Frequently Asked Questions about Performance Reviews

December 4, 2023
Performance Reviews FAQs

Recognizing employees for their achievements can have a meaningful impact on your business, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or that you won’t have questions along the way. We’ve compiled some of the more frequently asked questions concerning performance reviews to help you with some of the common concerns.

When and how often should I conduct performance reviews?

There are no federal laws dictating periodic performance reviews. Though, some states have industry-specific guidelines for performance reviews, such as teachers in Illinois.

If your state’s labor laws don’t dictate performance reviews, it’s advisable to implement a clear company policy to ensure that your review process is applied equally to all of your employees.

Set a Schedule for Formal Reviews

Conducting annual performance reviews near the end of the year is a relatively common practice. However, if your schedule allows and you have the management resources to do so, it may be more effective to implement bi-annual or quarterly reviews. Frequent reviews can help keep employees focused on improving their performance, as well as allowing for more opportunities to recognize hard-working employees’ efforts.

Allow for Additional Situational Reviews

Some employees need to be reviewed more often than others, for example recently hired employees, those who’ve been repeatedly warned against a specific behavior, or those put on a probationary period.

For example, your performance review policy could require new hires to be reviewed after their first 3 months, and again after their first 6. You could also require employees to be reviewed after they receive a given number of warnings, or at the end of a probationary period. Just be sure your performance review policy is applied equally to all of your employees.

Best practices for scheduling performance reviews

A best practice is to hold formal performance reviews for all employees at least once per year. Be sure to treat employees equally in regards to the regularity of their scheduled reviews.

Should we hold performance reviews if we don’t have the budget for increases in salary?

There’s no federal law requiring you to conduct performance reviews. However, regardless of your budget for salary increases, having performance reviews is a best practice.

Purpose of Performance Reviews

The purpose of performance reviews isn’t only to determine whether or not an employee gets a raise or promotion. They’re also meant to provide constructive feedback for the employee so that they can improve their performance and benefit your company.

How to Conduct a Good Performance Review

Here are a few tips for conducting a good performance review:

  • Be specific – Don’t just tell the employee they need to improve performance; tell them how. For example, We’d like to see your sales increase by 15%.
  • Set deadlines – For each change you suggest, tell them when you’d like to see improvement, such as, We’d like to see your sales increase 15% by the end of December.
  • Be realistic– Increase your sales 15% by the end of the month, probably isn’t feasible. We’d like you to increase your sales 15% by the end of the quarter, is a much more realistic goal.
  • Evaluate performance, not personality – Focus on how they do their job, not their personality traits. Don’t say, You’re aloof. Say, You don’t seem to be connecting with your customers, which is affecting your sales numbers.
  • Listen to the employee – Performance reviews can help you improve too. Ask the employee what’s working and what isn’t. Ask, Is there anything that we as managers can do that would help you improve your sales?

Final Tip

If you follow the tips above, performance reviews will encourage employee improvement

and ultimately benefit your company. So regardless of whether or not you have the budget for raises, conduct performance reviews anyway.

How do we handle performance reviews for employees that change supervisors or jobs in a year?

Performance reviews ensure that employees are working effectively, that employees have a chance to express their concerns within their given role, and that an employee and an employer are on the same page in terms of expectations.

Although there are certainly some guidelines that can be followed to ensure a successful performance review, there aren’t any hard rules on the subject, and how one is conducted is a decision for the employer or human resources manager to make.

If an Employee has Changed Supervisors

For employees who may have been promoted, changed positions, or otherwise changed supervisors, the problem is that their new supervisor may not have had the time to properly evaluate their performance.

One solution could be to have the previous supervisor do the review. If possible, the best option may be to have both supervisors present for the review.

If the previous supervisor has left the company, the only option is for the new supervisor to review the employee’s file, or to talk strictly about recent performance.

Whatever the case may be, honesty will be key to this review. It won’t do any good for a supervisor to talk about performance issues they know nothing about. A newly appointed supervisor should acknowledge the freshness of their relationship. In this case, the review can be used as a tool for a recently acquainted employee and supervisor to get to know each other better. Talking points may include previous versus current roles, and any preference or procedural differences that the new supervisor may have compared with the previous one.

Advice for Successful Performance Reviews

Be honest: If you can’t be honest with an employee about your perspective on their performance, how can you expect them to know what it will take to improve?

Let the employee review you: Understanding what you can do to help improve an employee’s performance will be mutually beneficial.

Come prepared: Review the job description, duties, and employment contract. Think of some examples of when the employee did their job really well, as well as some things that they need to change or improve on.

Separate work performance reviews from wage increase reviews: It does require the added time of conducting two reviews, but you’ll have the benefit of an employee’s full attention if they aren’t thinking about the raise they are hoping for.

Final Tip

If an employee’s supervisor has recently changed it may be best for their previous supervisor, or both their previous and current supervisors to host their performance review.

What should I do if my employer doesn’t conduct performance reviews?

Every employee wonders how they’re performing at work, if they’re meeting their manager’s expectations, and if they’re on track for a raise or a promotion. But what if you work for a company that doesn’t have an established performance review process in place?

While it’s certainly the norm for companies to conduct annual or biannual performance reviews, some smaller companies or startups might not have this process in place (yet). So how should you go about soliciting feedback about your performance if your company doesn’t have a review process?

Why feedback is important

First, it’s important to understand why getting feedback is important for your career development. Some of these reasons include the following:

  • It helps you understand where you stand in the company and within your team. You might think you’re performing to a high standard, and delivering quality work, but sometimes there’s a mismatch between your perception, and the perception of those around you. Asking for feedback helps you bridge the gap between how you think you’re performing, and how your colleagues and managers think you are.
  • It helps you see your blindspots. Related to the above point, soliciting feedback can be an eye-opener in terms of understanding areas of improvement you may not be aware of. We all have professional blindspots, and being open to hearing that maybe you come on too strong to clients, or that you sometimes shut down your coworker’s ideas will help you be a better teammate. This would require asking for a 360 review, and getting feedback from your entire team (more on this below).
  • It shows that you have a commitment to growing and improving. Asking for honest feedback speaks volumes about your commitment to being a better employee and colleague.
  • It strengthens your working relationships. Having honest and transparent conversations around performance can help you find mentors who are invested in your growth, and strengthen your existing relationships.

How to ask for feedback

If your company doesn’t have an established performance review process, there are ways you can ask for feedback. But it’s important to come prepared with your goals for the meeting, questions to ask, and examples to provide.

Set up a one-on-one with your manager

If you don’t already have scheduled one-on-ones with your manager, schedule one, with a clear agenda so they, too, can come prepared. You don’t want to put them in a position where they have to either reschedule, or come up with feedback on the fly.

Establish your goals

Consider what your motivation is for asking for feedback. Are you trying to get a promotion and want to know if you’re on track? Do you want a change in your compensation? The primary focus of a feedback meeting should be to listen and understand what you’re doing well and what needs improvement, but ultimately, you can apply these learnings to your professional goals. For example, if you’d like a promotion in the near future, and you’re told that you submit reports with typos, you might want to put energy into being more detail oriented going forward.

Specific questions to prepare for your feedback meeting

It’s crucial to come prepared, especially since you’re setting the meeting. Here are some examples of specific questions you can prepare:

  • If you just wrapped up a large project, you can ask: “After delivering the ABC project, what do you think I did well there, and what areas did you spot that I could improve on?”
  • You can ask your manager for feedback that your fellow colleagues may have passed along. For example, you could ask: “Has anyone on the team noted examples where they felt I was helpful or could have been more supportive?”
  • You can focus on the company and team at large by asking: “How can I better support the mission of our company and team?”
  • Consider showing your manager that you want to perform better for the next project and ask: “Is there anything you’d suggest I read/learn before being assigned my next client/project?”
  • You can then demonstrate that you’re committed to growing at the company by asking: “Is there any advice you’d offer to be promoted in the next quarter?”

Be transparent with your manager about why you’re soliciting feedback

It’s okay to share your motivations for the meeting with your boss. Companies with an established performance review process typically use that time to set goals and discuss promotions, raises, and bonuses.

For example, if you’re asking for feedback because you’d like to be considered for a promotion, you can be transparent about this! But you should also come armed with concrete examples that demonstrate why you deserve it. These can include your wins over the last few months, positive client feedback, and areas where you’ve shown growth.

Get a more complete picture by asking your fellow coworkers

Your manager is not the only person who can provide feedback; you can also approach your colleagues (via email), and ask for an honest assessment of what it’s like working with you. This would be considered a 360 review, and allow you to see how you’re viewed by people you work with directly. Here are some great scripts you can include in your email.

Going forward: Encourage your company to set up a performance review and feedback process

Every organization, even small ones, should have some form of feedback process so employees can understand their areas of improvement, and where they’re strong. As an employee, you can encourage your manager to start the process of putting performance reviews in place, even if you’re working remotely or virtually. Some companies do them once a year, but more frequent check-ins can be more effective.

Feedback and performance reviews help everyone improve, from managers, to employees, to companies at large. So if your organization doesn’t currently have a formal review process in place, asking for feedback is a good place to start, and might encourage them to implement reviews, company-wide.

H2 Is the Balanced Scorecard Still Relevant?

Here's what you need to know about balanced scorecards:

  • A BSC can provide reminders of what is or isn’t the best strategy for the time.
  • Effective use of a BSC ensures management can respond to potential issues before they become a reality and hurt the business.
  • A BSC is focused on results and can only be ineffective if all aspects of the company are not involved.

Human Resources have a broad range of tasks they perform to keep a business afloat. Just as any department benefits from the organization of its goals and assignments, HR retains the responsibility of having an advanced method of objective management.

Luckily, Robert Kaplan and David Norton developed the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) three decades ago. Balanced Scorecards were designed to help managers define and track performance that correlates with the business requirements and strategies. Outline these metrics as follows:

  • Financial measures
  • Customer experience
  • Employee performance
  • Educational goals
  • The overall quality of each category

A BSC is a visual representation of an organization’s strategy, which allows managers to view and focus intently on objectives and timeframes. Over the years, it has become a fundamental part of companies’ frameworks.

Many companies widely use the Balanced Scorecard today—even after over 30 years. Its efficacy still proves to be a valuable tool for all HR and managerial departments to obtain a refined company.

Align the business with its vision

Businesses that use the BSC can easily analyze aspects of the company that are contrary to its visions and mission statements. By visualizing a list of issues from within the company, it becomes a matter of clarifying each downfall to obtain better results.

If it is the mission of a company to provide ultimate customer satisfaction, they can use their BSC to enforce changes. They’ll be able to notice customer ratings are down and compare this against all the company’s other assets. This helps them get to the bottom of what keeps them from providing their company’s promise.

A company’s BSC, in this aspect, will list the mission statement first. The BSC will outline and define the gist of how to achieve the mission in three or more statements. Under each fundamental facet of realizing the mission statement, there will be quantitative lists of:

  • Obtaining defined success
  • Categories of finances
  • Levels of represented and required education
  • Various departments’ inner workings

By being clear about what a company is doing now and what they need to do in the future, the organization will have a better opportunity to redirect its business toward successful ventures.

Execution of a balanced scorecard strategy

Companies using the BSC can track a vast assortment of metrics and measures driven toward success. A multi-faceted company with various divisions, employees, customers, and partners will do well to have this organization in place to plan its strategic methods. In this way, the BSC compiles all of the individualized data together so it can be reviewed in a comprehensive matter. The company can then conquer the issues by reviewing the collected information from top to bottom.

You should phase out inefficient strategies over time. A BSC can provide reminders of what is or isn’t the best strategy for the time. In cases where a previous approach didn’t work, HR will be able to see and understand what went awry and be able to address it and protect the company from these identified mistakes in the future.

If a company is beginning to lose profits, a BSC provides strategies for each department to remedy this downfall. Strategic methods are linked to objectives. These targets are linked to projects needing to be deployed to keep future underperforming sectors from falling through the cracks. When a BSC allows HR to link and compare each necessary strategy change, they can take the crucial steps to redirect attention to the more effective approaches.

Response to changes

Use the BSC to predict future changes and outlooks that a company needs to upgrade. Management can respond to potential issues before they become a reality and hurt the business.

Using a BSC can prevent a domino effect. If a company notices performance is lacking in their employees, it may be time to implement training and educational workshops to get ahead of the potential burnout. When staff is freshly knowledgeable about techniques that help their job performance, it results in:

  • Improved employee retention
  • Raised customer satisfaction
  • Increased profits

A BSC measures how changes can be addressed and keep threats from creating considerable financial, customer-minded, and employee-focused repercussions. Analysis of the entire perspective of the organization helps avoid neglecting areas that need attention now and in the future.

Transparency provided by balanced scorecards

Balanced Scorecards are easy to reproduce and publish for the entire organization to have for reference. This lets the company as a whole understand the direction and strategies for the path they’re following. It doesn’t just stop at the company, either. These published plans can be advertised to partners, customers, and the community so they know what steps are being taken to perfect this business.

Government agencies created versions of Balanced Scorecards specifically to provide transparency to their citizens. Exxon Mobil practiced using a BSC. This multi-million-dollar company was featured as a case study in “The Strategy-Focused Organization,” a book released by Robert Kaplan and David Norton.

Team members should be able to thoroughly account for their department’s strategies and goals. A BSC demolishes the wall between management and employee and provides an open floor for suggestions, teamwork, and clear communication. This helps team members realize the company’s values and understand their roles better to raise productivity.

One of the great features of a Balanced Scorecard is its ability to be personalized and adhere to different agencies. A BSC can be considered a gateway to achieving whatever goals companies have in mind for business optimization.

Customer-forward companies can create a BSC to drive customer satisfaction

Data-centric companies can generate a BSC to focus on data mining techniques and align with business requirements

A company should ask important questions related to their overall desired accomplishment. They should consider their:

  • Mindset
  • Values
  • Competencies
  • Weaknesses
  • Leadership and workforce behaviors

The validity of the BSC based on these findings will make sure the framework is operational. Brainstorming about the internal workings and the views of the business will help create a well-rounded framework in a simple form for everyone to follow.

You will typically view classic BSCs as a simple flowchart. However, you can customize the BSC’s graphic formats differently depending on your company’s desires. Therefore, we recommend that each organization customize its version to stay on brand and true to its connection. Balanced Scorecards should be easy to understand, modify, and publicize.

The key to success

While the Balanced Scorecard is an older framework, it is still very relevant and useful. As a matter of fact, it is still one of the highest performing frameworks still in use to this day, having made the list of top 10 most popular tools several years in a row. A BSC provides focused results. Choosing to not involve all areas of the company will render the tool ineffective. Meet the overall objectives through the:

  • Application of meaningful measures
  • Outline of strategic methods
  • Accomplishment of goals
  • Alignment and optimization of business missions

The key to success is strategic planning, attention to detail, implementation of changes, and the execution and maintenance of them all.

What Are 2-Way Performance Reviews?

Here's what you need to know:

  • With a 2-way review, a manager is able to share their views as well as see performance from an employee’s perspective
  • Two-way performance reviews are a proactive way business can get employees to reflect on their role and their career within the organization
  • Dialogue can lead to understanding, growth, and development — key to top performance and growth within the company

Performance reviews, or employee evaluations, can be an annual event or come more frequently. Depending on organizational structure, there may be short check-ins with employees throughout the year followed by an annual sit-down meeting.

The object of the review is to look back at the year to assess how the employee has performed. The larger objective is to look forward, to the coming year (or sooner) to find ways to build and develop.

There are several types of performance reviews, some based on rating scales. Others require essay-type answers to specific questions. These run the gamut from generic questions that apply to most employees to reviews specifically written for each position or department.

Whichever type of review is used, shifting your practice to a 2-way performance system can be enlightening and even more productive than a single perspective approach.

What are 2-way performance reviews?

A 2-way performance review evaluates the employee from the manager’s point of view as well as from the employee’s.

The staff member is provided with a blank copy of the review sheet and is asked to self-assess. Then the manager and worker discuss where their assessments align and where they diverge.

In some organizations the completed reviews are exchanged in advance to allow both parties to look over what the other has included.

In others, the manager and employee have a first look at the results during the evaluation meeting. A best practice may be to assess the reviews together, adding more time to the planned meeting.

2-way performance reviews can open a dialogue

When both parties have insight into how the work is being performed, the result can be eye-opening. With most performance reviews, the staffer may be unaware of an area where their manager sees the need for growth or an area of top performance.

With a 2-way review, the manager is able to share their views as well as see performance from the employee’s perspective.

The worker may be more confident in their strengths than warranted. They may also reveal areas where they feel they are under-performing.

If the manager disagrees, there’s an opportunity to uncover the reason for the insecurity and build up the employee’s confidence.

In many cases, the manager and staffer’s views will align. Even though there’s agreement, these areas are still important to discuss. This is an opportunity within employee performance management to reward good performance, and dig deeper into areas where the employee is comfortable and engaged.

Go beyond the standard form and ask open-ended questions

Moving to a 2-way performance review system can be as easy as handing the staffer a blank form. To get more from the process, ask the worker to include answers to some open-ended questions, as well.

You’ll want their assessment on:

Achievements for the past year

Ask them to outline what they thought were the highlights of their year as far as performance and job satisfaction.

Again, you might find their view vastly different than your own. They may feel prouder of the smaller achievements than the larger, more public accomplishments. This can provide meaningful insight into what makes the employee tick.

Ask them to include what satisfies them the most and where they see their strengths. Armed with this knowledge, you may find opportunities to grow and develop their skill set. You may also find ways to add responsibilities and pathways to build on their interests.

If you can, capitalize on an area (or several) where the employee already feels confident and competent. This can make it easier to suggest additional responsibilities as well as training to grow their skill set even further.

Goals for the coming year

Ask the staff member to outline what they hope to achieve in the coming year. They may be focused on developing their knowledge base or skills.

This could be an opening to suggest specific training. If they reveal an area of particular interest, you may start them on a mentoring program that helps them get a more comprehensive view of the position.

If goals are growth-oriented, build on them. An opportunity to align your company’s needs with an employee’s interests doesn’t arise without dialogue.

Ask the staffer to consider this question comprehensively: what challenges do they want to take on? You’ll want to work with the staffer to achieve these goals. This may include coaching, training, or just checking in periodically to see if they’re on track to meet their objective.

Career plans

One of the most important questions you want to address are the employee’s career plans. Where do they see themselves within the company over the next year and beyond?

When you work with a staffer to plan their growth within your company, you boost retention. Planning for their future inside your organization means they feel no need to look elsewhere to meet their career goals. Opening up this dialogue could result in a long-term, highly engaged staff member.

Career growth is a top tool businesses use to attract and retain talent. Even if a step up the ladder isn’t immediately apparent, working with an employee to be assured they’re ready for a move when it becomes available is key.

Employees may feel stagnant in their role and anxious to make a change, but there’s nowhere to go either internally or outside the organization. This type of employee may be at high risk for flight. Work with these staff members to look for opportunities to grow and be challenged.

You may offer a lateral move within the company that gives them a chance to restart their career. Opportunities to develop new skills and learn new things could be just what’s needed to retain the staff member.

Asking an employee, formally, to consider and outline their career plans and goals offers the opportunity to discuss where they want to go. The next step is brainstorming how you can help get them there within your organization, rather than elsewhere.

2-way performance reviews can promote engagement

Empowering employees to take ownership of performance and growth is key to engagement. Two-way performance evaluations are an excellent tool to encourage that ownership.

Rather than taking a passive role in the annual discussion, employees are asked to actively assess their performance. This can be as enlightening to them as it is to their manager.

Two-way performance reviews offer the staffer an opportunity to reflect on where they’ve been, what motivated and challenged them. It also gives them a chance to plan for the future.

Rather than dreading the process, staff members are participants in the review. They may offer insight into where they think their manager, or the company, can provide more support and assistance.

That information may mean saving an employee who was considering moving on, or developing talent for the next challenge within your organization.

2-way performance reviews can bridge differences in perspectives

There may be areas where the manager and employee are vastly different in their perspective. The worker may think they’re performing well but the manager disagrees.

These must be handled carefully. Steer the discussion to why they feel this is a strength or area of achievement: then outline where you think there can be improvement. Try to meet somewhere in the middle, offering coaching and training to get staff to the level you want them to be, rather than where they think they are.

Two-way performance reviews are a proactive way business can get employees to reflect on their role and their career within the organization. They may seem like a dramatic change from the way you’ve normally assessed staffers but they offer an opportunity for discussion. Dialogue can lead to understanding, growth, and development — key to top performance and growth within the company.

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