Home Leadership Employee Reviews: Honesty is the Best Policy

Employee Reviews: Honesty is the Best Policy

Two business women sitting and going over employee reviews

One of the best things you can do for employees is provide honest feedback. It’s also good for business. That’s because it gets employees to repeat what they do well and correct what needs to improve. While they might be uncomfortable, those conversations fuel the performance you need to be successful. Follow these tips to deliver honest, but constructive feedback on employee reviews.

Don’t stockpile feedback for the annual review.

Some managers keep a feedback file on each employee and pull it out once a year for the review. The problem with that is, feedback loses its value the longer you wait to deliver it. Imagine being told you made a mistake six months ago. If you remember it at all, the opportunity to correct it has passed.

Annual reviews can help summarize an employee’s performance for the year, but feedback should be given more often. Use immediate feedback if it has a significant impact on your business. For ongoing issues, try weekly one-on-one sessions to coach employees and check progress.

Set performance goals early.

It’s hard for employees to know how they’re doing if they don’t know what you expect. So set performance goals. And be specific. It’s not enough to say you want them to deliver “good customer service.” Instead, say you want them to “greet the customer within 15 seconds after they enter the store.”

The advantage of this approach is it’s measurable. Employees know if they hit the mark. That transparency takes away the ambiguity and develops trust. Some managers develop these goals jointly with each employee. Chances are your staff will be more engaged if they have some voice in setting goals.

Get a view from several angles.

It’s not always possible for you to observe everything an employee does. But you can gather feedback from those who interact with them. That might include customers, suppliers, or other employees. Some managers ask their staff to complete a self-evaluation. It can be as simple as three things they do well and two areas they want to work on.

The idea is to get a more rounded view of the employee’s performance. Look for patterns or commonalities among those who provide feedback. It can confirm your assessment or spark a need to dig for more details. 

Set the stage for a constructive meeting.

Before you meet, review the feedback you received and your own notes. Then prepare a summary with supporting examples for each of your points. It will make your feedback more concrete and add to its validity. Some managers give the employee a copy prior to the meeting. That gives them a chance to absorb it so they can more easily talk about it.

As you begin the review, set it up as a conversation. Let the employee know that it’s okay to ask questions. Start with positive feedback. It sets a constructive tone and puts the employee at ease. As you deliver constructive negative feedback, use the examples you’ve prepared. It’s important to let the employee know that you have confidence in their ability to improve.

At the end of the review, give the employee time to react. If they don’t volunteer anything, ask questions to solicit their feedback. For example, “What’s going to be the most challenging part about what we discussed?” or “What support can I provide to help you improve?” Remember to agree on the goals for next time and set checkpoints to assess progress.

It’s critical to provide honest feedback to employees. You’ll get more of the performance you want and less of the behavior you don’t. Use these tips to deliver your message at the annual review and throughout the year.


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