How to Conduct Meaningful Performance Reviews

Document created by 1050210 on Nov 17, 2014
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Published Date: 10/27/2014


Reneé Watkins

By Reneé Watkins


Performance reviews can be a dreaded task for both employee and employer. Many people dislike preparing them and preparing for them. A performance review meeting can often reflect this feeling of dread and therefore be badly conducted. A badly-conducted performance review can leave an employee feeling demotivated.


There are some common mistakes made that will turn a performance review into a bad experience and diminish the value of the opportunity:


  • Often performance reviews focus too much on the “review process” and too little on the “employee progress.” Most employees are interested in two primary components: a) is there going to be an increase in compensation and, b) what is their next step on their career path. Too many reviews do not include a discussion on where the employee is in their career, where they would like to go and how to help them get there.
  • There is usually a discussion on whether expectations since the last performance review were met, but sometimes the conversation surrounding expectations ends there, as if the employee has reached their full potential. An employee should definitely be congratulated on meeting established expectations. Now, set new, perhaps even higher, expectations that the company would like to see achieved and the employee feels they can meet. Set goals for the next review.
  • Reviews and compensation increases should not be parts of the same conversation. Make sure the employee understands, this conversation is an employee review. Any resulting compensation changes will be a separate discussion. This way, you have the employee’s undivided attention without “money” getting in the way.


There are some “do’s” and “don’ts” that can be used to turn a “dreaded” performance review into an opportunity for meaningful employee engagement.




  • Don’t store feedback throughout the entire review period and dump it all in one meeting. Positive and negative feedback should be given all throughout the review period.
  • Don’t use a “scorecard” with numbers and letters. No one likes grades. Just discuss with the employee in plain language how they are performing according to expectations.
  • Don’t speak in generalities. They can be subject to interpretation. Be specific and detailed with your statements.
  • Don’t use a review for discipline. Progressive discipline should be handled with a separate meeting.




  • Do maintain focus. Make sure you keep on track with the important goals for the employee and do not get off track by talking about petty items.
  • Do give direct feedback. Again, do not wait until the review to give all the positive and negative feedback at once. The review should be a summary of the review period, with no surprises.
  • Do have a review process for everyone. The review process should be the same for every employee, even the C-levels.
  • Do allow for reviews to be a two-way communication. Encourage feedback and questions from the employee. This is an opportunity for both sides to learn.
  • Do focus on the future, not the past. The past should be reviewed in order to make a better future for the employee. Leave the review with a plan for positive improvement and meaningful expectations going forward.


CAI’s upcoming Conducting Effective Performance Appraisals training program will help managers improve their ability to evaluate their employees in a thorough, clear and consistent way, leading to increased productivity. For more information on the November 20 course, please go to