and work our way up to our top tips on being the most effective when speaking one-on-one with your team. By the end of this article, you’ll be a certifiable expert.

First, let’s cover some basics.

What is a Performance Review?

Essentially, a performance review is a formal assessment of how successfully an employee has performed their role within the company. They are often conducted by a member of the management staff or a senior figure. The main aim of a performance review is to identify what an employee is doing well and where they could improve.

When giving a performance review, it is essential to remember that they are intended to be constructive and motivating rather than demoralizing. Nobody wants to hear how they have failed or underperformed throughout the year.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mention areas to improve. Performance reviews need to be balanced and not too critical while still offering ways an employee can progress.

Achieving this balance can be difficult, which is precisely why we have compiled this guide. You will find our step-by-step guide on how to give a constructive performance review just a little further below. First, however, let’s talk about why performance reviews happen in the first place.

Why Conducting Regular, Constructive Performance Reviews is Important

Staff love to feel that they are a part of something bigger. It can be hugely demotivating to simply complete the same tasks repeatedly, with no knowledge of how it benefits the company or whether what you’re doing is appreciated.

This is where performance reviews come in. They remind staff what you expect from them and why they do what they do every day.

To further illustrate this point, we have compiled some key reasons why keeping performance reviews active in your workplace is integral to success.

Let’s get into it.

Encourages Improved Performance

Let’s face it; if you never check in on how your staff is performing, this may hinder their motivation.

That indifference may be especially common if they are frequently performing repetitive tasks. It can become second nature, and quality control is thrown out the window before you know it.

By checking in on your staff through performance reviews, you incentivize them to strive for high performance.

Highlights Career Progression Opportunities

Performance reviews don’t exist solely to discuss how well a staff member is working, though that is their primary function. It is also the perfect time for employees to ask about career progression. Lack of inertia, or an inability to see any way forward from their current position, is one of the most significant contributors to resignation.

Performance reviews can be especially valuable when talking to strong team members you want to keep on board. Use this time to explain how they work on getting promoted within your company.

Keeps Employees Engaged

As we mentioned before, nothing is more demoralizing than not feeling challenged in your job. Performance reviews keep employees engaged with what they are doing rather than letting them become demotivated.

It may also help encourage them to care more about what they are doing, highlighting how their actions impact the company. There is little more valuable to a business than a team of people motivated to keep it going who genuinely feel a part of something. Try to nurture that spirit and organizational culture as much as possible.

Helps to Identify Areas for Improvement

Though most people don’t look forward to criticism, knowing how to improve is essential, especially in a professional environment. Constructive criticism is arguably the most crucial aspect of a performance review and is likely to be the most valuable part of the conversation.

This could also help to identify weak spots in your training protocols. If a significant number of your team are struggling with the same issue, it likely isn’t down to individual failings.

Performance reviews can be helpful for companies to identify where they may need to improve as well as the employees.

Keeps Work Relationships Strong

There’s no denying that distance can grow pretty quickly between managers and employees. The best way to remedy this is through consistent, open communication, and that’s what frequent performance reviews can provide. They offer the perfect opportunity to check in with your team in a professional environment, one-on-one.

Good professional relationships are vital for staff retention. Employees are far more likely to stick around if they feel heard and their unique needs are being taken into account.

Demonstrating that you are the kind of employer who cares can make a significant difference and save you from going through the hiring process on an endless loop.

How to Give a Constructive Performance Review: Step-by-Step Guide

So, now you know why performance reviews are so beneficial, how do you actually give one?

Well, this is our step-by-step guide. Remember, none of this is an exact science, but we think this is a pretty good framework to follow.

This guide is beneficial if you haven’t given many before or are searching for a framework.

Start with the Positives

If the second your employee sits down, you start hitting them over the head with their shortcomings, it’s going to sour the energy in the room.

Start with what they’ve done right. Better yet, start by asking the employee how they are. Ask them how the family is, if they have any exciting plans coming up, what they have been up to recently, etc. It’s small talk to some, but it’s a necessary icebreaker.

Once you’ve completed a welcome, get right into what they’ve done well recently. If they haven’t excelled in any particular area, congratulate them on consistently hitting their targets.

Don’t overwhelm them with everything they’ve done right, however. Not only will that come across as a little intense, but it will also leave you without anything to add later.

Don’t Be Too Harsh, but Offer Critique Where Necessary

It’s best to get the critiques out of the way in the middle while they are riding the high of the positives. Try your best to stay objective throughout this stage. That means not being too harsh but not sugarcoating things, either.

Be specific. If they haven’t met your standards, then why? In which areas have they underperformed? Your employees can only improve if you show them how.

It’s also imperative that you don’t solely identify where they’ve gone wrong but how they could potentially remedy this. Offer solutions, and perhaps most imperatively, explain how you may be able to help.

You don’t know what your employees are dealing with outside of work, which could be why they aren’t meeting your expectations. Be firm, but lead with empathy.

End with more Positives

Remember how we mentioned you need to hold onto some positives for later? Well, later is now, and it’s time to round the review out.

The classic format of positive, negative, followed by positive makes giving feedback so much less awkward for both parties.

You don’t have to go into it as strongly as you opened with but maybe talk about some areas you hadn’t mentioned before. Even better, mention some areas where you think they have improved in recent weeks.

This is trickier to pull off if your performance reviews are very frequent, but it’s still a nice detail to add.

Ask Them How They Feel

Finally, end by checking in with how your employee is feeling. How are they finding the workload? Do they get on with colleagues well? How could you improve their working life?

Now is the time to focus on empathy. As we mentioned before, this is also a great time to strengthen working relationships.

This is also the portion of the review where you can gauge how comfortable your staff are about being honest with you.

If they tell you with a smile that everything is perfect and they couldn’t possibly complain, that’s a pretty big signal that they aren’t being open with you. No workplace is perfect. That doesn’t mean you should demand a list of negatives from them but try to encourage an open and honest conversation with your team.

Tips on How to Give an Effective Performance Review

So, now you know that performance reviews are essential, and you know how to give one, but do you know how to give one well? Lucky for you, we have the answers just below.

Don’t be too Vague

Whether you are detailing particular strengths or areas to work on, you need to be specific. If you aren’t, it’s essentially a waste of time.

Your employee won’t feel motivated because the positives you listed will feel too general, and they won’t be able to address their weaknesses because they won’t know where to start. Keep it all precise.

Make Sure to Prepare Ahead of Time

If you aren’t sure how to be specific, it’s most likely because you aren’t doing adequate preparation. Don’t just wing it on the day of the review. Make notes throughout the entire period before performance review time.

Pay attention to moments where your team excels or underperforms. This habit will provide you with everything you need when it finally comes to the review.

Don’t Be Overly Critical

The term performance review generally makes a lot of people nervous. It can be an uncomfortable experience having your work critiqued.

Try to keep this in mind while offering feedback. Performance reviews should motivate your employees to be better, not beat them down. Of course, areas to improve should be identified, but don’t keep repeating it.

Use Employee Self-Reviews

A great way to gain insight into how employees are feeling is via self-review. Self-reviews can either be written or simply by shooting them an email questionnaire. Ask them questions that you may repeat during the interview. Those answers will give you something to work with before you even meet in person and offer you the opportunity to ask employees to expand on their answers.

Don’t just send out a general questionnaire. Try to make the questions quite specific and relevant to what you want to find out. That specificity will make it easier to get some honesty out of your team rather than just generic responses that they think will please the boss.

Make the Most of Follow-Ups

Performance reviews should be an ongoing process. Once you’ve finished one, that shouldn’t be the end of it. Make sure you have another plan to act as a follow-up in the not-too-distant future. These are often much easier than the initial performance review, as you have a blueprint to use.

Follow-up reviews are great for identifying how your employee has progressed and whether they have achieved their goals.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to acknowledge all the ways they have improved, which can be hugely motivating. Setting goals is one thing, but encouraging commitment is something only follow-up reviews can achieve.

Contact ScoutLogic Today

While performance reviews are a highly effective way to retain staff and keep them motivated, it doesn’t always work out. Whether you or they aren’t satisfied, sometimes you have to accept the employee needs to move on.

The recruitment process can be stressful, but you aren’t alone.

With ScoutLogic, you can rest assured that every application you receive is legitimate. Our series of background checks cover everything, from employment history to qualification verification.

Don’t take a chance on your next employee; be secure with ScoutLogic.

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