GuidesEmployee experienceWriting an employee review: Templates, tips, and more

Writing an employee review: Templates, tips, and more

Last updated

26 June 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

Employee reviews are essential for any organization looking to improve productivity and performance. However, writing an effective employee review can be challenging. 

Fortunately, several templates and tips can help employers and managers get the most out of their performance reviews. 

Whether you're a small business owner or a corporate HR professional, this guide will help you improve your employee review process.

Let’s look at some of the best practices for writing employee reviews. We’ll also provide templates to create your review documents. 

What is an employee performance review?

An employee performance review is an assessment of an employee's performance over a certain period, typically conducted by their supervisor or manager. 

It's a formal evaluation of their: 

  • Work ethic and approach

  • Achievements

  • Skills

  • Strengths

  • Areas for improvement

Employee performance reviews are essential for employers to monitor and improve employee productivity and performance. They also ensure employees understand how they’re doing against manager expectations, goal achievement, and development.

Performance reviews enable open communication between managers and their team members. Employees can express their concerns and provide feedback about their work environment, job responsibilities, and future goals. Managers can use this information to address concerns and provide support where needed. 

Overall, an effective employee performance review is a valuable tool for employers to establish goals, evaluate employee performance, and improve productivity. 

Perhaps you're unsure how to write an employee review. You're not alone!

Fortunately, employee review examples and templates are available to make the process easier and more efficient. These templates can provide structure and guidance, ensuring you get all key information. We’ll get to those later.

Why are employee performance reviews important?

Employee performance reviews are an essential part of the performance management process. They provide an opportunity to set goals, assess an employee's performance against those goals, and identify strengths and weaknesses.

Here are a few reasons why employee performance reviews are important:

Improves productivity

Employees who receive feedback on their performance can make adjustments to improve their performance, leading to higher productivity levels.

Identifies strengths and weaknesses

Employee performance reviews are a chance to recognize employees' strengths and identify improvement areas. 

Knowing an employee's strengths and weaknesses can also help in planning future training and growth opportunities.

Boosts workplace morale

When employees receive recognition for their hard work and accomplishments, it can boost morale. This leads to higher job satisfaction and a more positive work environment.

Provides growth opportunities

Employee performance reviews can identify potential leaders and those interested in advancing their careers. They can also provide opportunities for employees to take on new challenges and responsibilities.

Helps to build stronger relationships

Setting expectations and exchanging feedback in reviews can build stronger relationships between managers and employees. This can lead to better workplace communication, trust, and understanding.

Providing and documenting performance reviews to your employees helps reduce legal risk when an employee voluntarily or involuntarily leaves your organization.

Overall, employee performance reviews are crucial to any organization's success. 

Knowing how to write an employee review ensures you can conduct effective reviews that lead to a more productive, engaged work environment.

When should you conduct employee performance reviews?

You should conduct performance reviews at various points in the employee's tenure and once or twice a year. 

However, more frequent reviews may be necessary for new employees or those with performance issues. 

Here are some examples of when you should conduct reviews:

  • Annually: Most companies conduct employee performance reviews on an annual basis. This provides a comprehensive review of an employee's work over a year.

  • After a significant event: It's a good idea to conduct a review after a significant event, such as a major project completion or after the employee receives a promotion or raise.

  • Mid-year: A mid-year review can help you and your employee catch potential issues early on and make course corrections.

  • New employees: Reviews for new employees should be conducted after the first few months to provide feedback and guidance to ensure the new employee is on the right track

  • Unsatisfactory performance: If an employee's performance is lacking and needs improvement, schedule an employee review immediately to identify issues and provide a roadmap.

Providing regular feedback helps employees improve their skills and identify areas for growth. With the right tools and techniques, you can conduct effective employee performance reviews that benefit the employee and the company.

Tips for conducting a great employee performance review

Employee performance reviews are an opportunity to set goals, recognize achievements and provide constructive feedback for the future. 

As an employer or manager, it's crucial to ensure that you conduct the review process professionally and effectively.

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

Before the review

Make sure you have clear, specific goals for each employee. This will help you measure their performance against these goals and track progress over time.

Prepare for the review by setting a time and date that is mutually convenient, and allot enough time for both parties to review the feedback and ask questions. You never want to rush an employee’s performance review.

Gather relevant information, such as: 

  • Previous performance reviews

  • Job descriptions

  • Feedback from peers or project managers

  • Project reports

Consider asking the employee to complete a self-review before the discussion.

During the review

Begin the review positively, acknowledging the employee's strengths and accomplishments.

If you’re providing constructive criticism, ensure it’s fair and objective. Give specific examples to support your feedback.

Address any areas where the employee could improve and provide opportunities for professional development.

Actively listen to the employee's perspective and answer any questions they may have.

After the review

Recap the key points to ensure a clear understanding of the discussion and provide a written summary of the review. Give it to the employee to acknowledge and sign.

Follow up regularly with the employee to ensure they’re on track with their goals.

Clearly communicate expectations for the coming year and set goals collaboratively.

What is an employee performance review template?

An employee performance review template is a pre-designed document that helps employers structure and standardize the process of evaluating their employees' job performance. 

It can take the form of a printed document or an online form that managers can use to assess their staff. The template can include various questions, metrics, and criteria that enable managers to provide feedback on specific skills, behavior, or accomplishments.

Using an employee review template has several advantages:

  • It provides a framework for consistency. 

  • Using the same criteria to evaluate every employee makes reviews fair and objective.

  • It ensures you cover all relevant areas of performance. 

Review templates can include different aspects such as job knowledge, productivity, teamwork, communication, and punctuality. Covering all relevant areas makes the review process more thorough and less likely to miss critical details.

Finally, review templates can save time and increase efficiency. Instead of creating a review form from scratch every time, managers can opt for a pre-existing, ready-to-use template. 

It ensures structured, comprehensive, and on-point feedback, preventing the review process from becoming disorganized or incomplete.

Examples of employee review templates

Employee review templates are great tools to streamline and standardize the performance review process. You can use different types of templates depending on the review’s specific goals and objectives. 

Here are some examples:

Self-reviews

Self-reviews are performance evaluations that employees fill out about themselves. These are great for encouraging employees to reflect on their performance and identify areas to improve. 

Self-reviews can also highlight accomplishments. However, employees may be overly critical or too complimentary.

Peer reviews

Peer reviews are performance evaluations that employees receive from their colleagues or team members. These are great for promoting teamwork and collaboration. They can identify areas where an employee is excelling or needs improvement. 

One disadvantage of peer reviews is that employees may feel uncomfortable providing negative feedback. Setting up a survey tool for team members that asks questions about an employee's communication, teamwork, and overall performance may help with this.

Team performance reviews

Team performance reviews are performance evaluations that evaluate the entire team's performance rather than individual employees. These are great for identifying areas where the team is excelling or struggling. 

It can foster collaboration, but it may be difficult to identify individual contributions.

Manager review and overall performance summary

This review is a culmination of the employee’s self-review, peer review, and team performance review feedback. The manager reviews patterns and trends and combines this information with their observations and expectations.  

This is typically the formal performance review shared with the employee and retained in the personnel file.

Quarterly or yearly reviews

Quarterly or yearly reviews are regular comprehensive performance evaluations. These are great for identifying trends and patterns in an employee's performance over time. 

However, feedback may be delayed and less relevant with quarterly or yearly reviews.

Writing an overall performance summary

After evaluating an employee's performance in various areas, it's crucial to provide an overall summary. 

This summary should provide a clear, concise overview of the employee's strengths, areas of improvement, and any achievements.

Review feedback 

To write an effective overall performance summary, review all the feedback you've gathered during the employee review process. Identify where the employee has excelled and note any significant accomplishments or milestones they've achieved.

Identify areas for improvement

Next, identify where the employee could improve. Be specific in your feedback, highlighting areas where the employee may need additional training or support.

When crafting your overall summary, focus on the most important takeaways. Avoid generalizations or vague statements that don't provide any meaningful feedback.

Include specific action items or goals

In addition to identifying strengths and areas for improvement, it's essential to include specific action items or goals for the employee to work on moving forward. This can help them stay motivated and clearly understand what they need to do to improve.

Finish on a positive note

Finally, be sure to wrap up your overall performance summary positively, thanking the employee for their hard work and emphasizing the value they bring to the organization. 

Providing clear and actionable feedback helps your employees grow and succeed in their roles.

Employee performance reviews can be a powerful tool to improve productivity, identify areas for growth, and boost employee morale in the workplace. 

Follow these templates, tips, and best practices to conduct effective reviews that inspire your team to reach their full potential. Remember to be objective, honest, and clear in your assessments, and provide constructive feedback that encourages continuous improvement

Investing in your employees means you can build a stronger, more cohesive team that drives success for your business. 

So, give it a try—the benefits of effective employee reviews are well worth the effort!

FAQs

What should I include in an employee performance review?

An effective employee performance review should include an evaluation of the employee's: 

  • Strengths and weaknesses

  • Progress toward goals and objectives

  • Overall performance

What if an employee disagrees with their performance review?

It is important to listen to the employee's concerns and work together to address any discrepancies. Provide specific examples and encourage open communication to come to a resolution.

If an employee still disagrees with the performance review, the manager has the final say, and the document becomes part of the official personnel file.

How can I make sure my employee performance review is fair?

Ensure the review has: 

  • Measurable goals and objectives

  • Examples of feedback or observations to back up any criticisms or praise

  • Constructive feedback for improvement

Be careful to keep specific employee feedback private when utilizing peer or team review information. Instead, look for patterns and trends and speak to those. 

How do I comment on my performance?

As an employee, you should come prepared with your self-assessment and examples of your work to discuss during the performance review. 

Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and plan how to improve in areas where you may be lacking. Be open to constructive feedback from your manager, and don't be defensive.

The performance review aims to improve your performance and help you grow in your role.

Should I be doing anything else throughout the year to provide my employee with feedback?  A year seems like a long time.

Meet regularly (weekly, monthly, quarterly) with your employee to review progress against goals, discuss achievements, and provide constructive feedback for any course correction throughout the year. There shouldn’t be surprises during the annual review.

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