Whether you conduct them annually, quarterly or as-needed, employee performance reviews can be a nerve-wracking experience for all parties involved. This is especially true for new business owners who have never evaluated employees before, and may not know how to approach this important aspect of performance management. If you're unsure of what to say or how to go about reviewing an employee, here are a few common formats, questions and templates to help you get started.
Performance review formats
There are a few different ways you can structure your performance review, each with its own merits and drawbacks. Human Resources at MIT offers ready-to-use templates for three basic formats that are used by many employers.
- Descriptive performance review: This type of review ranks different competencies and aspects of an employee's performance on a descriptive scale (i.e., exceptional, highly effective, proficient, inconsistent, unsatisfactory). Each scale rating should be clearly defined, and each rated area should leave room for a brief explanation from the reviewer.
- Numerical scale performance review: This review is nearly identical to the descriptive review, but instead uses a numerical system (1 for unsatisfactory to 5 for exceptional, for instance) to assess the employee's performance. Again, the scale should be defined and each score should be explained on the review. Another iteration of this type of review could be a letter-grade system similar to those used in schools.
- Narrative performance review: Instead of assigning a rating to each competency area, managers simply answer written questions about an employee's performance and cite specific examples to support their responses.
For each review format, HR at MIT leaves space for a performance summary and suggestions for improvement where necessary. [Writing a Good Performance Review: Honesty & Guidance Are Key]
Kevin Higgins, management expert and author of "Engage Me: Strategies from the Sales Effectiveness Source" (Fusion Learning, 2013), believes slightly less formal employee evaluations are best, and advised a more fluid and personalized approach.
"Performance reviews are meant to be thoughtful and provide a chance to look at someone's overall performance from many perspectives," Higgins told Business News Daily. "A rigid structure that managers are forced to apply to all employees is not very engaging at all."
Higgins uses this five-step employee review format to provide maximum feedback and perspective on an employee's performance: [How to Write an Effective Performance Review]
- Agree to a list of reviewers.This step is very important. You must get a list that will give great representation of different relationships and varying viewpoints. The goal is to have multiple people provide feedback for each employee.
- Collect feedback.Get responses from everyone on the reviewer list. Employees should also submit their own feedback during this part of the process so they aren't biased by the responses.
- Create a feedback document.Read each reviewer's feedback in full, and categorize it into either positive responses or opportunities for improvement. You may need to slightly alter comments so that you protect the anonymity of the sources.
- Feedback meeting 1: Present and discuss.Share the feedback document with the employee. Read it together, reflecting on strengths first. After identifying key messages in the strengths section, move on to opportunities. Be sure that you take time and allow the employee to process the review with you. Do not allow him or her to leave in an emotional state, and end on a positive note.
- Feedback meeting 2:Agree on an action plan. The first step in this meeting is to revisit the review. Ask employees if they have any questions, or how they feel now that they've had their review for some time. Next, create an action plan to make the suggested improvements. Ask them how you can help, and gain their commitment to improving and ensure they see the value in doing so.
Sample questions to help evaluate performance
Regardless of the format you choose, the questions you include should apply to any employee in any position, and the answers should successfully demonstrate whether or not an employee is meeting his or her goals. Based on our research, here are some of the most commonly used performance evaluation points. These questions can be adapted to fit either a narrative-style or a scaled review.
- Has the employee mastered the basic skills and requirements to adequately perform the duties in his or her job description?
- How well does the employee meet his or her daily, weekly and monthly goals as set by his or her supervisor?
- What is the quality level of the employee's work?
- Does the employee complete his or her work in a timely manner and meet his or her deadlines?
- How does the employee get along and communicate with his or her supervisor and team members?
- How reliable is the employee (i.e., coming into work on time, following through on requests, etc.)?
- Does the employee adhere to company policies and guidelines?
- Is the employee self-reliant and confident enough to solve problems with little outside direction?
- (If applicable) Does the employee represent the company in a positive, respectful manner when dealing with clients, customers, vendors, etc.?
- What does the employee do exceptionally well?
- What does the employee need to improve upon?
For general tips on conducting a performance review, check out Business News Daily's guide. More employee evaluation samples can be found on the following websites:
This story was originally published in 2014 and updated Aug. 21, 2015.