How to Improve Your Performance Reviews Process

The below is a post by Felicia Corbeil, Human Resources Manager at Checkwriters. Her particular areas of focus include hiring, benefits administration, and, more recently, the design, development, and launch of comprehensive performance review processes.

Performance Reviews are effective, mainly because employees want feedback about their job. However, organizations often run into difficulties building a process that works for their managers and employees. When performance reviews are done correctly, they’re a huge benefit to the entire team!

The secret to building an effective performance review process is by keeping the focus on individual employee growth. HR leaders can use a mix of formal and informal reviews to achieve this.

The rest of this article will detail several best practices HR leaders can use to create an effective performance review process that will benefit employees, managers, and the organization.

How To Keep the Performance Review Focus on Individual Employee Growth

While the frequency of performance reviews depends on various factors like industry, size, and culture, it’s widely understood that one formal review per year is not sufficient for a process focused on employee growth.

Rather, managers should meet with their team at a pace that makes sense for their department and utilize a mix of formal and informal conversations regarding an employee’s performance and goals.

For example, if an employee finds a solution to a long-standing problem, they absolutely deserve praise in the moment – not at a formal review process months later! Alternatively, an employee making the same mistake regularly should be corrected quickly.

While these suggestions may seem obvious, employees can fail or seek work elsewhere when HR and/or individual managers neglect to treat performance reviews as an ongoing process, and instead fall back on the formal scheduled performance review as a catch-all for both praise and correction.

What an Informal Review Should Look Like

Informal reviews with a team should be regularly occurring – even weekly. A manager’s job is to run their team effectively, and a team cannot run effectively without communication and coaching. These types of reviews can be quick five-minute conversations regarding current workload, time-sensitive issues, and individual employee goals.

Informal reviews are the perfect opportunity to raise potential issues and discuss and present ways to make improvements. When appropriate, these informal check-ins can serve as opportunities to get to know employees on a more personal level, which can help in understanding how they receive and respond to praise and criticism.

Following these informal conversations, compose and date a quick note consisting of conversation highlights. This will provide you with a log of highs and lows of individual employee performance for the time periods between formal reviews. Then, when it comes time for formal reviews, raises, promotions, or even a termination, you have all the information necessary to suggest appropriate action.

What a Formal Review Should Look Like

Formal reviews should also be conversational in tone. The significant difference, however, should be a focus on the future rather than the immediate: where do employees see themselves between now and the next formal review? What goal(s) do employees have for themselves, the team, and the company as a whole?

During the formal review, all those informal reviews and conversations come into play, as the manager has had the opportunity to build a relationship with members of the team and should understand individual strengths and struggles. Armed with this knowledge, managers can work with individual employees to build a roadmap to individual, team, and company goals.

Again, formal reviews should focus on employee improvement for the future. Examples include obtaining relevant certifications, tackling problems within the team or company they can be tasked with solving, or additional leadership opportunities or project ownership.

As stated earlier, part of those informal reviews should be asking and coaching that employee through the goals set in this formal review. An employee’s ability to meet these established goals is almost equal parts employee and manager responsibility.


Performance reviews are effective, and both informal and formal reviews are important to a manager’s relationship with their employees. When managers have an open line of communication – during good times and bad – it makes for a better work experience for everyone. Most employees want to grow and improve, and managers are the leaders who can help make that happen!

Disclaimer: The information contained herein is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Employers should closely monitor the rules and regulations specific to their jurisdiction(s) and should seek advice from counsel relative to their rights and responsibilities.

By Megan Butz
General Counsel, HR Compliance, Checkwriters
Megan joined Checkwriters in 2020 and is responsible for reviewing, revising, and implementing internal policies of the company, advising on human resource, employment, and labor matters, and monitoring and publishing state and federal legal updates to the Checkwriters News and Compliance Center for distribution to thousands of clients around the country. Before joining Checkwriters, Megan served as a judicial law clerk for the justices of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court performing legal research and writing, followed by private practice in Cape Cod.

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