A simple performance review template for managers

Written by: Erika Khanna
Published on November 19, 2020 | Reading time: 8m

It’s the day before you need to host an employee’s performance review and nerves are running high. For both managers and employees, it’s common to feel overwhelmed, and with many teams going remote, this can feel even more strenuous and uncertain. We wanted to introduce a performance review template that feels relevant, constructive, and that works in cooperation with an employee’s development.

Our team noticed that keeping reviews continuous versus annual was a key first step. In times of high change, it can feel disorienting to discuss instances that happened a few months previously. Not only is it hard to recall, but this review process also doesn’t account for shifting benchmarks which makes feedback tough to apply, running the risk of employees feeling like they aren’t standing on stable ground. The annual performance review template, while helpful for information analysis, can feel stale, outdated and in some cases, irrelevant. So, how can we apply a performance review template that allows for conversations to be constructive, interesting and beneficial for both managers and employees? 

Before: Prepare in advance

1. Use a tool that helps you keep track of goals and progress over time

Rather than attempting to recall the details of the past, Officevibe helps you keep a record of your 1-on-1 meetings to develop action items and individual employee performance. Not only will you be able to have a full scope of their improvement, but you’ll also be well prepared to host constructive employee performance reviews. This initial part of the review process allows you to note key areas to highlight their strengths as well as areas of improvement. Staying ahead of the curve will save you valuable time, something all managers always wish they had more of. 


2. Do your research and get a full picture of your employee by collecting 360 feedback

In a remote culture, it’s common to feel as though you may not have visibility on how an employee is feeling and performing. Doing your research will allow you to gain a 360 view of their improvement and collaboration. Find out how employees have been contributing to others, and be sure to highlight instances where they can help other facets of your business. In doing so, you’ll gain an unbiased view of their improvement when it comes to their technical skills and leadership abilities. 

In a recent case study conducted by the Harvard Business review this was exemplified by a manager Sirmara and her employee, John. 

“Sirmara needed more data to identify the reason behind the performance dip, so she spoke with John’s direct manager. She learned that John, who is a father, suddenly became a both full-time employee and a full-time parent when his children’s schools were closed due to the pandemic. “John’s manager and I were empathetic about the situation, understanding John and other employees are experiencing things now that no one planned for.”

3. Get in the mindest of conversation rather than confrontation or evaluation

Prepare for a conversation, rather than an evaluation. Note that a conversation is two ways, it’s an open dialogue that encourages both people to share about how they felt a project and dynamic has evolved, or not. An evaluation is simply an appraisal, a critique that often does not take into context considerable elements that contributed to the positive or negative outcomes of a project or dynamic. Encourage an open mind to disarm feelings of intimidation and nervousness by structuring your conversation.

Quick tips on how to prepare: 

  • Make sure employees understand that performance reviews are on-going based on feedback and discussions from regular 1-on-1s. 
  • Schedule a few reviews throughout the quarter to keep track of progress and encourage a strong sense of trust and conversation. 
  • In your agenda, indicate the points you will be discussing. 
  • Focus on applying learnings for the future, just as much as you focus on the past. 
  • Send your agenda to your employee a few days before your meeting
  • Encourage your employees to also come prepared with their thoughts on each point on the agenda.  
  • Avoid winging it. Instead of: “I thought I could let you lead the conversation and we can go from there.” Try: “I have a few key points for us to discuss, let me know if there are any you’d like to add to make sure we’re making the most of this time.”

During: Navigating tough conversations

During their performance review, notice that your employees may feel nervous or unsure about what will be discussed. You might not know it by connecting with them through a video screen, but the context of a review may feel daunting to them during times of uncertainty.

1. Call out the elephant in the room

Be upfront about your awareness that these conversations may be uncomfortable, especially when discussing negative outcomes. Acknowledging this will help employees feel supported as you guide them through the review process. It’s important to stay open to employee concerns and remain solution-oriented. Let them know that you are there to support, guide, and coach them.  Officevibe’s team performance and development tool is a resource that helps managers navigate these types of conversations with our Conversation Engine that offers suggested talking points for even the trickiest discussions.

Master your feedback skills with our simple 10-step feedback framework.

hand holding an ebook on feedback

2. Consider the contribution of the employee beyond numbers and results

Note that employee competency can be gauged in many ways. We tend to equate employee performance with a black and white approach: what worked, what didn’t work, and how that affects salaries and benefits. Yet, there’s so much more to be discussed such as: effort, expertise, resources, collaboration, and of course, uncertain circumstances. Be sure to keep the conversation specific, and find examples that demonstrate their strengths and areas of improvement.

3. Discuss compensation and promotions with care, and be informed on how it works

When it comes to discussions about big-ticket items like promotions and raises, be clear about why or why not these are occurring. Get all the information you need from HR in advance to properly answer the questions your employees might have. This is crucial in the review process. For companies who are navigating big changes, the focus may not necessarily be on rewards, rather on retention and keeping things moving at a strong momentum. Be transparent about how decisions are made, that they aren’t personal nor are they based on performance alone. 

Quick tips for helpful conversations: 

  • Be clear that employee performance reviews mean more than the bottom line. 
  • Look at the bigger picture and consider: effort, leadership skills, and collaboration. 
  • Know that employees deal with change differently, and there may be extenuating contributors to their need for improvement and mentorship. 
  • Let them know that you value them, highlight their strengths. 
  • Be specific. Give actionable, tangible ways they can improve job performance, ask them what they need.
  • Avoid blame language. Instead of “You did this and you didn’t do that.” Try: “I noticed your leadership skills here, however, your strategy skills might need some work. How can we support you with that going forward?”

After: Keep it continuous

1. Use simple tools like Officevibe to facilitate continuous performance conversations

Don’t wait for the end of the year to give feedback on performance. This should be a constant discussion so employees can develop and grow continuously. With Officevibe, you can set and monitor goals, store action items, and hold structured 1-on-1 meetings. One of the keys to goal-setting success is making conversations habitual.

2. Remind employees that you’re there for them, especially in a remote context

We know that lately, casual water cooler conversations are tough to come by with managers running low on time, and teams working remotely. Ensure that your employees know they can book your time for quick conversations, ask you for frequent feedback, and establish trustworthy, on-going conversations. Format these employee reviews with objectives and outcomes, to clarify what is required and what is being worked towards.

As a thoughtful leader, your employees will value how you can routinely give them tangible tips on how to improve upon their work and acknowledge their strengths. Not only will you notice how you’ve nurtured their potential, but you’ll also contribute heavily to their evolution and development further lifting your team up to achieve their highest potential. 

Master your feedback skills with our simple 10-step feedback framework.

hand holding an ebook on feedback

Quick tips to keep it going: 

  • Wrap up your employee review with clear next steps.
  • Schedule follow up meetings at the end of each review.
  • Use Officevibe’s collaborative 1-on-1 agenda to set your talking points ahead of time, and let employees share theirs.
  • Keep feedback loops active in your day-to-day.
  • Keep track of constructive feedback with an appraisal form when applicable. 
  • Communicate with empathy and transparency.
  • Draw parallels between individual goal setting and project requirements.
  • Nurture employee growth by assigning them work that contributes to their development.
  • Avoid stopping the conversation. Instead of: “Let’s book some time together again next quarter.” Try: “Which habits can we adopt to help each other address this feedback?” 

It’s time to take a deep breath and relax your shoulders. The build-up to your annual performance review may have been the norm in the past, but as workplaces evolve, so are we. Making performance reviews consistent with open communication creates room for managers to focus on the strengths of their team, the limitless potential of their growth and be the pillar support that they need to make an impact.