How to help your team prepare for the annual performance review

Many employees would rather face root canal treatment than an annual performance review!  

There are two common reactions to the annual performance review situation.  First there may be the voice of self-doubt Inside all of us there is a little voice suggesting we haven’t worked hard enough, or we aren’t clever enough, or maybe we are doing something wrong but don’t know it.   The other possibility is that the employee feels that he/she has worked tirelessly and in a nearly-perfect way – and if there is any suggestion that the performance has been anything less that amazing, then I’m really going to let my manager have it!   There is always the fear that at the performance review something will be raised that you are unaware and unprepared for. 

In reality though, bad experiences can usually be attributed to the fact that managers lack the skills and the confidence to have productive conversations with staff.  Well-designed performance systems, including regular informal feedback conversations, can be a very powerful way to align executives and employees to the business’s objectives project management apps.

As a manager, it is important that you recognise your employee’s hidden fear of the annual review and do what you can to reduce it.

Tell them what is going to happen

One way to reduce the performance review fear is to ensure that the person being reviewed has full awareness of what is going to occur in the Performance Review, as well as for them to have a sound understanding of the context in which the Review is being conducted.

This needs to be communicated to them before the review session occurs. If this is not your role, and you are conducting the performance review, then ensure the appropriate communication is sent out, with at least one week’s notice.

Keep everyone informed

Ideally, the whole team will be informed of the upcoming reviews, what this means for their performance, and how and when they will be conducted.  The more information that is provided to the team the less gossip and misunderstandings there will be. 

Give time to prepare

Team members need time to prepare just as much as the person conducting the review.  They need to be clear about what they can expect, what the review will entail, what is expected of them in terms of providing examples of work they consider to have done well, as well as what they would like to achieve in their role between this review and the next. 

A couple of months before the reviews, consider scheduling dates for official meetings with each team member. At this point, you could also ask them to begin pulling together a compilation of their annual results. Start with any official forms your company wants you to use, or create your own, asking each employee to craft a summary of his or her key job responsibilities, current project work, and a recap of goals and achievements.

It can also be helpful to have each employee complete a written self-evaluation. This not only helps employees feel like they have a say in the process, but it challenges them to take an honest look at their own work behaviour, which is helpful when talking about their performance. The best self-evaluations include 6-10 open-ended questions, such as: What accomplishments are you most proud of this year? Where have you fallen short of the expectations and goals of the team or yourself? What are your areas for growth and how are you addressing them? Are there things your manager can do to further support your progress and success?

This is just the beginning of how you can ensure your performance reviews are successful.

Check out our other related posts containing handy tips for leaders and managers:

What to do before you do the Annual Performance Review

Five stages of a successful performance review meeting

Contact us to find out how we can help you build a culture of highly engaged, highly motivated, high performing people.


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