4 Ways to Make Your Performance Reviews More Impactful

If you want an engaged workforce, it’s time to put the annual performance review to bed and do this instead.

Written by Ray Smith
Published on Jun. 24, 2024
4 Ways to Make Your Performance Reviews More Impactful
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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While most people in the workforce today have had some type of performance review, many have a difficult time remembering what exactly was discussed or what actions resulted from their review.

Professional development and feedback are two critical components of workplace productivity, employee satisfaction and employee engagement. Disengaged employees can lead to decreased satisfaction ratings at work and smaller productive outputs that hurt the company’s bottom line.

Companies must rethink their approach to delivering feedback and revamp outdated processes to make the best use of resources. For growing companies, this is especially critical to the short- and long-term success of their teams.

Here are several considerations for making impactful change and delivering high-performance reviews.

Performance Review Statistics

  •  Only one-third of professionals actually care about their performance reviews or use the results in any meaningful way.
  • 38 percent of respondents feel performance reviews are at least somewhat useful.
  • Almost 30 percent feel these reviews are a total waste of time.

Source: Arbinger

More on Performance ReviewsWhy Employers Are Separating Pay and Performance Conversations


1. Empower Employees to Take the Initiative

The first step is to encourage employees to be proactive in their review process. It starts with creating a safe environment where employees feel comfortable to think out loud, ask bold questions, challenge the status quo, work through obstacles and provide feedback to leadership.

Empower employees to prepare for the check-in meeting and take it as a learning opportunity to solicit feedback from leadership regarding company mission, vision and direction. Instead of viewing performance reviews as daunting, one-sided discussions, putting them in the driver’s seat centralizes the employee to the process.

Ahead of each meeting, employees should share self reviews, compiled from both self reflection and feedback from peers, as well as action plans for improvement. Employees should then walk their manager through their self-review, highlighting key pieces of feedback, both negative and positive, and talking through what that scenario or situation looked like from their perspective.

By the end of the meeting, employees should have clear, actionable steps for improvement, as well as a way to track improvements. By tracking their progress, employees can use future check-ins to discuss what’s working, what isn’t and where they might need to pivot.


2. Check in More Frequently

When you hear “performance review,” you probably think of an annual conversation with a manager and someone more senior at an organization. For most people, that’s the only time they have a conversation about their performance with leadership.

But reviews and check-ins should happen much more frequently.

Managers should check in with their direct reports weekly or biweekly to discuss day-to-day tasks and tackle any challenges employees are facing. While these meetings are not official performance reviews, they allow managers to ensure workflows stay on track and in line with expectations.

A manager and senior-level person on the team should also check in with the employee at least once a month. This can be in a quick 15-minute sync or standup meeting where both parties discuss any issues or feedback, how the direct report is tracking on their goals and how their performance has been overall.

Checking in more frequently nurtures a relationship between manager and employee that encourages open and honest dialogue, which is a critical step in empowering employees to voice concerns and explore career goals and opportunities.

This supports a resilient, innovative and engaged culture.


3. Focus on Impact

Bring an employee’s impact on their colleagues or work environment into the conversation instead of simply focusing on the work they’re doing. This provides them with a holistic view of their performance.

For example, an employee might be completing all of their tasks, but they’re also creating challenges for their colleagues, such as accidentally offloading to a co-worker or creating communication barriers by not explaining a project brief clearly.

Or say someone is hitting all of their deadlines, but in order to do so, they’re rushing through their work, delivering content that’s below expectations. As a result, someone else needs to edit their work or even start over. What was once a project that hit a deadline is now a project that is costing everyone a lot of time and potentially money.

Adopting a big-picture view highlights challenges employees may not be aware of. From there, they can make a plan to avoid these challenges in the future, contributing to smoother workflows for all.

As long as they are in a work culture that values accountability and teamwork, when an employee understands the impact their actions have on others, they are going to want to improve.


4. Discuss the Right Topics

Exploring topics that matter to employees makes reviews more valuable. Reviews should always touch on employee accomplishments, how they’ve contributed to the overall success of the company and the positive impact they’ve had on their peers.

To keep employees motivated and satisfied, performance reviews should also include conversations about employee goals and where they see themselves in five or 10 years, how the company can help them get there and how they directly relate to the overall company success.

The employee should prepare these goals ahead of time and have already considered the impact they will have on the company and their colleagues.

Employees don’t want to feel stagnant in their roles, so talk through new training opportunities or professional development stipends and courses. You should also use this time to have transparent conversations about promotional opportunities and salary increases.

More on Salary IncreasesA Guide to Merit Pay: Reward Your High Performers


The Key to Retention and Productivity

High-performance reviews can be an incredible tool in creating a more accountable workforce. They can establish clear lines of responsibility, measure impact so employees’ contributions are tangible to them and help managers identify where employees need additional coaching.

Reviews can also minimize surprises for employees about performances and highlight where they need to make changes, helping employees stay engaged, increasing self-awareness and reinforcing a team mindset.

When done correctly, performance reviews can be transformational to the overall success of the business and for the success of employees, including enhanced professional development, productivity and retention. As employees continue to evolve, so should the way organizations review their performance. 

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