HR Insights

Tips for Productive Annual Reviews

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Mary Springer headshot
Mary Springer
February 2, 2017

Successful businesses recognize great people make their companies valuable. And building strong professional relationships with employees is a key component to maintaining talented individuals. Annual performance reviews are an important opportunity for your business to build rapport with your workers and invest in strong employee relations. Unsure where to begin? Check out these tips for investing in your workers by conducting helpful, productive annual reviews.

1. Focus on the good.

Nobody likes being scolded, and some managers commonly mistake performance appraisals as a time to focus mostly on the negative. While an annual review is a great time to talk about improving work performance, emphasis on positive comments can foster a much better working relationship. As a general rule, more than half of the conversation should be aimed at your employee’s good attributes and performance. Affirmative and encouraging language builds a relationship based on mutual trust and understanding—and who doesn’t want more of that in the workplace?

2. Make it a conversation.

Annual reviews are a good time to have a conversation, not a one-way dialogue. Avoid monopolizing the meeting, which can cause your employee to feel less in control of his/her performance and its outcome. Instead, empower your employee and invite them to take ownership of their work and success by having an open conversation. Ask inviting questions and listen actively to responses.

3. Provide a self-evaluation tool first.

Just as a manager should prepare for giving an annual review, employees can benefit from a little prep work, too, by filling out a self-evaluation. Use this form to set clear expectations about what is expected of your employee before he/she heads into the annual review. This gives your worker time to think about past performance ups and downs, ideas to overcome obstacles, and future goals. It’s also a great starting point for review conversations.

4. Set realistic goals.

Annual performance reviews are a prime opportunity for goal-setting. With the help of your employee, write down two or three objectives to work towards for the year. Discuss ways to meet these goals and define challenges or obstacles the employee may face. Set goals that are motivating and reasonable. A clear, direct picture of what’s expected is key to a successful outcome.

While annual performance reviews are a powerful one-time investment in the people who make your business great, remember to keep an open dialogue going all year long. Regular words of encouragement, positive (and negative) feedback, goal check-ins, and open conversations will build solid professional relationships. Over time, your company will benefit from a group of loyal employees who feel appreciated and invested in their work.