It’s this time of year again! We hear Christmas carols in shops and boast about our Christmas decorations in hopes that our colleagues get jealous (which never happens). We spend hours browsing online, reading reviews, and figuring out what to buy for our loved ones. Most of us really enjoy this time of year, however, there is one thing that pretty much all of us dread, for some reason. You already know what I’m talking about. Performance reviews! It’s time to run the end-of-year performance reviews with your team. Ugh.
Performance reviews may sometimes turn into stressful, frustrating conversations but they don’t have to. As a manager, there is a lot you can do to take the pressure off. You can structure the meeting, dedicate some time to prepare for the session, and practice giving constructive feedback. The first step is understanding the value behind the performance reviews. Let’s focus on why we’re doing it in the first place.
Contrary to the popular belief, a performance review is not about micromanaging your team. It’s a simple check-in, an honest 1:1 chat with your team to see how they’re getting on in their roles if they’re meeting your expectations but also if you’re meeting theirs. Do they enjoy the current challenges? Is the bar set too high and do they need additional training? Are they bored and need to develop their skills in a different direction?
Performance reviews are essential to prevent burnout. Have an honest conversation with your team about how satisfied they are in their roles and listen to their expectations. This is the time to signal anything that doesn’t go according to plan and the expectations that both sides have regarding the particular responsibilities. Don’t treat performance reviews as a monologue, turn them into a valuable dialogue where each person feels safe to openly share their opinions.
One crucial thing – make performance reviews fun! Your team’s mind is probably at the Christmas dinner table already, the last thing they want to do is to reflect on their career choices and that’s why you need to make it engaging. Whiteboards can help with that. Avoid mumbo jumbo manager talk, be clear about the goals, support your feedback with clear examples, include icebreakers, and write down action points at the end of the meeting. Performance reviews are perfect opportunities to build and nurture relationship with your team. Use our Whiteboards template to get a head start.
Performance Review Benefits
Performance reviews have lots of benefits that you might not even be aware of. It’s a really important meeting to promote career growth. Reflect on the direction that your team is taking. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge any big accomplishments and a possibility to open doors to a promotion.
During the performance review, you’re able to motivate your team, which can improve their engagement in the upcoming year. Well-structured performance reviews can increase team engagement and indicate areas that need to be improved. It’s your job to support your team whenever they need you. During the performance review, you can decide to enroll a specific employee in any additional training if needed.
Performance reviews are those rare occasions when you can clarify expectations from both sides. They strengthen the bond within the team and make you more approachable to their feedback.
If you want to build a dream team – performance reviews are essential. You should never skip them like you should never skip retrospectives when working with an Agile mindset. There is always something that can be improved. Without the conversation – it might never come to light.
Performance review sessions are also great opportunities to practice giving and receiving feedback, which is not always easy. Some people might get unnecessarily defensive if the message is conveyed in an accusatory tone. Get your team inspired even if some things didn’t work out. Learn how to give constructive feedback that provides value.
Performance Review Questions
Before the performance review starts, both parties need to prepare for the meeting. The more time and notice you can give each other to prepare, the better the outcome will be. Look at the last period’s performance of your employee (be it a year, 6 months, or a quarter) and identify the targets that have been set in the previous meeting as well as any actionable items. Once you have all these details, you can go through the performance review questions to do a test run and anticipate in which direction the conversation might go. Don’t forget to share the performance review questions with your team so that they can prepare the answers.
Start with the following questions:
- What are the 2-3 things you are proud of since the last performance review?
Help the employee to build up confidence and focus on the positives first. They can talk about accomplishments, challenges they’ve overcome, or even new skills they’ve acquired.
- What do you think is working well?
Highlight the core responsibilities that the employee performs well.
- What is not working as well as expected?
Uncover an area where the employee needs improvement. Your job as a manager is to guide your team and help them realize their full potential. If any areas are not up to par, you can suggest help and additional training that could fix this gap. You can focus on technical as well as soft skills here.
- In case the targets were not achieved, what was the main reason, blocker?
Focus on the blockers, what prevented them from achieving a specific goal, streamline the process, and address the issue.
- How are you finding your position?
Follow up with this question to find out if the employee’s skills are used to their full potential or if there are any aspects of the role that your team finds challenging.
Performance review questions you might get asked as a manager
Performance review sessions are two-way conversations. There’s a high chance you will get asked the following questions, and it’s better to be prepared to give relevant answers.
- What are the business goals for the following year?
- What are our team’s goals?
- What are my goals for next year?
- Which metrics would determine that I achieved those goals?
Use Any of the 100 Templates on Whiteboards to Reach Your Goals and Make Performance Reviews Fun, Interactive & Valuable
Performance reviews are often associated with something serious. Why not lighten the mood and kick off the session with a simple icebreaker? It’s your time, to create a safe, comfortable space that promotes trust and puts everyone at ease.
Our performance review here at Whiteboards comes with a substantial milestone – we’ve reached 100 templates in our template library! These templates have been specifically crafted for Agile, software development & product teams. Browse through the customizable templates to introduce some fun and make your performance reviews interactive!
Why not use GIFs to illustrate the mood, or emojis to visualize the reaction of the team? The performance review sessions can be turned visual and much more interesting if you’re conducting them on a digital whiteboard. Run them on our Whiteboards app which boosts the visual and collaborative aspect of online meetings.
Most recent additions to our template library
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Team Performance Review
Apart from the individual performance review, finish the year with a bang with a team performance review. It’s one of the most valuable team-building tactics, focusing on the overall performance as a team. Just like a regular retrospective, it can uncover some previously unspoken issues or highlight the team’s strengths, build trust, boost engagement, and promote further collaboration. A team performance review can help you as a manager understand the team’s needs and focus on the opportunities for further growth.
To run a team performance review, use one of our dedicated Whiteboards templates. Start with focusing on events, important dates, and milestones your team has achieved throughout the year. Reflect on what really worked well and identify the areas where the collaboration was not as smooth as everyone would wish.
Some aspects you and your team might reflect on during the team performance review are the following.
- The biggest things we’ve completed as a team & our best achievements.
- The biggest challenges we faced as a team.
- The biggest lessons we’ve learned as a team.
Turn the team performance review into a fun and inspiring session. Incorporate images reflecting the team’s mood, GIFs, emojis, stickers, and videos. You can do all of that on our digital whiteboard.
What to Avoid During the Performance Review
If you want to avoid common mistakes, watch some examples of poorly run performance reviews on YouTube. And whatever you do, don’t be that guy!
Make note of our top tips on what to avoid in order to get the most out of the session and not treat it as a waste of time.
Not being honest
One of the most important aspects of a performance review is to give honest feedback. It’s definitely not easy and something that you can get better at, with practice. Honest feedback is invaluable – you will not gain the expected result with sugar-coated messages, nor will it be helpful to the employee as they will not know which areas they should focus on to improve their skills and grow in their career. Be honest, this is paramount.
Not providing clear feedback
The second most important ‘what not to do’ on our list is ‘not providing clear feedback’. You need to support your feedback with clear examples. It will be much easier to understand your message if it’s paired with context. Only then will the employees be able to understand why they received this specific feedback. In case the message is indirect and soft – it can leave the employee confused and they will not be exactly sure what it all means and what they’re supposed to improve or where their strengths lie.
Not providing clear agenda before the meeting
Make sure you create an agenda before the performance review and send it to your employees in advance so that they can adequately prepare. No one likes to be put on the spot, with the expectation to provide clear & concise answers to complicated issues. Give your team time to reflect on their performance and their expectation of the role. You will get much more insightful answers during the performance review as your team will be able to build up confidence with thought-through messages.
Feel free to follow this structure of a performance review meeting or adapt it to your needs.
- Start with a casual chit-chat to break the ice. Feel free to use any of our icebreaker templates for this part.
- Focus on the key points, areas of strength, and areas that need improvement.
- Discuss any additional training opportunities.
- Talk about the career goals, aspirations of your employee, and their general satisfaction in their role.
- Create an action plan outlining goals & objectives for the next year and be specific about actions that each of you will take to achieve those goals.
Not supporting your team with additional training
Your job as a manager is to guide your team and help it shine. If you see some areas that need to be improved, instead of blaming others for poor performance, empower them, and sign them up for additional training so that they can improve their soft or hard skills. Nurture each employee and help them thrive in your organization.
Not writing down action points
Each performance review should end with clear action points. Without action points, it’s as if the meeting never happened. It’s quite rare that you will remember what you discussed 6 months or a year ago. A quick scan of the action points from the last performance review will easily jog your memory. Documenting action points is the only way to evaluate future performance, have a point of reference, and be clear on what’s expected from you and from the employee.
Performance reviews are a two-way conversation, make sure it’s not a monologue where you just criticize or praise your employee for their work. Involve them in the conversation and listen to their feedback. They might come up with some insightful answers that will improve the overall collaboration in the future. If you listen to them, they will feel more valued, knowing that their point of view matters, which will in turn motivate them to take ownership of their own career. Be a leader, without being bossy. If you’re struggling with giving constructive feedback, practice or sign up for a specific course that will teach you how to give feedback that provides value, even if you need to assess poor performance.
Start with something positive so that your employee can build some confidence and have a better attitude toward the performance review session. Give context to your feedback, be specific, and cut out any words that you think might not be objective. Avoid any blur words that don’t mean much or can mean different things to different people. In case the message is negative, focus on the impact it has so that your employee can see the bigger picture and get a better understanding of the dependencies and the real value of their work. This will give them a sense of purpose and meaning.
Always finish with an open discussion – suggest further steps, but don’t forget to ask ‘what are your thoughts on this, do you think this is what we should do?’ Ask them to give you some feedback as well. Find out what YOU can improve to become a better manager that motivates and empowers your team to shine.