10 Employee performance review tips that actually improve performance

10 tips for performance review mesh

What’s worse than an employee performance process, that doesn’t lead to any improvements in performance? That’s the issue with most employee performance appraisals that were used traditionally. They served more as a nuisance than an aide for most managers in creating any real changes in employee performance. 

The frequency of these conversations was also a challenge in traditional processes, and they didn’t really help create a positive experience that would motivate employees and help them grow. That’s why we’ve created a list of tips that’ll help you conduct performance reviews in a manner that actually improves performance. 

What are Performance Reviews?

A performance review is a two-way, individualized conversation between a manager and an employee about performance impact, development, and growth. It is a critical component of an organization’s overall performance management strategy.

Traditionally, performance reviews have occurred once a year and have focused on evaluating past performance. Modern performance reviews should happen quarterly or monthly and should focus on driving and improving future performance.

So how do you motivate and align employee performance to set your team up for success?


Understanding Performance Reviews

1. Understand the aspects of an effective performance review

Performance reviews give employees and managers a chance to discuss how employees are doing and how they can do better, together. Characteristics of good performance reviews are:

  • Held quarterly or monthly
  • Two-way conversations
  • Review recent performance and coach to impact, development, & growth
  • Open-door policy
  • Transparent and collaborative
  • Based on rich and real-time employee data
  • Conclude with next steps and follow-up

2. Understand how performance reviews impact the 3 tiers of success

Employee success: Performance conversations are perfect opportunities to make or break trust. An open, honest, and regular dialogue helps to build trust among employees, managers, and the organization at large. Employees want to know—and deserve to know—exactly where they stand in terms of performance.

Ongoing performance conversations can boost employee success by:

  • Helping employees identify their needs, desires, and challenges
  • Cluing managers in on obstacles and decisions before they impact performance
  • Opening up opportunities to discuss feedback, celebrate recognition, and reinforce alignment

Team Success: Performance conversations help managers evaluate team performance by giving them a clear picture of how each team member is performing. They’ll know where the team is strong, where the team needs help or development, how to adjust goals, and the team’s potential to impact larger goals.

Organisational Success: If employees aren’t aligned and on a clear path to their own success, organizations will have difficulty achieving important goals and objectives. Performance conversations allow managers to connect employees to the bigger mission and goals of the organization.

Preparing for Performance Reviews

3. Performance criteria, employee goals and progress need to be in sync

Managers and employees should have a clear understanding of what constitutes good or poor performance—and this starts with organizations clearly communicating performance criteria. Effective performance criteria should help managers and employees:

  • Measure impact
  • Define success 
  • Prove performance plans are working
  • Determine where to go next

4. Prepare a conducive environment

Finding time is difficult. And getting in the right mental and emotional state can be even harder. But making performance reviews a priority means that employees will feel heard, managers will coach more effectively, and the organization will reap the results.

The environment you choose for your performance conversations has a big impact on the overall vibe of the discussion. With your workspace in mind, think about what message you will be sending based on the location, time, noise, and comfort level of your meeting space.

5. Gather the data and create an agenda

Managers should approach performance conversations with rich employee data from a variety of sources. This data should help guide the conversation and build a more meaningful relationship between manager and employee. Bring data and examples from:

  • Previous performance conversations
  • Notes from 1-on-1 meetings
  • Examples of recognition
  • Recent feedback from pulse surveys
  • Talent review ratings

If you use Mesh, or are familiar with our platform you’d already know that this step is taken care of, since we’ve made it so simple to gather this information for managers and employees in an easy way, that all these elements are accessible with a click of a button. 

Creating an agenda will help you stay organized and on track and help you avoid digressing into conversations that don’t need your attention. 

6. Manage employee expectations

When employees aren’t achieving goals or objectives, these meetings can help determine why and how to help an employee improve. Start off on the right foot by aligning on expectations for the meeting itself.

  • First, an employee should know their role in preparing for the meeting. They should review the agenda, add topics they’d like to cover, and know where and when the meeting will take place.
  • Second, employees should know what to bring to the meeting and what information might be referenced or pulled into the discussion from the manager’s side.
  • Finally, employees should have a clear idea of what their responsibilities will be after the meeting and how their manager plans to help them succeed.

Conducting Performance Reviews

7. Use past for examples but focus on the future

Traditional performance reviews focus on past behavior and performance. While acknowledging past performance is important, if that’s the only thing you talk about in a performance review, you’re not going to drive future performance.

Future conversations align with employee wishes for more feedback and development opportunities. Employees want immediate feedback so they can improve performance on-the-go, rather than waiting for their annual performance review. They also want to know you care about their future—whether that’s with your organization or not.

8. Listen and ask the right questions

Managers who approach performance conversations with an evaluation mindset may make employees feel like they’re on trial. Ask these questions to shift your mindset from judge to coach.

We’ve made a set of questions that will help you realign your language so you can easily ask the questions in an empathetic and easy manner. The great thing is, these questions will help you be more of an active listener and help you build a trusting relationship with your people.  

 9. Agree upon next steps

After the conversation concludes managers and employees should review notes, define next steps, and follow up with shared comments and feedback. Without these items, performance conversations feel unresolved. If you want your review to actually improve performance, creating an action plan is vital.

Following – up on Performance Reviews

10. Keep the conversation ongoing

Performance conversations should happen regularly. When your meeting concludes, put the next performance conversation on the calendar. Better yet, schedule a series of conversations throughout the year. Whether these meetings occur quarterly or monthly, setting a regular cadence shows you are invested in your employees’ continued growth and development.

Give these tips a shot, and share them with your fellow managers, and get the results your people truly deserve!


Bonus: We’ve created a list of 25 questions to ask in your next performance review to go from being a good to great boss! We’re sure you’re curious!

If you liked this article, there are a lot more that may interest you. Check them out here


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