How to conduct an effective performance review

Adam Johnston

Adam Johnston, Managing Director of Robert Half Hong Kong, on the best way to prepare for and give a performance review that drives success for everyone involved

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Adam Johnston


A performance review is probably one of the most unnerving conversations an employee will engage in throughout the working year. After all, it’s hard for anyone to feel overjoyed at the prospect of having their job performance and professional conduct being dissected and analysed. But it can be equally uncomfortable for managers too, as they stand in judgement of an otherwise trusted colleague and team member.

Done right, there’s no doubt that performance reviews have their place in driving greater productivity and preparing talented employees for career growth. For many companies, appraisals are also an efficient method of improving employee performance. Effective reviews can be undertaken by keeping these considerations in mind.

Prepare for the review

Avoid scheduling formal performance reviews during busy periods, as this will give employees adequate time to prepare, and result in more detailed and constructive discussions. To ensure formal appraisals are delivered meaningfully, managers should also take an active approach to reviewing performance throughout the year by taking notes and holding regular discussions which address issues and recognize achievements as they arise.

By keeping communication lines open, nothing discussed in a formal review will come as a surprise.

Clearly establish expectations

To understand the key performance objectives they will be evaluated against, it’s important team members are clear about their responsibilities and how they contribute to company goals. When expectations between managers and team members are aligned, team members are better prepared to hone their efforts while performance reviews are perceived as more meaningful and constructive.

Be prepared and authentic

Aim to have a two-sided conversation with your team member, rather than simply delivering your thoughts in one long-winded spiel. To prepare for a dynamic and free-flowing discussion that engages your team member, review notes from previous performance reviews, be clear about the objectives set, collect comments from other managers and bring together relevant examples that demonstrate how goals have or have not been met.

Put feedback in context

Whether you’re praising a team member for the quality of their customer interactions or criticizing the way they communicate with other team members, always explain the consequential effect the performance had on the business and its priorities. When people understand the real effect of their actions, they’re likely to feel more highly valued or motivated to improve.

Remain objective

If there is a problem with performance, it’s crucial to be specific and detailed in your conversations to address the issues. However, be aware that too much negativity could drive a team member to feel deflated and despondent. Always ensure there is adequate focus on their strengths and successes, so they feel motivated to bring their shortfalls in line with the rest of their performance.

Similarly, don’t devote your entire review to singing the praises of star performers. While credit should always be given wherever due, it’s equally important to address the negative aspects of an employee’s performance to avoid encouraging a sense of complacency.

Offer solutions to issues

It’s not constructive to simply address performance issues and then leave your team member hanging. Often, performance issues are a sign that an otherwise talented and capable employee just needs a little extra support and guidance. So be prepared to suggest and offer solutions for how your team member can improve on negative feedback before their next review – for example, by organizing training sessions or setting up a mentoring relationship with a co-worker.

Schedule frequent follow-ups

To instil confidence that your performance reviews are more than an annual “tick-box” exercise, take steps to ensure discussions stay alive and front-of-mind throughout the year. Schedule follow-up meetings at appropriate intervals to revisit issues and track progress where interim solutions and targets have been set. Checking in from time to time means ineffective improvement strategies can be amended, and the employee’s priorities can be continuously evaluated against changing business needs and their career goals.

By taking the right approach to performance reviews, managers can instil confidence in team members to help support long and successful careers. Consequently, this will stimulate the sense of motivation and appreciation necessary to build top performing teams all-year-round.

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April 2019 issue
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Performance review
April 2019
Adam Johnston, Managing Director at Robert Half Hong Kong, on conducting an effective performance review


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