4 Tips to Conduct Productive Performance Reviews

While up to 70% of companies have annual performance reviews, not all organizations understand the fine line between a meaningful performance review and a negative experience.

Since performance reviews can be of tremendous value, it makes sense to invest in learning best practices to ensure they are done correctly. When done right, these reviews can provide powerful data to help employees tap into their full potential.

When not done right, they leave the employees frustrated, and worst-case scenario, they can increase employee turnover. Poorly conducted reviews will eventually create a cycle of resignations and backfills.

Let’s break down how to conduct performance reviews effectively and meaningfully.

Prepare Ahead of Time

A company doesn’t thrive just by employing good talent. It’s important to continually nurture that talent which can be done with effective performance reviews.

The first step to an effective performance review is preparing ahead of time. That includes:

  • Employee’s personnel file
  • Documentation: past reviews, previous goals, notes from previous reviews, etc.
  • Feedback from other supervisors
  • Performance data
  • SWOT analysis
  • Review prior notes, including concerns shared by the employee & actions taken to address those concerns


Give Constructive, Positive Feedback

Performance reviews (by definition) aren’t just sunshine and roses and occasionally must include challenging conversations.

A good rule of thumb is to always try to sandwich constructive criticism in the middle of 2 areas of praise.

Provide constructive feedback to help focus on specific behaviors that need improvement, giving clear examples. Make sure the input is balanced and if you are going to point out areas of weakness, be sure to also provide concrete suggestions for improvement.

Aim to be concise and unemotional, taking care to balance the good with the bad.

Read More: 11 Things to Never Say During Your Performance Review

Set Goals

If previous performance issues have not been rectified and are still a concern, acknowledging past shortfalls is essential. However, keep the focus on driving future performance and achieving short and long-term goals moving forward.

The worse the deficit, the more frequently you should be evaluating their performance.

For instance, if your sales rep is not hitting their quota and the average sales cycle is 1 month, you will want to be inspecting what you expect on a weekly basis. Have they done the required number of daily and weekly reach outs, and have they made the required number of 1st presentations?

Having a precise formula for success, based on the metric for the role, is key to holding your team accountable. You won’t know where you’re going if you don’t know how to get there.

Open TWO-WAY Lines of Communication

Yes, carving out time to review an employee’s track record is definitely one of the primary goals for conducting performance reviews. Determine how they are doing, & if there are shortfalls, what specifically can they do to improve it?

Equally important, the dual goal should also be to address and rectify any concerns that the employee has.

Don’t squander this golden opportunity to find out if you as a hiring manager and also the bigger picture if the company is fulfilling your end of the deal by offering a supportive, positive environment with opportunities for advancement.

Be brave and ask questions where you can greatly benefit from the answers!

Write out concise, open-ended questions in advance with a focus on the employee’s satisfaction.

Many resignations would be avoided if managers took the time to sit one-on-one with their employees on a quarterly basis to check in with them and give them a space to provide constructive feedback.

By fostering a culture of open communication, neither an employee nor a manager should ever be surprised by a resignation or termination.

To encourage Active Listening:

  • Keep your emotions in check and use emotional intelligence when dealing with the employee. This includes empathizing and acknowledging how they may be feeling.
  • When employees share their feelings, reiterate what you hear from them to ensure you understand them correctly.
  • When the employee is speaking, focus on listening instead of coming up with a response.
  • Active Listening is one of the greatest shows of respect you can give someone.
  • Conversely, interrupting and talking over someone is not only highly disrespectful, it also never results in a positive productive interaction.


 Regular feedback and performance reviews are essential to help an employee grow as well as to retain top talent.

The duty of a hiring manager doesn’t end with hiring good talent. They also need to give their employees room to grow and explore future career goals within the organization.

When coaching for success fails and you see a need to top-grade your team, please consider reaching out to the #1 most recommended recruiting firm in the US.

Since 1999, International Search Consultants has provided exceptionally qualified candidates for our clients across the US.

Call ISC today to speak with experienced executive recruiting professionals who will help strategize on your next critical fill hiring need.

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants. You can reach Ann directly at 888-866-7276 or email her at .

Jaami Clement is an Executive Recruiter with ISC. You can reach Jaami directly at 888-866-6625 or email her at .