How to have effective performance reviews

Awkward, uncomfortable, anxiety creating, a check box for HR – these are the words that are often used to describe how people feel about performance reviews. 

Most people don’t like them… But there is a way that they can be more enjoyable and encourage growth and improvement by both the leader and the team member. 

If you only do 1 or 2 performance reviews every year, they’re going to be difficult. They’ll feel awkward for both of you, because it’s out of the ordinary. The leader can feel pressure to share the negative and the positive, and the worker feels like they have to justify how good they are and why they may have made a mistake, not met a key performance indicator or deadline or project that was due.

Performance reviews and 1-1 meetings with your team or direct reports should be regular. How regular depends on the person, the work, the size of the team and the industry, however I find once a fortnight sets a good rhythm and tone. When a worker is new, meetings should be more regular to make sure they understand your expectations, the work requirements and gain confidence in their role and in the team.

The best way to find out the best regularity is to ask – find out how your team members like to work and ask them what level of support they need. Some team members may want to touch base with you every week, others may only want once a month. Neither are wrong, they depend on the person’s personality style, language of appreciation and their work methods. You may have different meetings at different times for different team members, and that’s ok. Because we are all different and it’s about what works best for both of you.

Once you have your meeting schedule set, performance should be discussed in each meeting, not just in a formal review where you may have to tick a check box to say you’ve completed it for HR. Ask how they’re going, what’s going well, and what they’re struggling with. Make sure you provide a safe environment for them to be able to tell you if there’s a problem or if they made a mistake.

Download this performance review template to help focus your questions and make it easier