Business owner researching how to write a performance review on her laptop

The performance review process is typically rife with stress for both reviewers and reviewees, which is why learning how to write a performance review is essential for managers and owners of businesses large and small.

Managers often struggle to temper positive feedback with the need for improvement. And, when all is said and done, employees may end up confused about how to apply the feedback to their day-to-day activities.

All this stress, misunderstanding, and misapplication is avoidable if those in supervisory positions approach the process in the right way. In this article, we’ll show you how to write a performance review that motivates and inspires your team to greatness.

What A Performance Review Is (And Isn’t)

Man writing a performance review

A performance review IS NOT an opportunity to criticize your team or an individual therein. Criticism without positive reinforcement is counterproductive and does nothing to improve the way your employees work.

Rather, a performance review IS an honest evaluation of an employee’s (or team’s) performance — both good and bad.

Think of the review process as a way to praise the positive aspects of their performance while bringing to light areas where they can improve.

When you base your performance review on these two metrics — praise and improvement — you give your employees the information they need to grow within their positions and benefit the business as a whole.

Things To Consider

man on couch using laptop

Before you start thinking about how to write a performance review, you should:

  1. Define the skills and qualities you’ll review

  2. Choose a grading scale

  3. Create a review template

Defining the skills and qualities you’ll review helps you organize your thoughts and prevents you from jumping from one topic to the next without any order or logic.

To help you choose the skills and qualities to review, write down the fundamental components that are necessary to do the job well.

Examples include:

  • Attendance/dependability

  • Ability to accomplish goals and meet deadlines

  • Communication

  • Problem-solving

  • Collaboration and teamwork

  • Quality and accuracy of work

Once you have defined these components, you can decide on a grading scale.

Choosing a grading scale is dependent on the specific needs of your business. Some businesses use a letter grade (i.e., A, B, C, D, F), while some use a number system (e.g., 1 to 5 or 1 to 10). Others use percentages (i.e., 50%, 80%, 98%).

Whatever system you settle on, make sure that the performance review is easy to read and communicates the information clearly and concisely.

Creating a template well in advance of when you actually write the performance review allows you to focus all of your energy on getting the praise and improvement right instead of worrying about margins and fonts.

Having a form on hand also adds consistency to the process and makes it easier to get started. That’s beneficial for you and your team members.

Now that you have a basic idea of what your review form should look like, let’s discuss the basics of how to write a performance review.

How To Write A Performance Review

Woman on laptop writing a performance review

1) Review The Job Description

Many managers wonder where to start when it comes time to write a performance review. The easiest way to begin is to review the job description of the employee being reviewed.

Regardless of the position, ask yourself these questions as the basis for the rest of your review:

  • Did the team member satisfy all the responsibilities and requirements listed in the job description?

  • Were there certain aspects left lacking?

While you’re looking at the job description, make sure it’s up to date. Has the position changed since you wrote the description? Have you introduced new duties since the employee joined the team?

Only when the job description is up to date and accurate will you be able to provide a fair performance review.

2) Examine Past Performance Reviews And Goals

Reviewing goals set at the last several performance reviews — and then determining whether or not the employee reached those goals — is one of the best ways to quantify their performance.

Did they improve their completion rate? Did they make more sales in the last six months than in the previous six months?

With those successes (or failures) in mind, you can help the employee recognize their strengths and weaknesses.

3) Look At The Big Picture

Don’t let the most recent activity of your employees be the basis for your evaluation. In order to be fair and effective, base your performance review on everything that has happened since the last review, not just the past week or month.

When you look at the big picture — not just the time last month when the employee saved a big project or missed a critical deadline — it can help you be more objective with your feedback.

4) Consider Peer Feedback & Self-Appraisals

man at desk writing in notebook about how to write a performance review

You can get a more complete picture of your employees’ performance by asking their coworkers for feedback. Use that feedback to fill in gaps that you may have missed in your own assessment.

It can also be informative to your analysis if you ask the employees themselves how they think they’re doing.

Peer feedback and self-appraisals are key components that give you a 360-degree view of your employees’ performance.

5) Establish A Purpose For The Performance Review

For each employee, ask yourself this question:

What message do I want them to have fresh in their mind when they leave the room?

The answer to that question is the purpose of the employee evaluation and will be different for each and every team member. It might be a specific skill they need to work on, an advancement, or more responsibility.

Whatever the case, make this message the theme of the performance review, and reiterate it multiple times so the employee understands.

6) Use Appropriate Language

The words you use are just as important as the message — or the purpose — you’re trying to communicate in your written performance review. That’s why it’s vital to use appropriate language.

Be as clear and specific as possible without sounding artificial, and avoid overused terms like “good” and “great.”

Opt instead for action words, like:

  • Knowledgeable

  • Honest

  • Decisive

  • Responsive

  • Thorough

  • Dedicated

These types of words are more descriptive and will be more meaningful as feedback.

7) Set Goals For The Employee

Performance review being given to employee

Toward the end of the written performance review, set goals for the employee and outline specific actions they need to take — and deadlines they need to abide by — to reach those goals.

Then, reiterate the purpose of the evaluation you established earlier in order to reinforce the specific goals you’ve set and keep the message at the top of the employee’s mind.

8) Start And End With A Positive

Think of your performance review as a sandwich: the positives are the bread and the negatives are the meat, lettuce, and condiments.

Always start your performance review with a positive message. This puts the employee in a favorable frame of mind and makes them more amenable to the suggestions for improvement that come later.

When you reach the conclusion of your review, include one more positive piece of feedback.

Chances are, the last thing they read will be what they remember most. If that last thing is negative, it could affect everything they do when they return to work.

End on a positive note — even if the employee has plenty of things to work on — so they feel good about themselves and secure in their job.

Performance And Work Environment

Office lunch room

Performance is closely tied to where you work, so give your team a greater chance for success — in their reviews and in the business as a whole — by providing the best work environment right from the start with a coworking space at Bond Collective.

Bond Collective offers boutique coworking environments that are available immediately for businesses of all sizes. In addition to our unique office settings, members also enjoy convenient amenities, such as:

  • Private-label mail service

  • Daily on-site cleaning

  • Free black-and-white printing

  • Guest reception and greeting

  • Insanely fast Wi-Fi 24-hour access

  • Concession

  • food market

  • Bike storage

  • And much more...

Coworking space at Bond Collective

If you’re looking for a spacious, well-appointed collaborative workspace to boost your productivity, improve performance reviews year after year, and transform your business for the better, experience the best that modern office spaces have to offer at Bond Collective.

Tour any one of our gorgeous Bond Collective locations in the United States, including New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Illinois, Tennessee, and Texas.

Then become a member of Bond Collective and take advantage of our coworking spaces, dedicated desks, and private offices to suit all your business needs.

To get started or to learn more about the advantages of coworking spaces for digital nomads, remote workers, and businesses of all kinds, visit today or call to find out more about everything we have to offer.