How Performance Reviews Should Work

By Richard Lepsinger

Day in and day out, leaders work diligently to improve performance and achieve business objectives and, before they know it, the annual performance review is upon them. Ideally the process is taken in stride and ends up to be both motivating as well as providing employees with an accurate and helpful picture of what they are doing well and areas that need improvement. Unfortunately, in reality, the annual performance review has a poor reputation. Employees dread them, bosses perceive them as obligatory and, when they are finished, both parties often come away dissatisfied with the results.

The reasons for this antipathy are understandable and the solution is simpler than most think. Here are a few ways you can change your performance reviews to make them really count.


One of the goals of a performance review is to ensure people know how they are doing and to improve positive behavior and decrease counter-productive behavior. For that to happen, the review process should be a recap of a year’s worth of feedback; there should never be an issue addressed for the first time in an annual review.

Nipping a problem in the bud is infinitely more successful when the potential problem is addressed right away. Tucking it away to be discussed at the end of the year won’t solve the problem when it needs to be solved and it won’t help a team member improve if it’s brought up for the first time months after the event.

The Manager’s Role

Any performance review is only as good as the person conducting it. If a manager understands that the performance management systems is a tool to help them manage the business and that it is not simply a HR administrative task they will be more likely to use the system to its best advantage. In addition, the effective application of the performance management system is based on skill and training on how to set meaningful goals, provide effective feedback, and conduct an effective performance review which is essential to ensuring a high quality process.

Making Hard Decisions

We know that people tend to meet our expectations and treating people as if you expect them to succeed can increase their confidence and self-esteem and lead to improved results. However, sometimes the best efforts of even the most hopeful managers are for naught. There are cases where multiple chances, interventions and feedback prove not to be enough to improve the performance of some individuals.

After you have invested the time and the effort into people and they are still not doing the job, be prepared to make the tough decision and either find a place where they can make a real contribution or let them go. Do not make the mistake of putting them in different departments or on special projects just to get them out of the way or as a way to avoid making a tough call as this will undermine your organization’s overall performance in the long run.


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Categories: Managing & Leading


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