How to Give a Meaningful Performance Review, According to 2 Team Leaders

by Madeline Hester
February 12, 2020

“Don’t apologize for giving helpful and direct feedback,” said Sarah Looper, global HR director at Brightpearl.

Looper said she understands that performance reviews can be uncomfortable,  both for employees and managers. However, meaningful performance reviews can result in greater company profits, higher productivity and lower employee turnover, according to studies from Gallup. 

So how do managers turn performance reviews into positive results?

We talked with two tech executives from Brightpearl and TrustRadius about how they prepare for and format their performance reviews. Their advice included, but wasn’t limited to, preparing well in advance, using specific metrics to measure success and giving clear direction on how direct reports can improve moving forward.

 

trustradius
trustradius

TrustRadius’ Vice President of Research Megan Headley starts preparing for her performance reviews at the beginning of the year. She emphasized that having a clear, shared understanding of the review with the employee will help eliminate discomfort. Everyone, even managers and star performers, can benefit from performance reviews, Headley said.    

 

Ahead of a performance review, how do you prepare in order to ensure it's a meaningful and productive conversation?

The most important piece of preparation is actually at the start of the period (quarter, year, etc.), when the goals are set. The best way to ensure a meaningful and productive review is by having a clear, shared understanding of what the individual set out to accomplish from the very start. To prepare, I re-read their job description to understand where there are any gaps. 

Next, I fill out my assessment of their performance against each goal and adherence to each of our company values. This includes qualitative feedback in addition to the scoring mechanism. I then ask them to self-assess on those same dimensions. After that, I gather 360-degree feedback from their peers (cross-functionally, if appropriate). Lastly, I put all of the information above together in one document, along with their goals for the next period.

While you’re coaching those who need help, also challenge your stars to do more.”

 

What about during the review? How do you format these meetings and why?

During the conversation, I walk through everything in their review, including my assessment, their assessment and the feedback from their peers. The conversation will often focus on areas where my assessment and theirs diverged. I give them opportunities to react and ask questions throughout. For areas where goals were not achieved, we talk about why. Most importantly, we end with clear direction on how the individual can grow. I find that something as concrete as, “To get a higher performance rating next review, I want to see XYZ,” is most effective.

 

What advice do you have for delivering constructive feedback in a performance review?

Obviously, clarity is important here. What might sometimes be overlooked is that constructive feedback also requires bravery. And while it may be uncomfortable for some of us, the person receiving the review can’t grow without it. So in addition to being clear, be brave. Share your feedback directly and openly and of course, respectfully. Another piece of advice I’ve received is to give just as much attention to your strong performers. While you’re coaching those who need help, also challenge your stars to do more. 

 

brightpearl
brightpearl

Although performance reviews are a formal meeting, Global HR Director Sarah Looper said the managers at Brightpearl give constant feedback throughout the year. During the review, Looper focuses on an employee’s professional development by creating metrics that can be tracked to improve performance.

 

Ahead of a performance review, how do you prepare in order to ensure it's a meaningful and productive conversation?

Officially we have biannual performance reviews. However, throughout the year our managers are having continuous conversations on performance so when our performance reviews do come around, feedback shouldn’t come as a surprise to the employee. 

To prepare for these reviews, we solicit feedback from the employee about their own performance prior to the meeting to really get an understanding of how they see themselves in the company and their role. This self-reflection helps their manager to understand different components that would affect the employee's ability to be successful in the role. Does the employee have the tools and resources necessary to complete the work successfully? Has the company provided appropriate training and education on the role? Are there areas of opportunity for the employee to develop skills to grow their role? The answers to these questions will help shape feedback and goals mutually agreed upon with the employee.

All feedback given must have value.”

 

What about during the review? 

The manager should start by having the employee share their thoughts and feedback regarding their performance. The manager’s role is to listen, take notes and further discuss any topics that come up in more detail. Feedback that is given must be clear, concise and be backed up with an example of the behavior exhibited for each area of discussion. The focus is on the employee’s professional development so any feedback given is to help the employee grow professionally.

 

What advice do you have for delivering constructive feedback in a performance review?

All feedback given must have value. Don’t apologize for giving helpful and direct feedback. Remember, top performers want to know how they can improve and put their best foot forward at the company. 

Work with them to come up with a solution or a set expectation for any areas of concern. Create very specific metrics that can be checked in on to improve performance. One of our vales, “roll with the punches,” signifies that we’re always seeking a way forward; we’re adaptable. The end goal is to make sure they feel supported, encouraged and confident even when facing a challenge. 

 

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