Tips for Giving Your Next Performance Review

You may have heard the phrase “performance reviews should never be a surprise.” We could not agree more. When done correctly, reviews provide a great opportunity to develop individuals on your team as well as shape your department or organizational culture. The challenge is that review season within organizations is often built within a narrow timeframe and using systems that do not allow leaders to truly analyze the strengths and opportunities of their employees. To make the most of your performance reviews, follow the tips below. 

Be prepared

Multiple studies have shown that managers are most effective when they have fewer than 10 direct reports. However, depending on organizational size and structure, a leader’s scope may far exceed that range, making it challenging to give each review the time needed in the midst of other work. While there will always be a certain level of documentation required as a leader, performance reviews should be a collaborative experience! This means that both you and your employees need to be prepared. Take time to highlight your expectations for the performance review with your team during their onboarding process and throughout the year. What do they need to do to be prepared for this conversation? Will you discuss next year’s goals, the year in review, specific accomplishments? Will you be posing any questions that may require thought or information ahead of time? Make sure that you are prepared to respond and react to any pre-work that you are asking of your team to ensure that your review process is not one-sided.


Documentation should not happen only when your performance management system opens for review season. Create a file for each of your employees and document throughout the year. This can be as simple as making notes when an employee completes a new task, receives feedback, or completes steps on a project. To increase the sense of ownership, consider asking your team to submit their progress on a quarterly basis and use their reflections as an opportunity to add additional notes. This small investment of time (aim for 10 minutes quarterly per employee) will allow you to have notes documented in real time. That way, months down the road when the next official review comes up, you will have ample evidence of progress from across the year, reducing the potential recency bias. 

Follow up

Finally, while performance review season might be a specified time of year for companies, these development conversations should not happen only once a year. When you discuss goals and opportunities for your employees during annual reviews, make sure to follow up and check in on progress! These types of follow ups do not need to be time intensive – you will be able to reap the benefits of brief check ins, even done as infrequently as quarterly, come next review season. These quarterly follow ups will allow you to realign expectations with your team and make your next annual review process more efficient, particularly when you engage your employees in the process as highlighted in the documentation section above. 

Next time review season comes around for your organization, we hope you take the opportunity to implement our tips above to make conversations with your team a more impactful, collaborative process.

We believe leadership matters

FOCUS Training is an interactive leadership development company that has been helping people achieve excellence through understanding and action since 1992.

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Milwaukee, WI 53204