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4 tips to write performance reviews

How to put employees on the path to productivity

Who you hire and how you develop their talent lays the foundation of success for your company. In order to encourage employees to grow – and contribute more value to the company – you need to learn how to write performance reviews.

Writing performance reviews is a manager’s biggest opportunity to provide constructive criticism and get the employee on a path to productivity and contribution. However, it’s also a vulnerable time for the employee – they know that their promotions, raises and career depend on this yearly moment. Follow these tips to ensure you write performance reviews that are professional and constructive.

1.Create a solid foundation

The foundation of a good performance review is set well before the time of the annual meeting. Managers must develop the skills of great leaders so that they can give honest feedback without losing the trust of their team. Managers must build rapport, develop excellent communication skills and learn what inspires their team members before even considering how to write a performance review.

Effective management also means setting goals and giving feedback throughout the year, not just at review time. Review every employee’s current skills and job description at the beginning of employment, and set and update goals accordingly. This also allows employees time to correct their mistakes before the performance review rolls around. Managers are then able to give a more accurate summary of what the employee has – or has not – achieved over the course of the year.

2. Determine your criteria

If you’re going to do something, do it right. Don’t even think about how to write a performance review if you don’t cover all of these areas:

  • Ability to meet deadlines: Does the employee achieve goals? Do they turn in work on time?
  • Quality of work: Is work accurate and complete? Does it show creativity or problem-solving?
  • Communication skills: Does the employee keep the team updated on progress?
  • Teamwork skills: Does the employee work well with others? Do they contribute in groups?
  • Dependability: Is the employee on time to work and meetings? Are they willing to help others?

3. Choose the right words

Tony talks about watching your tone as an essential piece of communicating. In speaking, your tone of voice involves volume, pace and inflections. In writing performance reviews, your tone of voice involves the types of words you choose.

Avoid using hyperbole like “always” and “never,” which will automatically put people on the defensive. And avoid the word “but,” as in, “You’re a great team player, but….” The employee will only hear whatever comes after “but,” which is usually the negative part of the sentence. Keep praise and constructive criticism separate to make sure that both are heard equally.

Finally, don’t accidentally excuse bad performance. Phrases like “I understand” can be taken as forgiveness, and hedge words like “It seems like” or “I feel that” will take power away from your statements. And never make promises about employment, like “You have nothing to worry about.”

4. Be honest and specific

If you are coming from a place of fear – of the employee’s reaction, or that they will quit – it can be all too easy to give a falsely positive review. But there is no reason to learn how to write performance reviews if they are not going to be honest.

If you’re having trouble being totally honest, remember to focus your words on results, not personality traits. You’re not evaluating someone as a person – you’re evaluating their contribution to the company. Always relate your performance reviews back to the job at hand. Putting criticism in context makes it helpful, rather than destructive.

Start your review by calling out employee strengths, using specific examples and numbers wherever possible. The dive into areas for improvement. Emphasize potential, and give the employee a clear path to success. Then follow up with more positive examples to demonstrate to the employee what you’d like to see more of while still ending on a high note.

performance review

Examples for writing performance reviews

The best leaders know how to write a performance review that communicates actionable, growth-focused feedback while still being honest. Managers can categorize employees as Gold, Silver or Bronze depending on not only their skills, but their attitude and potential, and write reviews accordingly.

Gold performers

Gold performers are your top people. They not only have great technical and interpersonal skills, but they are outcome-driven, dedicated and dependable. When thinking about how to write a performance evaluation for gold performers, consider phrases like:

  • Surpasses expectations in the following areas…
  • Contributes frequently to…
  • Promotes innovation within the company by…
  • Developed successful strategies that led to results like…
  • Executes creative ideas such as…
  • Shows leadership and management potential by…

Silver performers

Silver performers are intelligent and have an excellent attitude, but their skills could use improvement. They typically have a growth mindset and are easy to coach when given the right feedback and actionable, realistic goals.

  • Improved production by X percent due to…
  • Exceeded sales goals by X percent by…
  • Resolved X customer complaints by…
  • Promptly responds to client concerns such as…
  • May easily exceed expectations by…
  • Shows great aptitude for…
  • Would benefit from additional professional development in…

Bronze performers

Bronze performers are average employees, but they’re not operating at peak performance in any area. Writing performance reviews for bronze players requires careful phrasing that encourages the good while course-correcting the bad.

  • Is capable of increasing efficiency in the area of…
  • Could enhance growth potential through additional training in…
  • Displays potential for greater interpersonal skills, which could be achieved by…
  • Could transfer skills in X area to achieve more in…
  • With improved focus, may demonstrate an ability to achieve…

All leaders need to learn how to write performance reviews that keep employees engaged and increase their productivity. Once you master the steps to honest, constructive employee evaluation, you’ll create an unstoppable culture of success.

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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