Performance reviews strike fear in the hearts of employees everywhere. No matter how hard they’ve worked during the year, the process of being evaluated by a superior is nerve-wracking. And it’s even scarier if employees don’t know what to expect from the review process.
Studies show that 95% of employees are dissatisfied with their companies performance review process. That number is staggering. Employees find performance reviews stressful and biased, and an opaque review process only strengthens that impression.
Conversely, a standardized and transparent review process can go a long way toward easing employees’ nerves. Ideally, performance reviews should feel like an opportunity for learning and growth — not like going up against a firing squad. If employees know they will be treated impartially, the entire experience is more productive.
Create a review process where both employees and managers have the chance to assess their performance objectively. Employees should get the opportunity to digest that feedback before meeting in person and setting future goals. Use our template to create a transparent and fair remote performance review process that encourages employees instead of intimidating them.
Performance Review Best Practices
You don’t have to do performance reviews. There’s no law against just skipping them, and in fact, quite a few companies are starting to do just that. Rote reviews without thoughtful goals and ethos are at the heart of performance review antipathy.
So if you’re going to do them, do them right. Approach your review process thoughtfully to ensure that it’s unbiased and useful to both employees and managers.
Define the Goal of Performance Reviews
Performance reviews without a clear objective in mind are a waste of time. But a performance review with a clear sense of purpose can strengthen your company and employees. Spend some time thinking about why you’re running performance reviews and what you hope to achieve through the process.
Here are some common goals for performance reviews:
- Evaluate performance. Use reviews to determine raises or promotions, and weed out underperformers.
- Increase accountability. Self-reports can help you keep closer tabs on what everyone in the organization is working on and ensure everyone is pulling their weight. This heightened visibility is particularly useful in remote companies that rely on asynchronous communication.
- Encourage development. Use performance reviews as an opportunity to help employees set goals and evaluate their progress toward those goals.
- Strengthen corporate culture. Use performance reviews as a tool for building stronger relationships between managers and employees. Performance reviews that focus on growth over performance goals help create and reinforce a learning and development culture.
Give special consideration to the role of performance reviews in light of the current COVID-19 crisis. With employees already stressed and burnt out due to COVID, now is an excellent time to shift your performance review emphasis away from achieving peak performance and toward their emotional and social wellbeing. Weigh employee productivity alongside personal and world events, and use review meetings to assess how managers can best support employee efforts.
Don't Rank or Compare Employees
Ranking employees based on their performance is quickly becoming an outdated process. Doing so fosters negative attitudes among employees and the company as a whole.
Evaluate each employee based on their merits, outside of other employees’ performance. Measure each employee’s performance against their own growth goals and an impartial rubric, and never compare employees with one another.
Consider More Frequent Reviews
A lot can happen in the space of a year. Doing more frequent reviews provides greater visibility into workers’ performance and takes away some of the anxiety surrounding an annual review.
At Eduflow, we do performance reviews every quarter. This frequency helps us keep better tabs on our remote employees and catch any issues before they grow. Frequent goal-setting and regular check-ins promote accountability and help our employees advance faster.
Address internal biases
A significant criticism of performance reviews is that they are vulnerable to managerial bias. You want evaluations to be based on employee merit, not on a manager’s preconceived beliefs or mistaken impressions. Tackle this head-on by proactively addressing biases that could affect the review process.
Train managers in techniques to avoid phenomena like experience bias by looking for employee strengths beyond numerical performance numbers.
Make Reviews an Opportunity for Self-Reflection
Evaluations based only on a manager’s observations are one-sided and incomplete. Allow employees to participate in, and even steer, the review process to foster more valuable insights.
Our review process and template lean heavily on self-assessment. Employees have the chance to write a quarterly summary where they compile their achievements and accomplishments since their last review. They also review their performance using the same rubric as their manager.
At the end of the review process, make time for the employee to reflect on the process and set their own goals for the next quarter.
Our Performance Review Template
At Eduflow we internally use this performance review template to conduct our performance reviews. You can quickly adapt it to your own company to run in-person or remote reviews. Our template was made for developers, but it can be adapted to any role.
This is the first step in our review process. Employees write and submit a summary of the projects and tasks they’ve been working on since their last review.
This writing exercise is an opportunity for the employee to reflect on their progress over the quarter. It also serves as a recap for managers to assess the employee’s productivity.
We ask employees to include all projects—large, small, technical, and non-technical. To ensure conciseness and easy reading, they must keep their list to just a page in length. Here’s an example of what a quarterly summary looks like at Eduflow.
Employees score their recent performance using a rubric. The scorecard is a neutral mechanism for employees to assess their skill level.
Here are some example questions from our rubric for developers. We internally developed an outline of what we consider to be a great developer, and employees score themselves against that ideal.
Create a unique rubric for every position at your company, or use a standardized rubric that reflects your company’s values. A neutral “scorecard” will help measure employee progress and growth over time. It also helps employees identify areas they can set goals around.
Managers then assess their impression of the employee’s performance using the exact same rubric. They identify what they believe are the employee’s competencies and where they have room to improve.
By using identical scales, we can compare impressions and identify potential areas of disagreement. We can drill down on those disparities during the review call.
Employees receive their manager’s feedback and have a chance to process it before they meet.
We give the employee a few days to digest and reflect on their manager’s feedback so that they can come to the review meeting prepared with their thoughts and potential goals for the next quarter.
The next step in the process requests that employees book time on their manager’s calendar to go over the review. In-house employees meet in person, and remote employees connect over Zoom. Either way, the “face-to-face” component is essential for such a sensitive meeting.
The conversation should focus on the employee’s achievements and performance areas that need improvement. Try to keep the tone upbeat and positive, even if the feedback itself is negative. You want to give the employee space to communicate their needs.
Goal Setting for Next Quarter
Finally, the employee writes up a meeting summary. They cover major discussion points and their goals for the next quarter. We keep this document on file as an official record of the meeting and the intended next steps.
Ask employees to set concrete goals for the future. Instead of, “I want to communicate better,” ask them to identify specific steps they can take like “I will send out a daily status update to show where I am with my current tasks.”
Eduflow Makes Performance Reviews Easier
Performance reviews don’t have to be adversarial. Use them as an opportunity to build trust and a stronger relationship with your employees by positioning yourself as a champion for their career growth.
Customize our performance review template to create a clear and easy review process. It’s simple for both managers and subordinates to use, and it keeps all important documents together in one place.
Employees may never look forward to performance reviews, but if you create a transparent and helpful process, at least they won’t dread them.