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Performance review tips for managers

Performance review tips for managers to ace the next employee appraisal.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

For managers, the idea of getting ready for performance reviews is rarely ever far from their thoughts. 

Ideally, you’re checking in with your employees frequently, you’ve planned out a consistent schedule for one-to-ones, and you’ve chosen suitable questions because reviewing performance is about more than just ticking a few boxes. 

Yet, according to Gallup, with more than 95% of managers reporting dissatisfaction with their current performance review processes, suggesting that the ideal approach isn’t being replicated in reality. 

So we thought we’d share some performance review tips for managers so you can get the most out of your one-to-one appraisals.

Use regular feedback to prepare for performance reviews

The first of our performance review tips for managers is to have on-going feedback between performance reviews. 

Preparation and suitability are key. Having constant one-to-ones would be an unfeasible use of everyone’s time, but you can’t go into a performance review blind. 

A lot can happen in the time between reviews, and feedback is most effective when given in a timely manner (research points to 72 hours being the time at which the effectiveness of feedback begins to erode). 

On top of that, a lack of on-going feedback would mean you’d have to figure out how to conduct an appraisal with very little data, leaving large gaps in our knowledge or opening up to the potential of “best guess” evidence. 

So we recommend regularly checking in with your employees to get a sense of their productivity, engagement, wellbeing and career aims. This provides a system for two-way feedback that makes actual performance reviews a lot less painful, because both employee and manager are on the same page going in.

Consistently document all employee feedback

Regular feedback is great, but it’s hard to make any practical use of if you don’t keep track of it all. Managers and employees both need to be able to refer back to what’s been said at any point during the feedback process, whether it’s from a performance review or just a regular update. 

So the next in our list of performance review tips for managers is to establish a framework for documentation.

Maintaining effective documentation can be a time-consuming hassle. That’s why your framework needs to be efficient. This is something our weekly check-in handles with ease. Whether you’re submitting a new employee check-in or reviewing one, the process takes just a few minutes. Managers can view the answer history for each question in an employee’s check-in to ensure issues get addressed and can respond to individual answers directly. This can all be accessed when it comes to review time through our dynamic performance review templates

Managers can also upload their performance review documents directly to Weekly10 for their employees to make use of across the year.

Performance review tips for managers who really want to drive productivity

Make effective use of people data

There are a lot of ways to approach getting useful insights out of your people data. Far too often in our experience, large chunks of collected data go untouched with a few headline insights being the sole focus. Often this is due to an over-reliance on one or two KPIs and/or a lack of know-how when it comes to accurate statistical analysis.

The Weekly10 platform utilises proprietary AI-driven people analytics, to draw out all insights hiding within your data. Our machine learning algorithm focussed on sentiment analysis, for example, breaks down the language, content and context of employee responses to turn your data into highly actionable insights around the motivations driving performance (or lack thereof). 

Our check-in questions also allow you to gather a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data from your employees, and the algorithm can even suggest new questions based on the information you gather, and the questions used by similar businesses. 

All this adds up to richer, more detailed performance-focussed outputs. 

Ask the right questions

This was actually the topic of one of our recent pieces. When it comes to how to conduct appraisals, asking questions that approach performance from different angles is the way forward. It’s important to consider aspects such as engagement and wellbeing, as well as productivity and personal development.

It’s also important to pay attention to phrasing. Avoid asking leading questions in general. When giving negative feedback, try to be constructive and don’t go straight to assigning blame.

Clearly separate positive and negative feedback

When we say give constructive feedback, we mean you should give it in a fair, non-insulting way that gives the employee an idea of the steps they should take to improve. What we don’t mean is sandwiching actual criticism between flowery compliments. The “sandwich” method of criticism is less than ideal, because employees may easily ignore the negatives in favour of the positives. 

But it can also go the other way, when employees learn to anticipate incoming criticism whenever you start to give them a compliment. This means whenever you try to boost morale by complimenting someone’s performance, you could end up achieving the opposite of what you intended.

Performance review tips for managers that improve communication.

Create bespoke reviews for each employee

Considering we were talking about efficiency earlier, this might sound antithetical. But one of the benefits of a good performance review structure is that it enables you to consider the needs of each staff member. Whether it’s an up-and-comer who you’re prepping for a management role, or someone who just needs a bit of guidance to really excel in their department, you’ll need to discuss different things with different employees. Not only that, but employees often appreciate personalised touches to your communication.

Weekly10 allows managers to create bespoke reviews for their employees using customisable templates. This makes it easy to create custom reviews for each role, department or individual, and you can revisit old templates as needed.

Active listening is a key practice

It’s a good conversational habit to have in general, but it’s also one of our most important performance review tips for managers. Active listening is a key aspect of two-way feedback. Firstly, listening to your employees and exploring their concerns enables you to confront issues and obstacles that can prevent engagement. 

Secondly, it’s easy to tell when the person you’re talking to just isn’t that involved. Just as important as the information you’ll get is the fact that employees ought to feel their voices are being heard. As well as helping engagement, this encourages them to be more forthcoming during future reviews because they know there’s actually a point to it.

Get an idea of how the employee views their own performance

While you shouldn’t just throw a questionnaire on the table and tell the employee to review themselves, getting an idea of where an employee thinks their performance is at can be a useful jumping-off point. Their perception of their own performance might surprise you, in that they may already be aware of where they need to improve. While this is your chance to address anything they might not have considered about their work, it’s also the employee’s chance to contextualise their own performance for you.

Get the bigger picture with 360° feedback

But sometimes, just talking to someone about their own performance doesn’t give you enough data. Besides, people aren’t always objective about themselves. 360° feedback is the process of getting feedback from people other than the employee in question, whether they’re co-workers, customers, or other managers.

Similarly to our bespoke reviews, in Weekly10, 360° feedback participants can be given bespoke feedback questions. This means you can ask different questions of customers than you do of managers or co-workers. This allows you to fine-tune your approach to most effectively gather data from different sources.

Create an aligned understanding of goals and expectations

While the aim of performance reviews in general is to help employees perform better and to improve the workplace as a whole, the goal you should be aiming for in any individual review is a shared understanding. That’s why we’ve decided to place this as the final entry in our list of performance review tips for managers.

A mutually aligned understanding means that both manager and employee can move forward constructively. By understanding the objectives of the organisation and how staff contributions impact them, employees can better understand critical feedback given to them in performance reviews. In turn, managers can gain a better understanding of the issues employees face in order to inform their leadership approach.

For more info on the art of performance reviews, and the latest on employee engagement, visit the Weekly10 blog today!

Want to turn your ‘box-tick’ reviews into evidence-based, behaviour-impacting, performance-improving sessions?

Head of People Science