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Performance & Feedback

15 performance review tips & best practices for managers

Leapsome Team
15 performance review tips & best practices for managers
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Good performance reviews are worth their weight in gold for your company. They assess how employees are doing in their current roles, ensure they feel supported, improve employee-manager relations, and give staff direction on competencies they need to improve. Keeping track of employee performance also helps management teams identify skills gaps, assign training budgets, and identify hiring needs. 

You may know that you need to do employee performance reviews, but want tips to make them more effective. Or maybe you’re already conducting them, but want to be sure they’re making an impact. And if you’re starting from scratch, performance reviews can seem daunting. Whatever the case, you’ve come to the right place.

This post breaks down: 

  • The goal of a great performance review
  • Our top 15 best-practice performance review tips on how to conduct assessments and manage them effectively
  • How to follow up on the employee performance review process
  • Why using performance management software like Leapsome can simplify the entire process — and bring in more results

Ready to make your performance reviews as effective as possible? Let’s get started.

🚀 Want to deliver meaningful, effective performance reviews that grow employees’ talent and boost belonging? 

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The goal of performance reviews

The best performance reviews are tailored to a company’s values and intentions, as well as  each employee’s strengths, goals, and needs. That way, you can ensure everyone is working towards a greater company mission while also developing their skills.

Staff around a laptop looking happy and engaged in the company mission
Good reviews align staff around a company’s mission

Following some criteria can keep your employee performance reviews on track to be as successful and effective as possible.

A great employee performance review discussion:

  • Communicates and assesses expectations for each position
  • Identifies employee strengths and areas for improvement
  • Uncovers training gaps
  • Rewards and encourages achievements
  • Aligns employees behind the company mission 
  • Creates a cohesive team that’s on the same page
  • Helps advance each employee’s performance and skills framework
  • Creates a natural chance to review compensation and team structure
  • Helps organizations allocate their training budget 
  • Gives companies more clarity on hiring needs

Performance review tips

There’s no single “correct” way to write a performance review — it all depends on your company’s culture, values, and goals. But these best-practice tips are a good start and can be easily tailored to your needs.

A professional woman looking at a laptop
Documenting reviews helps keep track of progress

1. Document employee reviews

A consistent performance review process helps employees and management measure progress from one review to another; this means that documenting and keeping good records of each assessment is crucial. To do so:

  • Choose a system to document employee performance reviews
  • Store past reviews somewhere secure and easily accessible for all parties
  • Ensure evaluations, ratings, and areas for improvement can be identified from review to review to build on progress
💡 You can use a people enablement platform like Leapsome to do all of the above, track employee development, and do so much more!

2. Be clear & objective

An effective performance review is a chance for managers and employees to start a two-way conversation, communicate clearly, and set tangible goals. Afterward a review, your people should understand what’s expected of them and how they’re progressing in their roles.

Here are a few pointers to do so:

  • Keep language simple and clear — especially when offering constructive feedback
  • Make development goals objective and measurable, so that employees can track progress

3. Use measurable data & ratings

Using a rating system and a review template for your performance reviews helps employees and managers track assessments consistently and gives an idea of employee success, strengths, and areas to work on at a glance. 

When putting together a scoring system:

  • Use a simple rating scale (anywhere between 0-10 — or use letters if you prefer) to score employees in each skill area
  • Ensure you leave space for comments to add context to numerical scores

At Leapsome, we recommend using a 5-point rating system. Our review templates enable managers, reports, and any other review participant to add in their own scores and comments for more context.

4. Make time for 1:1 meetings

It may be tempting to just check in when your team is gathered together — especially if you only have a few direct reports or they all have similar goals and tasks. However, taking the time to review each employee individually is crucial. This is why:

  • People have different career goals and need individualized support
  • Employees welcome 1:1  time with their managers to improve rapport 
  • Individuals may wish to speak privately about particular goals or struggles
  • Employee strengths and difficulties vary, even if they’re on the same team
Screenshot of a one-on-one meeting agenda within the Leapsome platform
Having consistent 1:1 meetings with your reports is an excellent way to continuously support them; make sure to have clear, collaborative meeting agendas

👀 Are meetings a pain point at your organization?

Leapsome helps companies hold more efficient meetings, with agenda templates and action items that turn into initiatives.

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5. Be clear about performance criteria

Employees must know what’s expected of them before they can satisfy those expectations. An employee performance review is an excellent opportunity to reiterate what you expect from a report and give them a chance to rise to the challenge. Be sure to:

  • Set out development goals
  • Make goals clear and straightforward
  • Split criteria into measurable goals 
  • Explain how people contribute to the company’s broader objectives

6. Choose a quiet, comfortable space for your development talk

Two people drinking coffee comfortably
Choosing somewhere comfortable for your development talk can help ease employee anxiety

Performance reviews can be daunting and anxiety-inducing, so keep that in mind when putting conducting your assessments and scheduling development talks afterwards. To help your team members dodge the anxiety, we recommend that you:

  • Choose a quiet, comfortable space that offers privacy
  • Ensure your report and you are on a relatively equal footing (e.g., together at a coffee table rather than in a formal interview setting)
  • Encourage the employee to speak freely
  • Ensure no feedback is a total surprise and make sure that anything brought up in the meeting has been raised before — this is why continuous 1:1 feedback is so important

7. Acknowledge strengths

Performance reviews aren’t just for spotting what needs improvement — they’re also fantastic opportunities to give credit to your staff for their strengths and achievements.

To give employee strengths proper acknowledgment: 

  • Include strengths in your review form
  • Give good ratings freely and avoid focusing only on areas for improvement
  • Discuss how the employee has built and maintained their strengths
  • Consider how the employee could transfer strengths to areas for improvement 
  • If appropriate, consider if the employee could use their strengths to encourage learning exchanges and coaching within the team
Image of employee feedback shared in the Leapsome People Management platform
Stating what an employee should keep doing can be just as valuable as setting new goals

8. Keep language constructive

The goal of performance reviews is to help employees feel more aligned, motivated, and empowered about their next steps — not to give them a big list of everything they did “wrong.” To that end:

  • Keep specific language positive and change-focused — use language like “areas for growth” or “improvement opportunities” rather than “weaknesses” or “failures” 
  • Work with the employee to create a constructive roadmap for improvement
  • Show the employee you’re invested in supporting them by offering professional development ideas or additional training resources

9. Enable employee self-assessments

An employee performance review works best if it’s collaborative rather than top-down. Here’s how you can ensure employees are actively participating in their appraisals:

  • Offer staff a chance to prepare a self-assessment so they can take stock of their progress
  • Give employees ownership and responsibility for their own development and progression
  • Discuss employee, peer, and management scores to get a clear understanding of their context
  • Ask employees for specific examples and ideas for growth and improvement
Screenshot of an employee self-assessment in the Leapsome platform
Employee self-assessments encourage self-reflection
⭐️ Performance reviews that employees look forward to

Reviews shouldn’t be something dreaded. Leapsome can help facilitate the process and offers a development-oriented approach, so your team can perform at their best.

👉 Learn more

10. Personalize reviews for individual employees

Each employee is unique — even if they’re on the same team or have the same job title as 10 or 100 others. The best reviews recognize that fact and are tailored towards it, helping each team member feel supported and acknowledged (which boosts engagement and productivity).

Keep these handy performance review personalization tips in mind:

  • Consider each employee’s strengths and help your reports play towards them when it comes to their responsibilities and goals
  • Take account of each person’s career progression and the next steps they could take in the short and long term
  • Create performance reviews with specific roles and seniority levels in mind (e.g., having leadership performance reviews in place)

11. Be transparent with employer action steps

Private, 1:1 meetings are a great chance to share more delicate company plans to give employees a sense of the company’s goals and current circumstances. 

That doesn’t mean sharing sensitive data — it can simply mean including more junior team members in their department’s “behind-the-scenes,” so they feel aligned with the mission and future of the company. 

Be sure to:

  • Share how management plans to support the employee, such as resources for training and professional development
  • Communicate your hiring plan as much as you can, so your team feels included

12. Be aware of biases

Performance reviews should be as objective as possible. While they must be personalized according to employee strengths and roles, they should still be fair, clear, and objective.

Check out these tips to reduce bias in your employee appraisals:

  • Create questions and criteria that take a long view of the review cycle (and previous cycles) rather than simply focusing on recent performance or projects. That will avoid recency bias — i.e., focusing only on recent achievements or issues.
  • Avoid unconscious bias and work to ensure you’re not judging an employee based on your own strengths, abilities, experiences, or personal traits (even if unintentionally).
  • Ensure you evaluate employee achievements based on work quality rather than quantity. For example, the effort they put into a campaign, rather than only results or number of campaigns launched.
  • If you’re conducting several reviews in quick succession, avoid comparing one employee to another. Each person deserves to have their work evaluated based on individual strengths, merits, and development needs.
  • Avoid making conclusions abruptly or without context. If an employee appears disengaged one day, that doesn’t mean they don’t care. They may have had a bad morning or be experiencing problems at home.
  • Try not to let your personal view of the employee impact your judgment. Their performance review is about their career progression and overall skills — not your personal feelings.
💡 Learn how to avoid bias in performance reviews in our step-by-step playbook

13. Incorporate peer comments

Most employees have some form of team or colleagues, and how they fit into that squad can provide deep insights into their working style and strengths that they may not usually volunteer.

Try including colleague feedback in your reviews by:

  • Offering peers the chance to comment on the employee’s strengths and areas to work on for extra objective insights
  • This is also the reason that 360 reviews are a great idea, as they offer other parties the chance to contribute, rather than the manager alone
  • Incorporating anti-bias education among your team to avoid unfair or uneven subjectivity

14. Plot a professional roadmap for growth

Performance reviews can be an excellent opportunity to offer short-term growth tips — but they’re also a great chance to keep an eye on an employee’s long-term development and goals. 

  • Plot out the employee’s next steps for promotion in the company
  • Where applicable, make it clear what the employee needs to do to get promoted or given additional responsibility 
  • Work backwards from long-term goals to suggest shorter-term, interim goals that’ll  contribute to longer-term aims
  • Ensure employees know what opportunities are available to them in the future

15. Finish with action steps & key takeaways

At the end of each performance review, ensure everyone’s clear on what they need to do next (before their following review and in the long term).

Here’s how you can effectively conclude performance reviews:

  • Summarize the assessment and finish with actionable, measurable, tangible tasks that you and the employee can get started on before the next review cycle.
  • Ask for suggestions from the employee rather than dictating steps, and ensure they have a clear idea of what to do next.
  • Ensure that you’re also committed to doing the work as a manager — whether that’s asking the employee follow-up questions, allocating training budget, or seeking additional hires.
  • Book in the next review cycle and make sure the employee knows what they can do in the meantime to address their areas for improvement and maintain their strengths.
💡 People management software like Leapsome can automate performance review cycles, so it’s not necessary to manually schedule reviews each and every time.

How to follow up on your performance review

Two women looking at a laptop’s screen in a professional setting
Following up on a performance review is key to its success

It’s crucial to maintain momentum after a performance review, making sure that promises and objectives laid out during the process don’t get forgotten. 

A manager should work with the employee to set up deadlines or objectives for each tangible next step — and remember to check in. Keep employees informed on what you’re doing on your side (like setting up training or finding new hires) and be transparent about changes or roadblocks.

Tools like Leapsome keep all past reviews and feedback in one place, so you can have a clear overview. This allows you to take stock of all performance appraisals and assess whether there are any collective strengths to celebrate; you may also find skill gaps that many employees have that you could tackle as a wider team without singling any employee out.

It’s an equally good idea to establish a rewards system or acknowledge employee wins once assessments have been done (always maintaining confidentiality where needed, of course).

Overall, performance reviews are crucial for the progression of individual employees, the manager, and the company. Using a people enablement platform like Leapsome can make it much easier to organize and keep track of reviews and feedback — ensuring effectiveness over time. 

Leapsome’s tools help you gather actionable data, align employees behind your mission, accelerate training and development, gain real-time engagement insights, and build a culture that nurtures happy staff and drives excellent results.

💙 Want to deliver meaningful, effective performance reviews that grow employees’ talent and boost belonging? 

Save time and drive growth with Leapsome 

👉 Request a demo now

Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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