How to Conduct a Performance Review When You’re a Manager

How to conduct a performance review when you’re a manager. This is a question you’ve probably asked yourself prior to the first performance review you conducted, and before every other performance review you’ve conducted since then. 

For many managers and emerging leaders, performance reviews are a complete mystery. Many people don’t know how to conduct them or what steps they should follow. As a result, performance reviews end up being a formality that achieve no purpose and are a complete waste of time for all parties involved.

However by spending a small amount of time learning why performance reviews are important and how to conduct them, you can turn this formal evaluation experience into something that benefits you and your team members. And that’s exactly what I’ll teach you how to do in this blog post.

Purpose of Performance Reviews

Before we get into core content, I want to talk about the “purpose” of  performance review. When you understand the purpose, you’ll be able to conduct the performance review in a more structured and purposeful way.

Performance reviews allow you as a manager to understand and improve your employee’s performance, motivation and goals. In doing that, you can develop each individual in your team to their greatest potential, and you can drive your entire team to achieve the group’s goals.

Stages in a performance review

There are three main stages to a performance review:

  1. Prepare
  2. Conduct
  3. Follow up

Let’s dig into each of these three stages in more detail as we learn how to conduct a performance review when you’re a manager.

conduct a performance review

1. Prepare for the performance review

It’s important that you always prepare for a performance review. One of the biggest mistakes managers and leaders make is they walk into the meeting without any preparation at all. This is why performance reviews have the reputation of being pointless and a waste of time.

To adequately prepare for a performance review, you need to:

  • Review notes from your last performance review. This will help you to get familiar with the action items, objectives or expectations you set for that employee during the last performance review.
  • Compile notes for this performance review. You need to think about what has happened since the last performance review and prepare notes on what they’re doing that’s working, what they’re doing that’s not working, and skills or behaviour they need to develop or improve on. We will be delving deeper into these areas further on in this blog post.
  • Ask the employee to list 2-3 things they’re proud of and would like to improve on. Rather than it be a passive meeting, this activity will help you get your employee more involved in the performance review. Ask them to think about accomplishments, skills built, clients won or projects completed. In addition, it helps you to remember and identify things that you have have overlooked.
  • Prepare an agenda. Once you have all your notes and information you need for the performance review, then you’re ready to create the agenda. A typical agenda for a one-hour performance review will follow this structure:
  • 1. Casual chitchat (2 mins)
  • 2. Review agenda (3 mins)
  • 3. Employee growth since last performance review (5 mins)
  • 4. Current performance (15 mins)
  • 5. Areas for improvement (training needs) (10 mins)
  • 6. Career plans (10 mins)
  • 7. Targets, goals, actionable for next PR (10 mins)

We will be delving into this agenda in more detail below.

Mentorship and Coaching, learning and development trends

2. Conduct the performance review

Once you’ve carefully planned your performance review, then you need to conduct it. There’s no need to be scared or nervous; your employee will be more nervous than you! If you follow the agenda, you will be able to conduct the performance review with confidence. 

But there are a couple of things I want to highlight to you:

  • Be honest. Whether it’s good or bad feedback you’re giving in the performance review, you need to be honest about it. This is the only way people will walk away with a clear message of what they’re doing right or wrong. 
  • Be specific: You need to be specific about what that person did or didn’t do, or should do in the future. This is only way they’ll walk away with a clear message of feedback, and it helps you address any deficiencies much faster.

Once you have right mindset going into performance review, then you simply go through the items on the agenda.

1. Start with chitchat.

Ask, “How has your week been so far?”

2. Review the agenda.

Don’t spend too much time on this. Simply run through the agenda quickly.

The next steps are the most important. 

3. Employee growth since last performance review.

This starts the performance review off on a positive note. I’m sure every employee has areas in which they’ve grown. Think of their accomplishments, interactions with coworkers, projects they’ve been involved in, and goals they’ve met. This is also a great time to ask about the things they’re proud of. What did they write down on the list you asked them to prepare?

4. Current performance. 

There are specifically two issues you need to address when it comes to current performance: What they’re doing that’s working, and what they’re doing that’s not working.

You’ve already been thinking about these issues in the preparation stage. Now you need to include your employee in this discussion. Get their opinion and viewpoint on what’s working and what’s not working. Share your thoughts with them. Be honest and specific. Ask them “How do you feel about xyz?”.

Performance reviews are a two-way conversation. You need to involve the employee in the process. Believe me, they’ll feel a lot more included and walk out feeling that you gave them a fair employee evaluation.

5. Areas for improvement

This leads us nicely to the next stage – areas for improvement. Based on what you discussed about what’s not working, you need to discuss with your employee “what” they need to improve on and “how” they can improve in that area/s. When it comes to “what” they need to improve on, think of technical skills, such as software, tasks, client work, or soft skills, such as interactions with coworkers, communication, or punctuality.

When it comes to “how” they can improve on those skills, you will need to consider training opportunities, coaching, or mentoring.  This should be a discussion between you and your employee to find the right path that works for everyone involved.

6. Career plans:

Next you should discuss that person’s career plans. You need to know what they hope to achieve in their career in the next 1-5 years because part of your job is to help them get there. You can develop, guide and nurture your employees to advance in their career.

I recommend you review their career plans from last performance review. Talk about whether they’ve achieve those career plans, or not. If they didn’t meet their goals, why not? You need to be clear on this because you’ll talk about it in your next performance review with this person.

7. Targets, goals and actionable items for next performance review

At end of the performance review, you should have list of targets, goals, actionable items that you require of your employee. There are likely to be actionable items for you too, such as organising training. These actionable items need to be clear between you and employee before you end the meeting. Review them and write them down.

On-demand learning, learning and development trends

3. Follow up after the performance review

After the performance review, your work continues. Specifically, you need to do two things:

  • Create a summary of the PR.
  • Send the summary to your employee.

The performance review summary should include

  • key points discussed, 
  • issues raised, 
  • actionable items, and
  • objectives agreed to.

It only needs to be one-page. I recommend you use bullet points as much as you can to condense the information. 

Also include a personalised message when you email the summary to your employee so it’s not cold and too corporate-like. Because at end of day, your employees are people. You need to treat them as such – with respect, warmth and support.

This is the job of a leader. Keep this in mind when conducting your performance reviews.

About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox