Whether quarterly or annual, the employee work review offers an opportunity to check in, acknowledge where employees are thriving as well as identify areas for improvement, and drive workplace culture for increased productivity and retention.
By now, you’ve likely read dozens of articles discussing how to conduct a work review, strategies for structuring self-evaluations, and pitfalls to avoid when running performance reviews for your teams. But once you’ve developed and launched your work review program, how can you continuously improve it to ensure you reach optimal engagement and enact lasting results?
According to Gartner, 87% of HR leaders have thought of implementing changes to their performance reviews in 2020. With another Gartner study finding only 41% of employees are showing optimal performance, performance management continues to be a relevant topic for HR teams.
Enhancing your employee work review process translates into higher motivation, engagement, performance, and productivity levels, this much we know. The question then, is how can HR leaders and managers adjust their work review strategies for continuous improvement and growth?
The Importance of a Work Review
The main goal of a work review is to give employees the needed guidance for growth, keep them engaged, and communicate company expectations. A work review is also a chance to make outstanding employees feel seen, help struggling employees find their way, and even help employers with self-evaluation.
After all, you can estimate your impact as a leader through the overall progress of your team. Collectively, these insights can help drive performance levels up, and it’s all just a few tweaks away!
Best Practices for Conducting a Work Review
There’s many components that go into conducting a work review, and depending on your employee, each format and approach to work review conversations can be impactful in their own way. These best practices can be applied to any and all work review formats, and help add that extra touch to deepen engagement and provide employees the tools they need to reach the top of their performance game.
1. Set SMART goals
For consistent performance tracking, your employees can greatly benefit from tangible, clearly measurable targets. Performance review SMART goals help provide achievable and relevant targets for their performance, and offer a road map that will guide them to get there.
Implement a SMART goal framework to accompany your next work review to keep your employees motivated and engaged. This method also helps make preparing for and evaluating employee performance that much easier with clearly defined metrics to measure progress.
Remember, SMART goals should be:
Performance goals for employees should have clearly defined output expectations.
To help keep your goal specific, try answering these questions:
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Why is this goal important?
- Who is involved?
- Which resources or limits are involved?
Example: I want to improve my Excel skills because my role requires me to use Excel regularly.
The performance goal should include specific criteria that measure the progress toward the goal.
A measurable goal should answer these questions:
- How much?
- How many?
- How will I know when it is accomplished?
- How do I measure progress?
Example: By the time of my next performance review, I should be able to create spreadsheets using complex formulas within a couple of hours. I should also be able to easily and effectively communicate how to create spreadsheets in a way my colleagues can understand and learn from.
The outcome of a performance goal should be under the employees’ control, meaning external factors should not play a role in whether a goal is considered successfully achieved or not.
If you can answer these questions, you have an achievable goal:
- Do I have the resources and capabilities to achieve the goal?
- If not, what am I missing?
- Have others done it successfully before?
Example: I can dedicate 2 hours a week to take an Excel course, and one hour a week to watching tutorials to learn new skills.
The performance goal should be relevant to the employees’ job responsibilities, lead to their professional development, and be relevant to the short- or long-term goals of the organization.
To determine if your goal is relevant, answer these questions:
- Why am I setting this goal now?
- Is it aligned with the overall business objectives?
Example: Working with Excel is 30% of my job responsibilities. As I progress at the company, I’ll be required to spend 50% of my time creating spreadsheets in Excel. My ability to proficiently use Excel will allow me to progress in my career.
The performance goal should have a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date.
Answer these questions to ensure you have a time-bound goal:
- Does my goal have a deadline?
- What should be achieved half-way through the process?
Example: In 6 months, I will complete a course and be proficient in Excel. I will be able to create a spreadsheet using complex formulas within a couple of hours, instead of the 4 hours it currently takes me.
2. Avoid generalizations
Create a supportive and positive environment by avoiding generalizations and ultimatums. A good way to catch this is by extricating “always,” “never,” and “in general” from your vocabulary.
Generalizations introduce bias into your work review, and cause confusion and ambiguity for employees. Instead, provide clear, concrete examples and facts when providing both positive and negative feedback. Doing so helps ensure objectivity and equips employees with tangible resources to help them continue to improve their performance.
3. Explain the implications
Employees may be zoned in on their work, and it’s your job as a manager to show them the big picture. How do their actions reflect on others? Cause-and-effect points make employees more aware of how their decisions and communication affect the wider company and teams, as well as hones in on their contributions to your company.
4. Make it a two-way street
For a work review to be effective, you want to talk to your employees, not at them. You can do so to follow decorum, but it also supports true learning. Employees may have assumptions, concerns, or counterarguments about your critiques.
Welcoming feedback ensures that they feel valued, empowered, and are truly on board with you (rather than merely going along with what you’re saying). Not to mention, it may bring your attention to a problem with your management style and company policies. Give your employee the floor by asking questions towards the end of your work review, such as:
- “Is there anything else you’d like to cover?”
- “Do you have any concerns, comments, or questions about the work review?”
- “Is there anything I can do to better support you?”
5. Wrap up with positive feedback
Along with allowing employee feedback, words of encouragement end the work review on a positive note. Take a moment to highlight their strengths, improvements, and any positive points that are worthy of recognition.
Avoid false praise, as honest words help employees see how well they’re actually faring. This way, they can make use of opportunities for growth and be realistic about their expectations regarding monetary rewards, salary boosts, or promotions.
6. Prioritize consistency
When you schedule routine work reviews, you can accurately track progress and update your goals to fit your current priorities. Not to mention, you normalize the work review process so that it’s less of an anxiety-inducing event for employees and more of a common procedure.
As for the question of how often, you can hold an employee work review on a biannual or quarterly basis (depending on the nature of your workflow), or add extra work reviews as needed.
Tips for Employees to Write Their Work Review
Self-evaluation grants employees the chance to reflect on their performance and advocate for themselves, but it can also be a difficult task to remain objective and best present your strengths and contributions.
Offer these tips and best practices to your employees to guide them in writing their next work review.
Make your statements specific, and provide examples to authenticate them. Walk your manager through the process so that they can see your effort and strategic thinking. Highlight the projects that you’d describe as your best work and the ones that are well aligned with your company goals.
Pro tip: create a running list at the beginning of each year, this can be a simple word document, written in a notebook, or even within your notes app, where you record each project and achievement throughout the year. Set aside time each day or week to reflect on the work you’ve accomplished. When it comes time for your work review, refer to this document to reflect on all that you’ve contributed throughout the year or quarter.
Use metrics as your reference points to show your manager the measurable progress and tangible results you’ve achieved in your work review. By providing a tangible example of your contribution, you clearly articulate your impact on the organization and its goals.
For example, a social media manager work review is far more impactful in saying, “improved Instagram engagement by 25%, increased account followers by 1,500” than, “the company’s Instagram account is doing much better in terms of engagement.”
Use action words
Action words or action verbs highlight what you do. Action words help convey a clearer and more specific picture of your performance. Instead of using vague or general terms, these words provide concrete examples of your accomplishments, making the feedback more meaningful and actionable. They emphasize the positive actions and results you’ve delivered, making it easier for managers to recognize and appreciate your efforts.
Here are some examples of action words to utilize in your next work review:
- Achieved: “Successfully achieved project milestones ahead of schedule.”
- Innovated: “Innovated new processes resulting in increased efficiency.”
- Collaborated: “Effectively collaborated with cross-functional teams to deliver outstanding results.”
- Exceeded: “Consistently exceeded performance targets and expectations.”
- Initiated: “Initiated and implemented a cost-saving initiative that resulted in significant savings.”
- Demonstrated: “Demonstrated exceptional leadership skills during the team’s challenging project.”
- Streamlined: “Streamlined communication processes, reducing response time by 20%.”
- Led: “Led the successful implementation of a new customer service strategy.”
- Solved: “Proactively solved complex issues, ensuring minimal impact on project timelines.”
- Championed: “Championed the adoption of innovative technologies, leading to improved workflow efficiency.”
These action words can be tailored to specific achievements and responsibilities, providing a more vivid and impactful description of your performance during a review.
Adopt a growth mindset
Are you willing to grow and become more valuable to the company? Your work review should reflect that. Overcome the discomfort of discussing shortcomings, and reframe them as opportunities for growth in terms of career development and company-wide improvements.
Also, use solution-oriented speech to illustrate a willingness to grow. That applies to overcoming career obstacles and announcing plans and goals.
Some phrases you can use include the following:
- The main takeaway for me is …
- An aspect I’d like to dedicate my time to is …
- The direction I’d like to take moving forward is …
Conduct More Impactful Work Reviews
A well structured work review cultivates a sense of ownership and accountability among your employees. As they actively participate in reflecting on their performance, strengths, and areas for improvement, they become more invested in their professional journey. This engagement not only fuels individual progress but also contributes to a more vibrant and dynamic organizational culture.
By embracing continuous improvement for your next work review and referring to the examples and tips provided above, your organization can empower your employees to proactively shape their growth and development. With well-structured work review strategies, your employees can confidently navigate the process, unlocking their full potential and driving both personal and organizational achievements. Omni’s customizable performance review feature allows managers to design work review templates to apply to various employee performance assessments, track employee submissions, and derive critical insights to drive business decisions all in one centralized platform.
Performance reviews don’t have to be a dreaded task, with the right framework and guidance, the exercise can become a useful tool in self-reflection and professional development. For more resources to improve your review cycle,
Join the 83% of Omni customers who have unlocked new, actionable insights after using our performance management module, and book a free demo with our team today.