Performance Reviews: Something to Look Forward to

Recently, a client emailed me a few questions, unrelated to the work we were doing together. She was on a human resources committee and was working to revamp their performance review process. She was wondering, “Does Global Learning Partners have any resources for conducting performance reviews using a learning-centered approach?” What a great question!

Performance reviews should be something to look forward to. They should be a time for celebration, looking back at achievements and areas of concern, looking forward to goal setting and helpful changes, honest conversation about roles and responsibilities, and visioning for greater impact. Of course, not all performance reviews are positive, but this is the ideal. So, how do we ensure they are learning-centered, meaningful and engaging?

Here are some tips I sent my client.

  1. Invite a self-assessment as well as a peer- and other- assessments. When doing other assessments, it is important to ask the person being interviewed the same questions. You may want to check in with some of this person’s clients, partners, colleagues, or stakeholders. Assessments from different perspectives may highlight differences of opinion, check self-knowledge, and enrich the description of the situation i.e. strengthen and challenges.
  2. Send the results of the performance review to interviewee in advance of the meeting. The person being interviewed can benefit from time to read the assessment results in advance, jot down their questions and consider their additions. The meeting time can be more focused on synthesis of results, items that need clarification or action, and forward planning.
  3. Ask questions that ensure a celebration of what is going well (their strengths) as well as areas of potential growth (their challenges). Performance reviews should be productive and interesting for all involved, and not a nervous negative experience people dread. Start with the positive.
  4. Be specific. The more specific you can be about what the person is doing well and what areas of growth you are hoping for, the more helpful the performance review will be. Again, start with the positive.
  5. Book enough time for meaningful dialogue and to plan next steps. There is nothing worse than being rushed and having a one-way conversation because “time is limited.” Don’t book meetings immediately after a performance review so there is some room to flex the time, if needed. If this meeting is once a year and therefore precious time, treat it with the respect it deserves.
  6. Use the last part of your meeting to name goals for the next year or time frame. By starting with a review of past goals, and then ending with new goals, the performance reviews will feel connected to reflect the journey of personal growth, learning and productivity.
  7. Check in on how people feel. Relevance is high when people’s skills, knowledge and happiness are at the core of your meeting. Ask how they feel about their work, responsibilities, co-workers or team, and work environment. Check in with the heart.
  8. Have tissue handy. You never know what may trigger tears—whether happy or sad. Having tissue close-by communicates that tears are welcome and normal.
  9. Name achievable goals. Some interviewers or interviewees get caught up in all that they would like to change, and indeed there may be much change needed. However, setting the person up for success is critical for morale. More goals can be added next time.
  10. Start and end by affirming what you most appreciate about the person. Naturally, most people feel rather vulnerable in a performance review. Affirming a real strength and how a team or the organization is benefiting from their presence, is confidence-building and important.
  11. If you currently carry out only annual performance reviews, consider shortening the time in between the reviews for meaningful, focused check-ins. Meeting more regularly to monitor the progress of goals, workplans, morale, and general contentment can help prevent problems or challenges from building. It also provides an opportunity to celebrate accomplishment and achievements sooner.

I have been on both sides of a performance review – they can be an amazing gift or a surprising waste of time or (in the worst case) a damaging experience. As supervisors, we need to ensure they are helpful sessions our staff look forward to that reflect a learning journey of growth and health.


If you could change one thing in the performance reviews you are part of, what would it be? Why?


Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.