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Mastering Performance Reviews [8 minutes]

Whether you call it an appraisal, a performance review, or something else entirely, carving out an official space for you to discuss individual performance with each of your employees is an essential part of getting the best out of your people. A formal review allows you and your employees to consider progress, update job descriptions and agree objectives, moving forward. Most people find six month or annual reviews work well. Follow these top tips to make sure your employee performance review process becomes a driver of performance.

Plan your performance review meetings

Whatever you and your team decide is the best approach, you should all agree the format, type and style of individual performance reviews. In general it helps if they are:

  • Regular
  • Simple – keep paperwork to a minimum
  • Planned – ask the employee to plan too
  • Kept to an agreed timescale
  • In a suitable location – ensure there is privacy

As a manager, you should always fully plan the review and explain what you expect of the individual before and during the session. You should also encourage constructive feedback on the review process at the end of the session, to help you and the organisation to improve.

Use two basic principles to structure your discussions with an employee:

The past

  • What has worked/ not worked (prepare three of each for discussion)?
  • What were the agreed objectives/ actions and have they been reached?
  • Has the individual’s development plan been followed?
  • Has support from the management team been effective?

The future

  • Revisit the company vision and both individual and team objectives
  • Agree what the individual would like to achieve by the next review
  • Ask what support the individual will need and what development they require

Keep it open

When you’re in the review, don’t do all the talking. Asking questions and taking the time to listen will make it easier for your employees to open up. At each part of the review, try and follow these steps, to get the most out of the process:

  • Inform. Give a brief overview of the situation
  • Invite. Ask your employee specific questions related to that situation
  • Listen. Really focus on what you are being told and what actions are needed because of it
  • Acknowledge. Demonstrate you have understood, feedback on key points and discuss steps to move forward

Take this further

Remember, it’s not all about being official. Reviews and feedback can – and should – happen at any time.

Make yourself available and open to talk. Knowing you’re around if anyone needs to work through an issue will give your team confidence and encouragement to push themselves further. You might want to block out time every month for open surgeries or drop-ins so that everyone in your team knows when they can get hold of you.

3 Steps to Make Your Objectives SMART

Making sure objectives are SMART is a key skill for any manager. But what does it acually mean?

SMART (or... specific, measurable, agreed, attainable and achievable, realistic and resourced, time-bound) objectives will help you prioritise work, monitor progress and celebrate people’s achievements.  Keeping things SMART helps people focus on what’s important and what needs to be done. It makes achieving objectives real and put the possibility within everyone’s grasp. And let’s face it – we all love that feeling of achievement. Making sure that everyone's objectives align with the organisation's business plan is the key. Follow the following steps for setting SMART objectives:

Step 1. Identify your priorities

Look at the vision you’ve set for your organisation and consider which of these key areas are priorities:

  • Finance – increased sales, cuts in spending, better profit margins
  • Product or service – improving existing products or services to match your customers’ requirements, developing new products or services
  • Quality – introducing new quality processes or achieving accreditation to a quality standard
  • Customers – attracting new customers or improving customer satisfaction
  • Personnel and development – recruiting new specialists or improving the skills of existing employees
  • Operations – introducing new information technology or upgrading premises

You may find you have a long list, so prioritise. Which 1 objective is the most important? 

Step 2. Make sure your objectives are SMART

The next step is to take your priorities and make a SMART objective from each. Make each priority into a concise statement and run it through the SMART test.

For each objective ask yourself whether it is: 

  • Specific. Will everyone be able to understand it? A vague objective leads to poor results
  • Measurable. Clear targets allow you to measure whether you are making the progress you expect or have anticipated
  • Agreed, attainable and achievable. Objectives must be agreed so your people can own them. They should be attainable and achievable by the person you have asked to meet the objective
  • Realistic and resourced. Given your resources and the current climate, is your objective realistic? Do you have the resources (the time, money and equipment) to make it happen? 
  • Timebound. You must set a clear timeframe for objectives so the people working on the objective are clear when it has to be achieved

An objective will only be useful if it passes the SMART test. If it doesn’t pass, change it until it does.

Examples of SMART objectives would include ‘to achieve a 15% net profit by 31 March’, ‘to generate 20% revenue from online sales before 31 December’ or ‘to recruit three new people to the marketing team by the beginning of January’.

Step 3. Make sure your objectives are a good fit and are assigned to the right people

After you’ve produced your objectives, give them the common-sense check and make sure they fit together to form a unified strategy.

Once you’ve decided on your SMART objectives, put them in a format that makes it easy to review, update and use to brief. 

Free templates

Download a template job description to recruit the right candidate and ensure your people are clear on what’s expected of them.

Download our guide to creating roles for each individual where everyone feels involved, motivated and trusted.

Download a template to score and understand your feedback style.


How to Become a Better Leader (with ideas you can try)

Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not "making friends and influencing people", that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. 

Peter F Drucker

Setting expectations: Skills, Behaviours and Knowledge.

An effective manager identifies the skills, behaviours and knowledge required for everyone to meet their objectives.

The good news is that there are some simple, logical steps to take to do this. High performing teams are excellent at setting standards; the best leaders know that success hinges first on clarifying expectations.

Every Manager is a Leader. Become a Role Model.

Everybody needs someone to look up to in the workplace. Everyone needs a role model. Evaluate your own skills as a leader and reflect on how you can better support your people with this simple resource. 

This may seem like a daunting responsibility for a manager or employer, but it needn't be. It's largely just a matter of what we call “walking the talk”.

IIP online functionality release: 051016

Automated security review for all elevated site users  

We have now introduced functionality which will automate a review of permissions for elevated users every 90 days to verify your account for security purposes. This applies to all users with the following roles:

Engaging with Investors in People - Bury St. Edmunds

Investors in People accredited organisations are more profitable, sustainable and optimistic about the future. Understanding performance drives success. Making the right investments in your people is the smart choice.


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