Writing performance reviews of an employee can be hard and time consuming, but there are ways to make this task much easier. Managers usually have to write job performance reviews annually for each member of their team. Therefore, when the review period is approaching, the manager should ask a few questions that will help in determining what he wants the end result to be of each of the job reviews:
What do you want to achieve with this review?
What are the most important aspects of this particular review?
Do you want your employees to give feedback on their individual reviews?
There's actually a "Step 0" to this process: keep notes on your employees throughout the year. They don't have to be exhaustive, but taking note of particular instances when they excelled or fell short will provide crucial content for providing effective and specific employee feedback.
When it comes to writing, starting is the tricky part. Once there's text on the page, you can edit, refine and rethink to your heart's content. Begin with the first thing that comes into your mind when you think about the employee.
If nothing comes to mind, simply start by typing their name and role onto the page. Minor as it is, it will get the wheels in your head turning. If they're not turning fast enough, jot down a few positive thoughts about the employee. It's an excellent way to start thinking in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
With any luck, if you've been tasked to evaluate an employee's performance, you've also set their objectives. Even if you didn't, you should have access to them. Use those objectives as the headings in your evaluation so you address the issues that really matter to both the employee and the employer.
On the rare occasion you simply don't have preset objectives for an employee you're evaluating, we've identified four key assessment areas:
Dependability - Is the employee dependable? Do they follow directions? How is their attendance?
Initiative - Is the employee a go-getter? Do they take charge in appropriate situations? Do they proactively seek out new and better solutions?
Knowledge - How is the employee's technical knowledge of job functions and requirements? This may include knowledge and recognition of the general policies and procedures governing the company, as well as specific best practices for their particular position.
Quality of Work - This takes into consideration the proficiency level of the employee. Does the employee meet deadlines? Do they pack an acceptable amount of work into their working week? Does the work meet expected quality standards?
Our page on writing and assessing objectives provides further guidance on the subject.
This is where the notes from Step 0 come in. A simple inventory of strengths and weaknesses doesn't say much: your employee probably already knows they're intelligent but disorganized, or have good people skills but struggle with detail.
Rather, identify those qualities and provide specific instances where you saw them play out. Those details help an employee understand what parts of their work succeeded and what parts didn't.
One of the pitfalls of writing an evaluation is that it can be taken as a personal attack. People get invested in their jobs. There's pride at play. For the evaluation to be effective, for the employee to clearly understand the evaluation in a way that improves their performance, you have to stay positive when possible and focus your criticism on achievable ways they can improve.
Praise what's praiseworthy - and praise writing isn't a simple compliment; it's a detailed acknowledgement of exceptional work - and identify problem areas in a clear, solution-oriented way.
None of the above says that you should lie or gloss over hard truths. Rather, remember that if an employee isn't achieving, it isn't a "you" problem, it's an "us" problem. No employee wants to perform badly or be a square peg in a round hole. They want to do better just as much as you want them to do better. When deciding on the right performance review phrases, remember to use clear, direct but friendly criticism to show them how. You might even consider a step-by-step list!
Also, for Heaven's sake use unbiased language. Nothing will sour an otherwise constructive evaluation like awkward inadvertent word choice.
Ultimately, the goal of an employee evaluation is to let the employee know they're valued. If the employee wasn't valued, you wouldn't be writing an evaluation; you'd be writing a termination letter. Explain to them how they can increase their value in the future.
Employee evaluations are a great time to assign or at least begin discussion of a new set of professional objectives. Consider using that, either in the form of a list of objectives or an invitation to discuss the same, to conclude your evaluation.
Some number of your employees won't take criticism well. That's just human nature. But that's true of fewer people than employers often imagine. Delivering criticism in a helpful way is a skill. Done well, it tells the employee about success and failure alike, all toward the end of improving their work and thereby improving their life.
Many of these same rules apply to writing a review of your own performance. Check out our page on self assessment for more help.