Performance Review Best Practices for People-First Organizations

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Performance reviews drive organizational and employee growth when they're built on connection, feedback, and support. Achieve success with our best practices.

Performance management matters. When you get it right, you create an environment where your people are inspired and empowered to achieve success.

RedThread Research has identified the three most important factors when it comes to performance: when organizations are connected, invest in culture, and have capable managers, employees are 1.6 times more likely to report high engagement and 1.5 times more likely to meet business goals. For employees to be successful and invested in their work, the personal touch is key.

Why Do Performance Reviews Matter?

Performance reviews measure an employee’s progress towards goals and how well they align with larger company objectives. Organizations rely on reviews to form a rounded picture of employee performance, but research suggests it might be time for a rethink.

According to a 2021 study, 75% of business execs and HR leaders don’t believe they can measure employee performance and productivity at an individual level. If performance conversations don’t happen regularly, it’s challenging to measure results, align goals, and communicate strategy.

For performance management to be successful, conversations must be ongoing. Continuous, transparent, and people-focused communication gives managers an understanding of their people’s achievements throughout the performance cycle. This allows them to be proactive in development needs, update performance goals based on real-time data, and stay agile in the face of change.

The Importance of Creating a Feedback Culture

Ongoing feedback supports your people to develop and grow through reinforcement, guidance, and clarification. According to Gallup, employees want to talk about performance regularly. Data shows that nearly 40% of employees want to be recognized for good work at least weekly. 

Building trust matters. When managers are responsive to feedback, it’s easy to understand what their people need and give them the resources, guidance, and opportunities to get there.

1) Keep Conversations Flowing

Feedback is more effective when it’s timely. Managers should always be in regular contact with their teams through one-on-ones and catch-ups, so there’s no need to wait for a single point in the calendar if the time’s right to offer advice or talk about development. 

Conversations based on recent performance make feedback more relevant and actionable. Scheduling check-ins for the future keeps teams connected during key moments—if an employee has just completed a training course or a stretch assignment, it’s the perfect opportunity for a conversation.

SUPERCHARGE YOUR FEEDBACK | ‘The 5 Benefits of 360 Degree Feedback for Remote Teams

2) Avoid One-Sided Feedback

Creating a culture of conversation built on connection and trust is the starting point for honest conversations. Performance conversations are a good time to offer advice and evaluate an employee’s work, but they have to be collaborative and constructive. Make employees feel heard and invite them to provide input on factors like their goals, training, processes, and support.

Not everyone will feel comfortable voicing their thoughts and feelings directly—and that’s ok. Anonymous engagement surveys are the perfect way for individuals to share thoughts and ideas. Giving people a role in shaping their culture makes them feel valued, especially when managers and leaders are happy to address this feedback and make changes.

3) Look for the Positives

Constructive feedback doesn’t have to be negative. Where possible, focus on employees’ strengths to acknowledge what they’re good at and suggest how they can use it to their advantage. Where improvement is needed, employees should always be given clear guidance on the steps they can take to boost their performance.

4) Create a Safe Environment to Learn and Grow

Great performance management is employee-centric. When a team is aligned, managers can spot any knowledge and skills gaps, and work to fill them through training and development opportunities. Your people should also feel they can reach out for help and support in a safe and judgment-free environment.

CREATE A POSITIVE WORKPLACE | ‘How to Boost Employee Wellbeing in the Workplace

Best Practices for Annual Performance Reviews

Annual reviews should follow a similar format to other performance conversations. People-centric performance management drives employee development while helping your organization achieve its objectives.

1) Use Evidence to Measure Success

Annual appraisals are the perfect time to talk about successes and lessons learned. Without evidence, it’s challenging to measure whether employees have met targets and accomplished goals. Gathering data provides an accurate picture of their performance, and shows where to focus goals and development efforts moving forward.

Evidence like alignment with company values, praise from stakeholders, or client satisfaction can also show performance success, so it’s helpful to look beyond the usual metrics.

Examples of questions include:

  • What achievement are you most proud of?
  • What do you feel could have gone better?
  • Did you meet all of your goals?

2) Reflect on the Past, But Focus on the Future

Organizational strategy must be agile and responsive in the face of change—this takes collaboration and communication at all levels. Using skills as the foundation for performance goals means greater agility and internal mobility. When employees identify their strengths, motivations, and career aspirations, you can translate this into an actionable plan of skills acquisition and map out their performance goals. 

Your people should always be aware of how they contribute to organizational success. Always be transparent with company goals and strategy to show how they fit in.

Examples of questions include:

  • What skills do you want to develop?
  • Where do you see yourself one year from now?
  • What are your greatest strengths?

MORE ON EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT | ‘Gauging Employee Engagement Isn’t Optional

3) Make the Process Collaborative

Performance conversations are more meaningful when the experience is collaborative. Before the review, create and distribute a shared agenda and have both parties suggest talking points. This way, they know where the conversation is going, and both get to bring up anything they want to discuss. 

Employees are likely to be more invested in performance goals if they’re meaningful to them, so both parties need to give their input. Suppose an employee’s desired goal doesn’t perfectly align with team or company objectives. In that case, find common developmental ground with creative, on-the-job opportunities to develop skills while tracking toward organizational goals.

Examples of questions include:

  • How will you measure the success of your goals?
  • How can I best support you?
  • Do you understand how your goals align with team and organizational metrics?

Best Practices for Quarterly Performance Reviews

Periodic performance reviews (usually conducted quarterly, sometimes semi-annually) keep employees on target, provide an opportunity to reflect on past performance, and assess current goals.

1) Find Examples of Great Performance

Measuring performance against objectives is important because employees can see what they’ve learned, how they’ve used it, and how they’re putting training into practice each day. It’s a good idea to show on-the-job examples and peer feedback to help them understand their growth and the impact they make.

Examples of questions include:

  • What are your highlights from the past quarter?
  • Has everything gone as well as you expected?
  • What are you most proud of?

2) Look at Whether Current Goals Are Realistic

Sometimes priorities shift, and that’s ok. If an employee hasn’t made the progress they wanted, look at their point of view. Whether business priorities changed or they’ve identified a gap in their knowledge, now’s the time to refocus. Examine existing goals and what support employees need to get there to work out if they require additional support, or if a goal is no longer achievable due to time constraints.

Examples of questions include:

  • Have you achieved what you hoped?
  • What additional support do you need?
  • What obstacles are standing in your way?

3) Refocus for the Future

Finalize goals for the next quarter and ensure employees know how to measure and achieve their targets. Any assigned learning should feed into their development plan and be tracked alongside other performance goals to measure success and outcomes. Since the aim is to help them develop and grow, all goals should be realistic and account for changes in priority. 

Examples of questions include:

  • What does the next quarter look like for you?
  • What steps will you take to achieve these goals?
  • How will you measure success?

Transform Your Performance Management With Bridge

Create a culture of conversation and growth that delivers results. Align goals, adapt strategy, and drive better outcomes with intuitive analytics and skills feedback. Use one-on-ones, continuous check-ins, and transparent performance conversations to put your people in charge of their development.

Picture of Akash Savdharia

Akash Savdharia

Akash is an entrepreneurial technology executive with over 10 years of experience bringing SaaS products to market that solve impactful data-driven problems. Prior to joining Bridge, Akash was the co-founder and CEO of Patheer, an AI-powered talent marketplace to help companies grow and retain employees by empowering them to discover new career paths and opportunities internally. At Patheer, he drove the company's vision, strategy, and products, which revolutionized the enterprise talent and career mobility space. In September 2020, Learning Technologies Group acquired Patheer to bolster its product and technology expertise in this fast growing market. At Bridge, Akash is the Vice President of Talent Solutions, and continues to drive the vision, growth, and strategy for skills and talent mobility.

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