Assessing employee strengths and weaknesses, then doing your best to shore up and reward strengths while minimizing weaknesses, is a crucial part of maximizing performance across your team. Employee performance reviews can be a golden opportunity to do this, but many leaders may struggle to make the most out of these sessions with their team members—especially if they don’t have a set employee performance review template or process to draw from.
What makes performance reviews so difficult for both employees and managers? What can you do to make your review sessions with employees more impactful? Read on for some information and advice—as well as a simplified employee performance review template to help you get started!
Common Issues with Employee Performance Reviews
It’s rare for anyone’s favorite combination of words to be “it’s time for a performance review” regardless of whether it’s the person being assessed or the one doing the assessment. In fact, PayScale reports that “95 percent of managers are dissatisfied with the way their companies conduct performance reviews.” It’s expected that employees might not like performance reviews, but for managers to dislike them may surprise some.
Why is that? A few reasons for not liking performance reviews that we’ve seen brought up include:
- Preparation Time. For managers, preparing for employee performance reviews can be a major drain on their time—distracting them from other job duties. For employees, gathering notes on what went well and what didn’t and preparing to address whatever concerns the manager might bring up can be both stressful and time-consuming.
- Lack of Objectivity. One common complaint that employees have about performance reviews is a lack of objectivity. When reviews aren’t based on objective criteria, it can lead to inconsistent results and accusations of favoritism as managers give more positive reviews to employees they like and less positive reviews to ones they aren’t as familiar with or had negative interactions with in the past. This can damage employee morale as employees with an average performance feel unappreciated and lose motivation to meet expectations.
- Lack of Employee Feedback. Performance reviews are sometimes treated like a one-way communication channel going from leaders to their employees. This is a problem because it doesn’t allow the leader to learn about factors in the workplace that might be impacting the employee’s ability to meet goals. For example, say that Paul is struggling to meet sales goals because the leads he’s being assigned to contact aren’t great fits for the company’s products—they sell medical device components but the contacts are all health spas that don’t use those kinds of devices. During his review, his manager notes that he isn’t meeting goals but doesn’t make any effort to ask why and doesn’t leave room for Paul to explain himself. After this, Paul feels embittered that his manager didn’t give him a chance to explain things and starts putting less effort into his work and shares his opinions with his coworkers—dragging down morale.
- Reviews Can Be Stressful. Even employees who perform well might be unduly nervous about upcoming performance reviews—especially if said reviews aren’t very frequent and may cover mistakes or issues that are months old. This anxiety can be distracting—leading employees to make more mistakes that negatively impact the review and creating a negative loop where stress causes the employee to make errors, which makes them more nervous and stressed, which leads to more poor performance.
- Long Delays between Review Sessions. If there is a long delay between performance reviews, it’s often difficult for both employees and managers to truly become accustomed to going through them. This unfamiliarity can make the process less efficient and more stressful. Also, putting off performance reviews may mean not being able to “course correct” with an employee—meaning that they underperform for longer before being given the feedback they need to improve.
- Lack of Recognition for Good Performance. Many employees have complained that their performance reviews frequently only focus on the negative and don’t provide enough recognition for competent or even outstanding performance. While performance reviews are a great opportunity to help employees overcome their weaknesses, it’s also important to recognize their achievements.
- Failure to Change Post-Review. If an employee goes through a performance review, but nothing really changes afterward, was it really worth it? Failure to change after the review can make the whole process feel pointless. Unfortunately, as reported by Forbes, “only 14% of employees strongly agree that the performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve.” There are numerous reasons for this. For example, if the time between reviews is too long, there may not have been much opportunity for the employee to change behaviors before they became habits. Or, the quality of feedback from the review might be lacking—leaving the employee unclear on how they can achieve better performance. Finally, reviews, especially negative ones, can be disheartening and cause performance to dip rather than improve.
These are just a few of the reasons that both managers and employees might hate performance reviews. However, knowing how to conduct a performance review can help make the experience more positive and effective for all parties involved.
How to Conduct a Performance Review Using a Template
Performance improvement is crucial for ensuring that organizations can consistently meet goals. However, consistently achieving improvement following performance reviews is often easier said than done.
One of the best ways to ensure consistency in any process is to create a formal document or template for that process. Performance reviews are no exception to this rule.
This is where using a performance review template can help. With a template, you have a standardized document to follow for each review that makes it easier to stick to best practices and give every employee a more consistent experience in their reviews. It can also help save a little time on review prep since you have that document at your fingertips from the beginning!
Here are a few tips for using a performance review template in your one-on-one sessions with employees:
1. Consider Your Team’s Role (or Roles) when Creating the Template
When using a performance review template, it’s important to ensure that it fully addresses the kind of work your employees do and the goals your organization has for them. So, when creating (or adapting) a performance review template, it can help to customize the template with key performance indicators (KPIs) and content sections specific to each employee’s role.
2. Choose Objective and Easily-Measured KPIs for Your Template
When selecting KPIs, try to focus on ones that are objectively measurable. For example, a call center agent KPI might have an objective of successfully resolving 25 customer calls per shift. This is a clear-cut, easy-to-understand measurement of success.
This helps to avoid the problem of subjectivity in reviews—making them fairer and more consistent.
This might take a bit of extra prep work, especially if your team has numerous roles with different assessment criteria, but it will make for a more effective assessment in the long run.
3. Leave Room for Feedback in the Performance Review Template
Collecting feedback from employees can be an invaluable tool for learning information that isn’t always apparent in performance data. So, when creating or modifying a template document for performance reviews, it can help to leave a section for writing down employee feedback from the session.
4. Add a Follow-Up Section to the Template
Following up an employee performance review with post-assessment actions, whether they include performance improvement plans, training, or other corrective/educational actions is crucial for maximizing the impact of a review.
Adding a section in the template to account for post-review actions and whether they’ve been completed can be a good way to ensure that important follow-up procedures aren’t missed. It can also help to use an employee coaching tool or learning management system that can generate automated reminders and notices after the review.
5. Consider the Timing of the Review when Drafting a Template
How frequently do you plan to conduct reviews? Is this going to be a monthly, quarterly, or annual event for your team? There’s a strong correlation between review frequency and efficacy, so planning on more frequent reviews can have a positive impact on results.
However, if you plan on having more frequent reviews with employees, you may not need to go into as much detail with each one. Or, you may want to focus on different things at different reviews to keep these shorter reviews from becoming too rote.
If you’re holding reviews once a quarter, then you might want to track performance for goals specific to larger initiatives that were active during that quarter.
6. Have an “Employee Strengths” or “Accomplishments” Section
Starting a performance review with a positive can be a good way to help put an employee at ease and demonstrate that you appreciate their effort. So, putting a section detailing the employee’s strengths or major accomplishments at the top of your template can be a good idea.
Putting positive feedback at the start of your template helps to ensure that it won’t get missed if the performance review runs out of time—which helps ensure that you’ve communicated something for the employee to be proud of.
What Difference Can a Template Make in Employee Reviews?
Here’s a simple story that highlights the difference having an employee review template can make:
Justin and Nicole are both managers in a call center specializing in outbound sales for XYZ, Inc. They oversee different sales teams that each have a battery of annual performance reviews coming up. Justin is a newer manager who isn’t as experienced in the role, so he’s not entirely sure what to do. Meanwhile, Nicole has a long-established process for performance reviews and has even assembled a simple template to help her prep for these reviews more quickly.
On the day of their reviews with employees, Justin struggles to get to the core issues blocking each employee from meeting goals, doesn’t do a great job of recognizing employee efforts, and keeps focusing on subjective assessment criteria instead of objective criteria. Following the assessments, performance doesn’t really change much—it doesn’t get better or worse since his employees keep plugging along as they always have been before he became their manager.
Meanwhile, Nicole uses her performance review template to stick to a set format and ensure she hits all of the best practices that she’s honed over years of conducting these reviews.
So, she starts each review by congratulating the employee with a personal milestone they’ve met and asks them for some feedback about what went well and what didn’t from their perspective. She also asks for suggestions about how to improve things so they can meet their goals more efficiently in the future.
After getting their subjective feedback, she then goes on to talk about the actual results generated—highlighting any areas where the employee did well or could have improved on. When addressing shortfalls in goals, Nicole highlights tools, training modules, and other resources that the employee can leverage to help them perform better. She even sets aside a few minutes to roleplay scenarios with each employee to help them practice their skills.
After the review, Nicole sets up a few automated reminders to check on employee progress towards goals and has quick follow-ups with a few employees who are still struggling. While not every employee sees drastic improvement, the majority of the team sees a noticeable increase in productivity and her department is able to make bonus next quarter.
The Performance Review Template
Employee Name: ______________________
Review Date: __/__/____
Job Title: _____________________________
Review Period: __/__/___ to __/__/____
KPI #1 Goal:
KPI #1 Results:
KPI #2 Goal:
KPI #2 Results:
KPI #3 Goal:
KPI #3 Results:
Post-Review Action Items:
1. ____________________________________ [complete/incomplete]
2. ____________________________________ [complete/incomplete]
3. ____________________________________ [complete/incomplete]
Need help getting together the data you need to make performance reviews more effective, make post-review follow-up simpler, and actively communicate with employees? Reach out to C2Perform to get started with a comprehensive employee productivity management platform!