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Performance Review Examples: What Makes a Good Performance Review?

Manager discussing performance review with employee at desk - showing performance on tablet.

A good per­for­mance review isn’t about a bet­ter form or a new rat­ing scale, it’s about hav­ing a mean­ing­ful conversation.

Good per­for­mance review exam­ples, ones that actu­al­ly improve per­for­mance, are not as easy to find as you might think. Search for them online and you might wind up with some­thing like this per­for­mance review exam­ple. Intend­ed as part of an annu­al appraisal, it is a writ­ten form con­tain­ing rat­ings and annu­al goals.

This is a bad per­for­mance review exam­ple. Here’s why.

Why is it a bad per­for­mance review example?

The annu­al appraisal doesn’t work and it nev­er has. It is an exam­ple of a bad per­for­mance review using out­dat­ed prac­tices, of which just 2% of employ­ees see the val­ue. As such, the rea­son the per­for­mance review exam­ple above is bad is that it includes many of the worst hall­marks of an annu­al appraisal.

First of all, it focus­es on a whole year. One of the many issues with annu­al appraisals is exact­ly that; they are annu­al. The idea of set­ting goals once a year is extreme­ly prob­lem­at­ic. It’s for this rea­son that New Year’s res­o­lu­tions fail so bad­ly — with the vast major­i­ty of peo­ple aban­don­ing them in the first few months of the year.

The prob­lem is that a year is an arbi­trary peri­od which has been shaped by ancient cul­tures. Busi­ness­es and pri­or­i­ties move fast and hav­ing annu­al goals are sim­ply not appro­pri­ate for most people’s jobs today, except per­haps at very the most senior lev­els of the organ­i­sa­tion. A bet­ter way to set a SMART goal is to think of goals as a pri­or­i­ties’ for the next 1 – 4 months. This will make them eas­i­er to set and rel­e­vant to employee’s roles.

The oth­er issue with annu­al appraisals is that they are just not fre­quent enough to improve per­for­mance and main­tain engage­ment. If an employ­ee has an issue that is affect­ing their moti­va­tion in say August, by the time the appraisal comes around in Decem­ber, they may have left, or their per­for­mance may have sig­nif­i­cant­ly tailed off. In short, a lot can hap­pen in the 11 months between one annu­al appraisal and the next. A good a per­for­mance review exam­ple is much more regular.

The third issue with the exam­ple appraisal form above is its use of rat­ings. Rat­ings are inher­ent­ly prone to bias and are too sub­jec­tive to pro­vide any gen­uine insight into actu­al per­for­mance lev­els. Man­agers also avoid giv­ing poor rat­ings as they do not want to risk dam­ag­ing their rela­tion­ships with their team members.

This par­tic­u­lar exam­ple also rates the achieve­ment of objec­tives. When you do this, evi­dence has found that per­for­mance can actu­al­ly decrease as employ­ees set eas­i­er goals that they know they will be able to hit. This helps no-one.

Instead, we need to put in place per­for­mance reviews which focus on — well — improv­ing performance…

Learn how to supercharge your performance reviews

This is a good per­for­mance review example

First of all, a good per­for­mance review is reg­u­lar. It should take place as often as it needs to but at least once a quar­ter. When­ev­er a man­ag­er and employ­ee need to check in with each oth­er, it should be able to hap­pen quick­ly and eas­i­ly with­out any bureau­cra­cy get­ting in the way. Employ­ees should feel like they can talk to their man­ag­er about their future and address their con­cerns at any point and vice ver­sa. This should ide­al­ly be part of a con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment approach that includes real-time feed­back and near-term goals.

For some organ­i­sa­tions, this might seem a big shift, but it can be done suc­cess­ful­ly. It’s exact­ly what lead­ing com­pa­nies like Microsoft, Gen­er­al Elec­tric and Adobe did, whose shares soared by 65% as a direct result.

A good per­for­mance man­age­ment review also doesn’t use past-focused rat­ings. Instead, it is future focused and looks at how employ­ees can repli­cate past suc­cess­es again, how they can bet­ter lever­age their strengths, and what devel­op­ment they need to help them improve. When employ­ees don’t feel like they’re being judged, it’s eas­i­er for them to open up about how they can improve, and both sides can air their con­cerns in an envi­ron­ment of hon­esty and trust.

Of course, we can’t expect man­agers to be able to hold these type of per­for­mance reviews with­out guid­ance or hav­ing a sug­gest­ed struc­ture. So here’s a best prac­tice check-in con­ver­sa­tion tem­plate that has rec­om­mend­ed dis­cus­sion prompts that will lead to a mean­ing­ful, per­for­mance improv­ing conversation.

Want to embed a cul­ture of reg­u­lar per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions? Our con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware will help you to suc­ceed. Watch our 7‑minute demo video.