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Performance Development Reviews: 8 Common Mistakes | Clear Review

Road to personal development reviews.

Per­son­al devel­op­ment is an impor­tant per­for­mance man­age­ment con­sid­er­a­tion. Don’t make these com­mon mis­takes and sab­o­tage your team mem­bers’ progress.

Before we go into the most com­mon errors com­mit­ted dur­ing per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews, it’s impor­tant to point out that per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews are not the same as per­for­mance reviews. While we rec­om­mend that man­agers and employ­ees hold fre­quent, light-touch month­ly per­for­mance reviews and incor­po­rate per­son­al devel­op­ment dis­cus­sions with­in those check-ins, some com­pa­nies choose to hold sep­a­rate per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews. This way, exclu­sive time can be ded­i­cat­ed to assess­ing strengths and weak­ness­es while cre­at­ing a clear game plan of what steps will be tak­en in the months to come.

How­ev­er you choose to hold them, per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews allow employ­ees and man­agers to iden­ti­fy learn­ing and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, review progress and plan for future devel­op­ment. What’s more, they pro­vide a frame­work for man­agers and employ­ees to open­ly dis­cuss their role, depart­ment and career ambi­tions. Con­ver­sa­tions on top­ics like these are crit­i­cal to the morale and over­all engage­ment lev­els with­in an organ­i­sa­tion — in fact, they can make all the dif­fer­ence when it comes to retain­ing a top per­former or hav­ing them jump ship for a competitor.

As a man­ag­er, it is your respon­si­bil­i­ty to hold per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews with each of your employ­ees and do more than sim­ply pay them lip ser­vice. If employ­ees sense that you aren’t tru­ly com­mit­ted to these reviews or their con­tin­ued devel­op­ment, they will begin to see them as a box-tick­­ing exer­cise and a waste of time. Done right, though, they can be a valu­able per­for­mance man­age­ment tool.

1. You Aren’t Enthu­si­as­tic about Per­son­al Devel­op­ment Reviews

Employ­ees pick up on the atti­tudes of their man­agers dur­ing meet­ings. Every­one in your work­force needs to know you are invest­ed in them and their development. 

If you are half-heart­ed, fid­gety or con­stant­ly clock-watch­ing dur­ing per­for­mance devel­op­ment reviews, your apa­thy will shine through. And if you don’t care about per­for­mance devel­op­ment reviews, what rea­son do your employ­ees have to care? Even­tu­al­ly, the process becomes a huge waste of time and resources and you’ll be left with noth­ing but a dis­en­gaged, frus­trat­ed team.

If you feel unen­thu­si­as­tic about per­son­al devel­op­ment dis­cus­sions, it might be because you are unaware of how valu­able per­son­al devel­op­ment objec­tives can be to an employ­ee and their moti­va­tion. Take the time to adapt the process to make it more pro­duc­tive and effi­cient for you and your team. In time, you will be reward­ed with deter­mined, engaged employ­ees who are eager­ly work­ing on improv­ing their skills and fur­ther­ing the business.

2. You Don’t Give Them the Time and Atten­tion They Deserve

As with any per­for­mance man­age­ment tool, for per­for­mance devel­op­ment reviews to be tru­ly effec­tive, you need to give them appro­pri­ate lev­els of time and atten­tion. Plan your meet­ings in advance, choose a qui­et room where you won’t be inter­rupt­ed and set aside enough time to dis­cuss employ­ee con­cerns and needs. The meet­ings shouldn’t feel rushed; the employ­ee needs to know that they are the focus of the one-on-one discussion.

To sched­ule and organ­ise your per­for­mance devel­op­ment reviews, we rec­om­mend you use top per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware, such as Clear Review, which will help you allo­cate time and send out alerts.

3. You Focus Too Much on the Negative

Per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews are designed to high­light areas for improve­ment, which means that when they are han­dled in the wrong way, they can come across as neg­a­tive. When an employ­ee is inun­dat­ed with too much neg­a­tiv­i­ty in the work­place, their moti­va­tion suf­fers, as does their cre­ativ­i­ty, enthu­si­asm and desire to con­tribute to your organisation. 

Try to frame weak­ness­es as oppor­tu­ni­ties to improve. Dis­cuss train­ing meth­ods and options, find­ing the one that is just right for this par­tic­u­lar employ­ee. In time, your employ­ees will come to realise you are ded­i­cat­ed to, and invest­ed in, their devel­op­ment and careers, which will cre­ate a sense of loy­al­ty to you and the busi­ness. That being said, we’re cer­tain­ly not sug­gest­ing you avoid dis­cussing neg­a­tives alto­geth­er, which brings us to our next point…

4. You Skirt around the Negative

Too much of any­thing is a bad thing. If your employ­ee hears noth­ing but neg­a­tiv­i­ty, it is like­ly to impact their morale and engage­ment. How­ev­er, man­agers need to be able to address issues head-on, espe­cial­ly if these issues are imped­ing com­pa­ny per­for­mance in any way.

Don’t wrap your employ­ees up in cot­ton wool. They gen­uine­ly want to hear your feed­back and want your help to improve. Don’t tell your employ­ees every­thing is going well and that you’re entire­ly sat­is­fied with their per­for­mance if you have a gen­uine cause for con­cern. Your employ­ees deserve and want to know if they are head­ing in the wrong direction.

5. You Are Unre­cep­tive to Employ­ee Feedback

As with your reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions, your per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews should be a two-way street. As well as cov­er­ing ways your employ­ees can advance and improve, such meet­ings should also be an oppor­tu­ni­ty for them to give feed­back on how the organ­i­sa­tion as a whole is doing and how process­es can be improved to facil­i­tate and stream­line development.

It is essen­tial that man­agers are open to this feed­back. If your employ­ees feel that you don’t pro­vide appro­pri­ate time for them to devel­op in par­tic­u­lar areas, let them know that you will address this con­cern. If your employ­ees feel that a par­tic­u­lar train­ing scheme isn’t advanced or infor­ma­tive enough, take steps to rem­e­dy and improve the sit­u­a­tion. This will show your employ­ees that they are being heard and that they are a val­ued mem­ber of the team who is help­ing to improve the com­pa­ny as a whole.

6. You Spring Sur­pris­es on Your Employ­ees That Weren’t Men­tioned Dur­ing One on Ones

As men­tioned above, we rec­om­mend reg­u­lar month­ly check-ins to cov­er SMART objec­tives, press­ing con­cerns and per­son­al, team and organ­i­sa­tion­al pri­or­i­ties (for fur­ther infor­ma­tion, see our blog post: 7 Items for Dis­cus­sion Dur­ing Per­for­mance Con­ver­sa­tions).

If you choose to hold sep­a­rate per­son­al devel­op­ment reviews, there shouldn’t be any sur­pris­es for your employ­ees. If they have been underper­form­ing, you should have already addressed this dur­ing your reg­u­lar one on ones and put a plan in place. If you hold back dur­ing your fre­quent check-ins and spring sur­pris­es on your employ­ees dur­ing their per­son­al devel­op­ment review, this will lead to frus­tra­tion and, ulti­mate­ly, dis­trust in you as a manager.

7. You Don’t Give Your Employ­ees Space to Talk

Try not to dom­i­nate the meet­ing. This should be a time for your employ­ees to open up and dis­cuss devel­op­ment objec­tives and oppor­tu­ni­ties that are on their minds. If your com­pa­ny doesn’t hold reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions, employ­ees might be rigid and uncom­mu­nica­tive at first, but in time, employ­ees will begin to devel­op famil­iar­i­ty with their man­agers, as well as the con­fi­dence to speak their minds. Don’t accom­mo­date sin­­gle-word respons­es to questions. 

Don’t cut employ­ees off and always ask them to elab­o­rate. This will encour­age trans­paren­cy and authen­tic­i­ty in the workplace.

8. You Don’t Fol­low Up

If devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties are raised once a year and not tracked or fol­lowed up on, every­one involved will quick­ly become dis­il­lu­sioned. Once you have strengths and skills in place that need to be improved upon, be clear and con­cise about what will hap­pen in the com­ing months. What train­ing will you offer? What tools will you source? Write down what will hap­pen by when and keep revis­it­ing these plans. Impor­tant­ly, you should also organ­ise a fol­low-up meet­ing so man­agers, HR and employ­ees can all keep up to date with and moti­vat­ed towards con­tin­u­al development.


Clear Review is an online con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware sys­tem that improves employ­ee per­for­mance and facil­i­tates year-round per­for­mance and devel­op­ment dis­cus­sions. To find out what we can do for your busi­ness, get in touch with Clear Review today.