Why bother with performance reviews?

October 7, 2015

As HR professionals we use our experience and knowledge to help you free up your time to focus on what’s important, growing your business! Underperforming staff directly impact on your bottom line.  Low levels of productivity and motivation can potentially lead to increased absence as well as having a knock on effect with other members of staff.

You might think that conducting regular performance reviews is a paper pushing exercise that wastes everyone’s time but think again:

  • They can act as a powerful motivational tool to staff if used in the right way, offering the opportunity for line managers to sit down with staff in a structured and formal manner on a regular basis.
  • They can be used as part of a structured career development programme for an individual
  • They can be used to support your salary review or annual bonus scheme, particularly if you are aiming to differentiate and reward staff through performance related pay
  • They can provide the documentary evidence needed to back up the performance management of a member of staff, which will be crucial if it leads to disciplinary action

What are the basic tools?
The structure and format of an appraisal process will depend on the nature of a business and its culture. Setting this aside, the basic process should be that an individual is given the opportunity to have a 1:1 with their line manager and that a form should be provided as a tool to guide and document the discussion. Whilst an organization might provide different review forms for different roles such as manual and management staff, in essence they should be similar, and echo the business aims and culture of the organization. The form should cover the following areas:

  • Objectives – Individuals should be reviewed against the objectives previously set (using their job description if no objectives exist)
  • Competence – Whether the individual is performing the role they are expected to do
  • Development – What coaching, training and development has the individual received in the last year and need in the future
  • Action planning – What commitments are made?

How to manage a successful performance review process?
Engage and communicate with staff – where possible, involve staff in the production of performance review paperwork to ensure maximum buy in. It should be appropriate and recognisable and should be rolled out in a consistent and practical manner.
Training – it is essential to provide training and documentary guidance for both staff and line managers so that each party understands the expectations made of them.
Self evaluation – by asking individuals to complete a self evaluation on paper in advance of a 1:1 meeting, this makes staff take their performance and development seriously; sharing the responsibility. Also, if the individual has an inaccurate view of their performance, it allows the line manager to prepare the appropriate messages in advance.
Gain feedback – ideally feedback should be gained in advance of a meeting, from a variety of sources so the line manager can gain a true picture of the individual’s performance, particularly if they do not work particularly closely, or manage a large team. The appetite and ability to gain feedback from other members of staff will depend on the culture of the business as for some this may not feel appropriate. Essentially there is no point in feedback being requested if is not honest or practical. (N.B. HR180 can provide a fully confidential 360 feedback service if required).
Honesty, honesty, honesty – Ideally no one should receive an unexpected message in their performance review if their line manager has open dialogue with them throughout the year. However, as this is the one time in the year that an individual has a guaranteed discussion, the line manager must be honest, constructive and sensitive. If a line manager does not feel comfortable giving a difficult message, it is important they have evidence to back up their comments and if necessary, they should ask another line manager to sit in on the discussion.
Rating staff – if it is decided that staff are to be given an overall performance rating, it is best practice that this should be communicated to the individual. Ideally, where there are a number of staff conducting similar roles being reviewed by different line managers, there should be a moderation discussion between line managers (as appropriate) to ensure consistency and fairness in scoring.
Action planning and objective setting – in order to maximize buy in, ideally the individual and the line manager should both produce objectives, thus ensuring the needs of the individual and the business are met. These objectives should be S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) and both parties should diarise any actions or further meetings that are committed to.
Writing up the review – whilst the face to face discussion is the most important aspect, it is important that the meeting is written up so that feedback and salient points are captured and actions/objectives are committed on paper. Ideally the individual should do this, thus ensuring they have fully understood the meeting as well as reducing the workload of the line manager. Once completed, the line manager should add comments/edit as appropriate and it should be signed by both parties as an accurate record.
Review the process – at the beginning, produce a timetable, communicate to staff and line managers, offering appropriate support and aim for a 100% completion.  After the reviews have taken place, conduct a training needs analysis for the business and send a final communication to staff, confirming when the next review process will be. Also, where possible, take time out to review the whole process in order to improve it next time.

This is just a brief guide but if you would like more detailed information on the subject, please give us a call on 0845 458 5881.

We can provide you with further help on:

  • Appraisal training
  • Preparing for and conducting performance reviews
  • Managing difficult messages
  • Giving feedback – including the ability to request 360 feedback confidentially
  • Objective setting
  • Managing performance as part of a salary review process
  • Managing performance in general
  • The paperwork – producing bespoke guides / forms for staff and line managers in a hard or soft copy format


Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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