The purpose of an employee performance review is twofold--to allow the manager an opportunity to give the employee feedback and to offer the employee a chance to give feedback to the manager. It's a two-way street designed to be an important element of the performance-improvement process. By making sure that employees know what is expected of them, and by establishing measures of good performance that both managers and employees understand, the review process can be straightforward.

Feedback for Employees

Providing feedback to the employee is the most commonly considered purpose of an employee review, and it is important. The manager will reflect on the performance period (generally one year) and discuss ways in which the employee's performance exceeded, met or failed to meet expectations. These comments should not surprise the employee--managers should provide enough feedback throughout the year that the information in an annual review does not come as a shock. Any change in employee performance--good or bad--should be acknowledged and addressed when it happens, not held until the formal review. The review is a time to look over the year's activities, but the employee should already have had an indication of how they were doing.

Feedback From the Employee

Managers should ask for input from employees before and during the review. Managers sometimes ask employees to review their own performance in preparation for the review session. The session itself also provides an opportunity to hear from the employee and find out whether any barriers exist that are hindering performance or if the employee needs any additional resources or training to perform the job effectively. It can also be helpful to learn from the employee how well the manager is doing at meeting the employee's needs and providing coaching, counseling and support throughout the year.

Planning for Growth

If the manager has been communicating with the employee year-round as performance issues arise, the performance review meeting can focus more on the potential for growth than on performance issues. This can be the biggest benefit of the review process. What opportunities interest the employee? What opportunities does the manager feel will benefit both the employee and the organization?

Creating Measurable Goals

The performance review should include a discussion of goals for the next review period. The goals should be specific and fact-based. Key tasks that must be completed should be identified, as should performance areas that must be improved upon. These goals should be measurable, so that both employee and manager can easily agree, at the next review period, whether they have been accomplished. The goals should be documented and progress reviewed throughout the year as well as at the next formal review session.

Planning for Follow-Up

The manager and employee should plan a follow-up meeting to ensure that progress will be made, particularly if areas for improvement have been identified. For example, the employee may need to work on being less critical of others' work. This can be discussed at the review session and meetings can be set up to discuss how things are going--perhaps one, two and three months after the annual review. A good idea for managers is to have regularly scheduled meetings with employees to discuss performance and make adjustments to goals as conditions change. The performance plan should be flexible enough to allow for changes throughout the year.