Steps and Examples on How To Write a Performance Review

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 29 September 2022 | Published 27 July 2021

Updated 29 September 2022

Published 27 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Senior staff members usually write performance reviews to provide feedback on the work of the employees they oversee. These reviews allow managers and employees to align their expectations and discuss position changes or raises. Writing performance reviews can require tact, attention to detail and honesty. In this article, we outline how to write a performance review, list 20 tips for writing a performance reviews and discuss two examples.

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How to write a performance review

You can follow these steps on how to write a performance review:

1. Take notes

Throughout the performance period, take notes on your employees' performance by recording times when they exceed expectations and areas where they can improve. These notes can help you get an impartial understanding of their performance and encompass the full scope of their work. You can also record examples that lend credibility to your review. In the review, you can use these examples as case studies to figure out how they can improve, and what actions they can take in similar situations.

2. Use consistent formats

Choose a review format that you can use across all employees and review periods. This can help you save time by using a familiar format to write the reviews. It can also create consistency for your employees. Using the same format makes it easier for your employees to anticipate what they can expect from a review period. It also encourages the team to view performance reviews as a series of tools that help them grow.

You can use software that provides reviews and schedules reminders about when they are due. Alternatively, you can create your own review format that provides relevant information about the employee, their position and job description, and the criteria they're being reviewed against. Whatever form of review you choose, try to make reviews available for reference by you and the employee after the review period so both of you can remember what you discussed during future review periods.

3. Open on a positive note

When writing the review, start by reminding your employee of something positive they contributed to the team during the review period. A helpful performance review is a tool that employees can use to grow in their positions to become better. Recognising accomplishments establishes that the employee is a valued member of the team and keeps employees focused on the goal of improvement. It can also help establish that you're going to be impartial and fair by recognising good work and bad, to lend credibility to the review.

Related: What Is Good Work? (With Definitions and Examples)

4. Address strengths and weaknesses

All employees have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and if they're able to identify and work on their shortcomings, they may become more valuable assets to the team. In your review, leave space to address the employees' strengths and weaknesses exhibited during the review period. Addressing their strengths shows you appreciate the hard work they do, and that you notice and value their skills. This can boost morale and give your employees an understanding of what their position on the team is as a whole.

You can also designate a space in the review for weaknesses, or areas where the employee could improve. In this section, make sure you are being clear and direct, so there's no confusion about your expectations. This provides helpful information for the employee about where they can focus their attention to improve their performance.

5. Be constructive

Provide actionable steps the employee can follow to improve. A helpful performance review serves as a constructive tool to structure employees' growth. Frame your review in terms of what improvements you would like to see in the future and advice on how to achieve success. This shifts the focus away from past mistakes to the improvement of the employees' performance.

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6. Provide new expectations

After discussing the past performance of your employee, be sure to set up new expectations for the future review period. This establishes a continuity between review periods with the expectation that employees continue to grow and improve. Provide space for discussion between yourself and your employees about new expectations, job descriptions or individual responsibilities. The more transparent you are on the expectations for your employees, the better their performance can be. Be sure to include specific milestones that employees can work towards.

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7. End on a positive note

End your performance reviews on a positive note to inspire your employees to continue to produce their best work. You want performance reviews to be encouraging for your employees. They serve as opportunities to connect about expectations and career goals, so you want them to leave the performance review feeling that they are capable and valued. This boosts morale and makes your workplace a more enjoyable place to work in. If you're required to deliver a review with negative feedback, ending on a positive note can reestablish a sense of trust between you and your employee going forward.

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20 tips for writing a performance review

Here's a list of tips that you can use for writing a strong performance review for your employees:

  1. Always be honest in your reviews and any follow-up discussions.

  2. Provide regular, informal feedback, not just annually, so that reviews don't come as a surprise.

  3. Promote clarity in expectations and feedback for managers and employees.

  4. Focus on positive feedback by acknowledging your employee's strengths.

  5. Always provide constructive comments for the employee to improve, even to your top performers.

  6. Relate your feedback back to the core values of the company to provide a context for your expectations.

  7. Ask other managers what their experience working with the employee has been for more information.

  8. Speak to teammates about the employees' performance to understand how they interact with them and how they're adapting to the work culture.

  9. Deliver your written feedback in person if possible, or over video chat, if working remotely, so you can use it as a starting point for discussion.

  10. Prompt employees to comment on issues you raise to check for understanding and promote problem-solving.

  11. Use tangible examples that apply to the employee's work to illustrate your points.

  12. Write with a tone of mutual respect and understanding.

  13. Acknowledge wins or successes of your employees regularly, not just in performance reviews.

  14. Use meaningful and action-based words to express your points clearly.

  15. Avoid exaggeration or personal feelings.

  16. Focus on improvement over punishment.

  17. Ask questions to establish their goals or their struggles in their current position.

  18. Create a calm and undisrupted environment for the review.

  19. End the review with a plan for what steps they can take next, both immediately after the review, and over time.

  20. Keep notes about solutions that you and the employee intend to implement for their future reference.

Related: Career Goals: How To Set, Examples and Tips for Achieving

Examples of performance reviews

Here are some examples of performance reviews:

Example 1

"Lee has been a great addition to the team, and his coworkers speak highly of his teamwork and positive attitude. Lee exhibited the company's core values of curiosity through his quick adaptation to our business processes, his attention to detail during training and his open communication with questions he had while adjusting to his new role. This allowed him to gain a quick and complete understanding of what our expectations for him were, and we have been glad to see him settling in so well.

Going into the new review period, I hope to see Lee improve his performance of our core value of dedication to the customer. Overall, his positive attitude has made it easy to work with him, and customers have responded well. However, there was a customer complaint that Lee was not quick to reply to a customer question that was escalated to his manager. In the future, Lee can respond to customer questions within 24 hours, or reach out to his coworkers or managers for help if he can't help the customer.

Overall, Lee has added value to our customer service team, and has shown dedication to the company mission. I believe he will continue to grow and improve our customer service relations."

Example 2

"Emma has been with our team for a long time and has been in her managerial position for a year. She is familiar with multiple roles that make her a valuable asset to the team. Emma continues to provide consistent sales, in line with the expectations of her position. She also answers questions and supports her team. This embodies our core value of respect, both for her teammates and the customers she works with.

In the next review period, I hope to see an increase in customer conversions for some lower-ranking sales team members. Two members of her team have plateaued under their sales goal. I am interested to hear ideas that Emma has for how to increase the performance of her team and how to implement those ideas within the next quarter. I am setting up monthly check-ins with Emma to go over sales numbers and new initiatives to support Emma's managerial duties in the future.

Emma can set up a meeting to discuss questions or clarifications. Emma has shown great skill with customer relations and her personal sales goals, and can focus on managerial duties to grow into a strong leader at our company."

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