Managing People:
How to Do Employee Performance Reviews

Employee performance reviews are an important part of the process of managing people although they tend to be scarce in small businesses.

Business Coaching Insight:

Staff appraisals are an opportunity to motivate, build relationships and gather information

Most people like to feel a sense of sense of progression in their work so even if you're not offering your staff a career ladder to climb, it's still important to give people feedback and help them develop skills.  

This helps keep them motivated.

You do not necessarily need a formal appraisals system with paperwork to fill out etc. It's more important to get into the habit of giving people feedback on their performance and telling them how they can improve. 

Definition of performance appraisal

Performance appraisals should be an open discussion whereby you can an employees performance with them over the past year or six months in relation to their job description and goals.

It should be a two-way process whereby both parties can honestly discuss strengths, areas for improvement, goals and expectations.

Allow the employee time to express concerns, issues, career ambitions etc. And, listen. Use this time to get to know them a bit better.

As a business owner this is also another opportunity to restate your vision for the business and what role you expect each employee to play in it.

Writing performance reviews

If you do decide to formalize appraisals it’s best to keep your employee performance evaluation forms simple. They need to cover:

  • What they achieved or didn’t in the past year
  • What they’re good at and not so good at
  • Agreed goals for the next period
  • Identified skills gaps and training needs
  • Action steps (what kind of extra resources/training to provide and when

They can be written in bullet form – you don’t need to spend hours and hours writing performance reviews unless you really want to. All that you need to do is capture the key points and use it as a platform for discussion and for recording goals and action steps.

Give your employee a copy of the form before your scheduled meeting so they can see how they will be evaluated and make some notes for them to discuss with you.

It’s a good idea to create a form to fill in so you have a record but the discussion and how you handle it is the most important part of the process.

Appraisal strengths and weaknesses examples

There are no right or wrong ways to fill out appraisal forms – it’s for the benefit of your employee so tell them what you think is good about the way they work and what you would like them to improve.

So, here are a few examples:


  • Good with customers – great feedback received from clients a, b & c
  • Thorough & accurate work – analysis on project x was solid reliable work
  • An enthusiastic team player – contributes to meetings
  • Great problem solving skills – finds good creative solutions

  • Confident presenter – performed very well in new business meetings


  • Attention to detail sometimes lacking
  • Struggles to meet deadlines
  • Doesn’t always keep other areas of the business up to date
  • Doesn’t handle stress well - can be domineering towards others under pressure
  • Conversion rates from cold calling need improving

Appraisal Meetings: Performance appraisal phrases

Doing employee performance reviews are obviously more challenging when the employee has been under-performing or displaying difficult behavior.

When you need to give negative feedback it is always best to be candid and give specific examples.

For more tips on how to phrase negative feedback click here.

How often should you do performance appraisals?

Employee performance reviews should be done at least once a year, perhaps more often for newer and less experienced staff members.

It is still more important to give on-going feedback during the year rather than wait for appraisal time. If you notice an employee not doing so well during the year, make a point of giving them immediate feedback with some pointers about how to change.

Ultimately, on-the-job feedback is far more effective. Appraisals are really just an overview to identify training needs.

Business Coaching Questions:

  • If you're not doing employee performance reviews, are you giving your staff enough feedback and direction?
  • Are your employees feeling recognized and acknowledged?
  • How strong are your relationships with your employees?

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