Feedback is complicated. Some people live for it, and other people absolutely hate it. The problem is, not all feedback is constructive, and not all feedback is clear. It all comes down to communication skills and the ability to provide detailed information without over-fluffing it. Get to the point and say what needs to be said. This goes for negative feedback and positive feedback. Yet, for so many managers, they still don’t know what to say when it comes to completing performance reviews. For anyone stuck in this situation, we’ve come up with a few detailed yet curt performance reviews to help you get in the groove of delivering effective comments.
Why Effective Performance Review Comments Matter
The whole point of a performance review is to provide employees with feedback on their past work and prepare them projects coming up in the future. The hope is that they can grow from their mistakes, continue in their successes, and go into the next phase motivated and knowledgeable of the company’s main objectives. That’s a lot of information to get across in one performance review. If it’s not presented clearly and concisely, it could easily become jumbled or just come across as criticism. Therefore, it’s important for management to provide thoughtful comments that guide rather than tear down employees.
What Effective Comments Look Like
Commit this to memory: effective means specific. Anything you write on a performance review should relate specifically to something an employee has done. Don’t just write broad sweeping statements like “Well done!” If this is difficult, keep the following points in mind:
- Look at past performance but also look at the present. If your company is only conducting performance reviews once annually, it’s easy to miss specifics unless it’s about something recent. More regular feedback would allow employees to grow throughout the year and, when it comes time for an annual review, you can highlight how they’ve grown and show where they still need work.
- Honest is the best policy. It’s cliché, but it’s true. Performance reviews are the time to be upfront about where employees have been less than stellar. But don’t only focus on the negatives. Address them, yes, but don’t harp on them. It’s crucial to be clear and to the point while also remembering to emphasize where employees have done well. Communication should go both ways. Employees should leave a review knowing where they need work but also where they can remain consistent.
- The key to being specific is to go off examples. Having exact situations to call upon when you bring up a letdown shows employees exactly where they can do better in the future. It also shows that you are dedicated to giving your employees attention throughout the year.
- Be constructive, not chastising. The point is to encourage growth, not cause an employee to feel anxious or unsatisfied with their progress in the company. Consider the sandwich approach. This doesn’t mean catering a lunch for the review but that you sandwich negative feedback in between positive feedback. That way, it’s not all negative, but the weak points are still addressed.
Putting This Into Action
We’ve gone ahead and come up with a few examples of how to make effective positive performance review comments. Note that these not only praise but also motivate the employee to keep up the good work.
- Teamwork Skills: “Your collaborative skills directly benefit how quickly your team gets work done.”
- Leadership Skills: “By taking charge of the situation when needed, we were able to meet our end-of-quarter goals.”
- Interpersonal Skills: “Your ability to get information across makes working with you easier.”
- Creativity: “Even when we were faced with problem x, you were able to come up with a solution to remedy the problem quickly.”
- Time Management: “You never come back to the office late, and your assignments are always turned in before the deadline.”
- Dedication: “Your commitment to your work shows in both quality and timeliness.”
However, not all feedback is going to be positive. Giving negative feedback is usually harder, so note not just the tone but also the specificity of these comments. This is how to give effective feedback:
- Teamwork Skills: “By not contributing to project development, your team has fallen behind the deadline.”
- Leadership Skills: “When the company needed someone to step up and take responsibility, you sank into the background, causing work to go uncompleted.”
- Interpersonal Skills: “Your stand-offish approach to coworkers makes it difficult to communicate objectives clearly.”
- Creativity: “Your solution to problem x was outdated and seemed too inflexible to be easily put into effect.”
- Time Management: “You missed the deadline for project x and are frequently seen coming into the office late.”
- Dedication: “When you are here, it does not seem like you want to be here. Your work has been slipping, and we feel that you are no longer dedicated to completing the assignments.”
Presenting information in a to-the-point manner skips any chance for miscommunication. While it may seem more pleasant to beat around the bush, it’s better to state the problem so that you can more quickly get to the solution. Good employees want to improve and may not even be aware of their shortcomings. Stating the problem and then giving exact expectations expedites the review process and makes it a far more effective experience.
Employee performance reviews are always expected and often dreaded but should always be effective. Giving feedback is about developing better employees for the good of the company. Being effective to this end means being clear, to-the-point, and detailed in your comments. Be sure to note the past AND the present and remember to be constructive, motivating, and praising when appropriate. Performance reviews are the best tool for improving and developing a business from the ground up. Start with the cogs, and the machine will run more smoothly. Download the ebook, “The Skeptics Guide to Performance Management“ and get started on improving your performance management process.