Expert Tips When Writing a Performance Review

By June 25, 2020 May 2nd, 2022 Building a Better Team

Last Updated on May 2, 2022 by Dave Schoenbeck

Writing a performance review is a source of stress for many business owners and managers. Of course, it happens every year, but it can feel awkward and harsh to boil your employee’s performance down to an evaluation on a sheet of paper.

However, if done right, the performance review can benefit you and your direct report. Here are some ideas to consider to ensure your thoughts are meaningful and not just a routine to be followed.

Expert Tips When Writing a Performance Appraisal

Before the Performance Review

You must create a custom evaluation form that’s tailored to your business. Of course, you can search for existing forms for inspiration, but no pre-made form out there will be able to capture the nuances of your business or what you value in an employee.

I have created a performance evaluation document that you can easily customize to serve your firm’s specific needs to save you time and effort.  There are two parts.  The first is a reviewer’s guide that explains the performance criteria.  The second part is the performance form document.  There is a job-specific skills section within the form, followed by a managerial skills section if appropriate.  Please feel free to adapt the form to fit your company.  Click here and give yourself a headstart.  

Before writing a job performance review, rank all your employees from top to bottom.  I recommend that you rank them using current performance and note future potential. Your review scores should follow a bell-shaped curve close to how you rated their recent performance. But beware, we all tend to score everyone the same. So spread them out even when you don’t want to.

Ask your people to fill out a self-assessment before scheduling their in-person review. They will probably score themselves lower than you will, and if they don’t, that’s an opportunity to reset their viewpoint.

The other exciting thing is that you will probably forget many of their accomplishments as soon as you sit down with them, so the self-review will help you remember.

Writing a Performance Review

When writing a performance review for your employees, score their performance objectively. Be honest, even though it may create conflict or uneasiness. You aren’t doing yourself or your teammates any favors by being overly generous when you know there’s room for performance improvement.

Back up any negative feedback with specific examples or facts so that the employee doesn’t feel unfairly targeted. Be very clear about what they need to accomplish or change to receive a higher score or to be considered for future opportunities.

During the Performance Review

While a review should be a conversation, don’t let your agenda get hijacked. You are reviewing their performance, not the other way around.

Always include a discussion about their personal goal achievement, and be sure to hold them accountable. This meeting is an opportunity to learn about your employees’ ambitions and encourage them to grow in your company.

Performance reviews are not beauty pageants. The objective is to give honest, straightforward, and helpful feedback. Still, it helps to end positively so that no employee leaves the room feeling attacked.

Before the end of the evaluation, set up a follow-up meeting and ensure that it’s on the calendar.

Writing performance reviews is an art that every business owner can learn to master. Click on my contact form, and we can chat about how to make the most out of your company’s performance reviews and achieve the ultimate goal; improve their performance.

Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
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