How to Give a Performance Review: In 3 Simple Steps

How do you give an effective performance review to a member of your team so that they know 1) where they stand and 2) how they can improve?

It is the season, HR have messaged you about the impending performance review deadline and are enquiring as to why you haven’t submitted yet.

More often than not, it’s because you and the team are too busy doing the performing than finding time to do the reviewing. This is normal. We all face increasing time pressures and this week will be no different.

Sometimes however, there is another reason. The prospect of facilitating an often uncomfortable and unstructured review is so daunting that you put it off until you can put it off no more.

Now you know the theory that giving a performance review is really important. It is an opportunity to align people with company values, iron out bad habits, set priorities and clarify their job output accountability. Running good performance reviews not only helps your team with all of those, but it also enhances your leadership position and skills.

Here is our 3 step guide to make sure that happens.


STEP 1: Preparation

Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.
— Confucius

1)  Schedule Plenty of Time

Performance Review Tip: Schedule Enough Time

You are going to be talking about the person sat across from you’s role within the company, salary and future path. These are important. Conducting a review within 15 minutes will leave them feeling undervalued and with many unanswered questions leading to uncertainty.

2)  Make Standards Clear

You must make both company and ethical standards crystal clear. Identify what is important in their role ahead of time, and what you expect from them. This might seem obvious but this is often overlooked, especially when you know the person personally.

3)  Have Specific Examples

To really make an impact, a performance review needs to make people visualise what they have done, and not hide behind generic buzzwords. By drawing on examples from throughout the year, you demonstrate that you are paying a attention and, most importantly, care about them.

Consider the following statement. It reinforces good behaviour, is specific and relatable before presenting how it can affect their career: “I notice four months ago you went out of your way to help John. Although that meant you had to stay late last week, we really did notice the level of care you applied. More moments like this will increase the likelihood of an increase in your pay scale by 5%, which for you means £3,000”.

4)  Judge Performance

Leadership: Be the perfect boss and not a selfish leader

Is someone underperforming because of motivation, ability, or both? If it is motivation, make sure that this is addressed in an appropriate manner. Again examples are a great tool here, especially if you can draw on a personal one. If ability is at the root, consider a training plan to present to them. If they are out-performing, consider suggesting they start mentoring within the company.

This is certainly not easy, but by making a judgement you will hold a mutually productive performance review.


STEP 2: During The Review

Once the preparation is out the way, it is time to execute the plan. Avoid slipping into a casual, friendly and ultimately unhelpful chat with these four factors.

1)  Be Positive

Reviews provide feedback to improve effectiveness. As a manager, you know they are a more than capable employee. The fact that you are holding the meeting proves this. Make that clear to the other person at all times. (If they aren’t a capable member of the team, you would be holding a very different kind of meeting after all…)

 2)  Provide Observations

You have the already prepared examples in front of you. Use them. We really can’t emphasis this enough. If you can connect an event with a clear example demonstrating the impact the example has had, then the idea will resonate further which increases stickiness.

 3)  Ask For A Response

No matter what you say or how you say it, the Rashamon effect will always play out. To the uninitiated ( such as ourselves two days ago!),  the Rashomon effect refers to the way that two people will interpret the exact same event in completely different ways. We each pick up on different nuances after all.

The back and forth dialogue that you hold during the review is therefore critical as it enables you to understand exactly what the person sat across the table from you sees. You can also gain insight into their assumptions and reasoning, facets that will help you to understand their interpretations and likely reactions to events going forward. During the performance review, this means that you can clear up any ambiguity so it is clear what needs to happen in future.

4)  Leave With A Plan

Performance Review Tips: Leave with a plan

At all times remember that this is a discussion about options and solutions. It might be called a performance review, but it is really a conversation about today, tomorrow and future years in this competitive world of ours. Come up with an action plan of future steps for development, and allocate a responsible party for each step. Once you have identified the assets that your staff member can further and capitalise on, they will become a more effective team member. These benchmarks will be used as the benchmark when measuring progress for future reviews.


STEP 3: What Happens Tomorrow?

As with anything, the greatest impact of a structured plan is the execution. All too often people leave a planning session buzzing, inspired and full of energy.

However without the follow-up and follow-through with a set of actionable steps, this positive energy dissipates into the ether. This shouldn’t solely be an isolated annual event to discuss a salary bump.

Behavioural changes require new habits being formed, and a mind set to match. A future plan of ongoing feedback to update on progress is crucial for this sustained success. What’s more it’ll make your next review that little bit less awkward.


What’s the best review you have ever had? Did you consider the reviewer a leader or a boss?