Rethinking Performance Reviews

Good old performance reviews! This tool, for better or worse, can be used to help management assess the productivity of their workforce. The idea of performance reviews can excite or terrify your employees, and management may come to dread the process.

At their best, performance reviews motivate employees, timely correct performance issues, increase productivity goals, and retain crucial talent.  At their worst, they can intimidate employees, devalue performance, fail to address performance issues, or, even worse, fail to correct overall short-comings in the workforce.  

The long-winded questions and open-ended criteria can frustrate even the best of your employees, so we must ask “how should we structure performance reviews?”

Leveraging Performance Reviews to Fit your Needs

To ease some of the stress in creating a performance review, employers should look at (1) what is the objective behind these performance reviews, (2) what they want to measure, (3) who should be involved, (4) and how they should format these reviews.  

What are you trying to accomplish?

The main question to tackle while evaluating your performance reviews is “why?” Why are we doing these performance reviews? What is our objective?

The main reason to conduct performance reviews is to highlight to employees and management where your workforce can improve. By the end of these reviews, employees should have a clear picture on how they can improve, and what steps they need to take to succeed. These reviews can be beneficial for your workforce as a whole.

What should you measure?

Performance reviews should be brief, measurable and goal-orientated. In measuring an employee’s performance, it is helpful to have criteria that can be discussed. Below are examples of such categories:

  • Job duties
  • Communication skills
  • Dependability
  • Productivity
  • Innovation
  • Initiative
  • Growth
  • Accomplishments

Who should be involved?

A first step in determining who should be involved is to determine if you want your performance reviews to be (1) self-review, (2) peer review, (3) or supervisor review. Once you determine which type of performance review you would like to implement, you can decide who specifically should be involved in the review of the employee. Keep in mind, that these reviews should be concise and highlight where employees can improve in their position. To that end, you don’t want to include distant supervisors to provide lengthy reviews of employees they have little interaction with.

Which format would be best for us?

If you want to have a meaningful review with your employees, both parties should be a part of an open discussion that allows everyone to voice concerns and feedback.

A popular option to maximize communication is using reflection as a standard for review. This allows you to critique or award past behaviors and achievements. From this review, you can clearly set-out expectations or goals for the individual. You can include reflection into a number of performance review formats:

  • Essay
  • Numeric Scale
  • Narrative
  • 360 Review

To stay apprised on performance reviews and for any questions, please contact your Thompson Coe attorney at (651) 389-5000 or email us at

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Kevin Mosher