Performance Review Discussions

The performance review discussion between employee and manager is at least as important as the evaluative outcome. It makes your mutual expectations clear, sets goals for both parties, and maintains open lines of communication. The discussion should be just one part of a year‐long process of performance management.

To make the written portion of performance review effective, the supervisor should obtain as much objective information as possible about the employee’s performance during the review period. It is a good idea to take notes during the year on both positive and corrective events so you will have concrete examples of behavior to use.

Other sources of data about employee performance include performance documentation such as attendance records, letters of complaint or commendation, examples of poor or outstanding work, activity reports, and your notes from observing and coaching sessions.

The Performance Review Discussion

  • Give the employee sufficient notice of the time and place of the meeting. Allow at least one hour for the discussion. Hold the review in a private place where you will not be interrupted.
  • Bring to the meeting the performance review instrument you have completed, the employee’s self‐assessment if they have one, and any other relevant documentation, such as the job description, work products, etc.
  • Open the discussion by stating the purpose of the meeting and summarizing the points you will be covering.

The objectives for the discussion are to:

  • Review, discuss and confirm your understanding of the accomplishment of goals/duties;
  • Recognize strengths and achievements;
  • Confirm previously identified areas needing improvement and agree about how improvement is to be accomplished;
  • Review the employee’s career development goals;
  • Set new goals/standards for the next review period;
  • Agree upon the support you will provide the employee in the coming year.

If the employee has done a self‐assessment, consider that in conjunction with your assessment, and discuss areas of agreement and difference. Consider whether anything raised in your discussion of the employee’s self‐assessment sheds new light on your assessment, and be prepared to modify your review if appropriate. If performance meets or exceeds the standards, recognize these accomplishments.

∅ If performance needs improvement, identify specific areas for development and jointly develop an action plan.

∅ Ask the employee why s/he is not meeting standards. You can offer your own input on possible causes, but avoid health or disability issues, or other areas protected by law. The goal of this discussion is for both of you to understand the reasons why the standards are not being achieved. Ask the employee for potential solutions, and brainstorm together until you both can agree on specific, practical solutions.

∅ Discuss previously identified areas for improvement. Ask the employee how s/he plans to improve performance and introduce your own ideas for improvement planning. No problems should be raised during the review that you have not discussed with the employee during the review period. Remember to critique the work and specific behaviors/actions, not the person. Be as specific as possible, relating areas of improvement to the work standards.

∅ Be open to employee questions and concerns. Listen carefully to be sure you understand the issues, and avoid responding defensively. If you need more information, meet with the employee again at a later date. Do not let yourself get caught up in a debate or argument. When employees require corrective feedback, give it straight. When employees merit praise, give it to them.

∅ Attempt to resolve differences, misunderstandings and disagreements that surface during the review. Be sure that both of you are satisfied that all important points have been covered.

∅ Write what you will do to support the employee in improving performance and developing skills.

∅ Set goals and update standards for the next review period.

∅ Finish the discussion by summarizing what was discussed and the results of the meeting. Reinforce work that was well done. Close on a positive note.

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