Four key parts to a great performance review

Cindi Filer, CEO of Innovative Outsourcing shares helpful advice you can use. Second message in a three-part series on performance evaluations.

Performance reviews are important to your business. Over the past few weeks, we have investigated why this is critical, and then also underscored the importance of a great job description as a precursor to the performance review. Now here's how to set the stage for a purposeful and productive meeting.

In your mind, imagine the perfect 45-minute employee meeting. Now fast-forward to the end of that meeting so you can now work backwards to achieve the best structure. Here is how that time should ideally be spent:

  • 18 minutes –  Encouragement
  • 9 minutes –  Improvement points
  • 9 minutes – Development needs (What do you think they need. What do they think they need.)
  • 9 minutes – Self-reflection 

Your past performance reviews may not have followed this ideal 40%-20%-20%-20% strategy, but this should be your goal. Here is how to make that happen:


Why should encouragement dominate your performance review time? Surveys find that the primary reason people leave their jobs is because they do not feel appreciated. While we need to give encouragement often, a performance review is a GREAT time to tell your employee what he/she does well, attitudes you like, and skills they possess USING EXAMPLES. (Recognize the time they helped retain a client, or notice the extra time spent on a result-producing project.) When you share these key examples, even if they are small “wins,”  it sets the tone for a productive review.


"Everyone has room to improve." Begin this segment on a positive note, immediately following your encouragement message. Focus on measurable improvement areas. If something is not quantifiable, (for example, their temperament when things don’t go their way), make sure that you communicate this by providing specific examples. Jointly agree upon a goal for improvement and an expected reevaluation date. If you fail to set and follow though on reevaluating, you may as well not discuss improvement points at all.


Next, discuss what the employee perceives they need most, and include what you feel that they need. Perhaps this includes leadership training, skills training, or being mentored by an experienced colleague or outside source. Following the same improvement points strategy, development goals need to be specifically outlined with expected completion and reevaluation dates. By devoting time and money in training, even inexpensive training by webinars, it shows that you are investing in them. You send a two-fold message: "I want you to succeed professionally, AND I value what your continued development brings to the company."  


Prior to a review meeting, the employee should complete a self-assessment which will likely mirror many of your thoughts. This self-reflective process is a learned skill equipping the employee to possibly correct future issues even before it comes to a manager's attention. If you need assistance creating an evaluation tool like this, Innovative Outsourcing offers a full range of customized employee evaluation services.  If you are designing your own form, consider a section requesting their perspective on overall company performance, what they would do if they were “king for a day,” and how they could be part of an improvement strategy. The responses you receive could be your company’s best “free” consulting advice!

Let’s review:

  • Performance reviews are important.
  • It all begins with a good job description.
  • Plan your performance review time proportionately between these four key areas.

Next time, we will talk about who should conduct the reviews and the best timing. In the meantime, I’d appreciate your feedback or questions on this topic. Email me at