The Critical Importance of a Performance Review and Follow-Up

Man and woman conducting performance review

For managers, taking ownership of team development and individual coaching through performance reviews is vital to inspire growth. Performance reviews vary in structure, frequency, and communication styles, but their importance in inspiring growth should never be taken for granted. Each team member wants to feel valued and have a sense of direction for improvement. So, let’s discuss how you can make performance reviews and performance follow-ups a priority and of value to your team.

Why are Performance Reviews Important?

Feedback is crucial to learning and development. This is something we all know but can be hard to practice. According to a Gartner survey, peer feedback can enhance job performance by as much as 14%. Performance reviews offer a proactive way to engage, educate, and listen to your employees. Some of the best workplace breakthroughs and ideas come from the moments set aside to show appreciation, deliver expectations, and request a dialogue. 

Performance reviews and follow-ups give your employees a chance to assess their strengths, wins, and development. If such a time is not set aside, it can be difficult to track individual progress and discuss team dynamics. In order to build and strengthen high performers, managers need to know the aspirations of each teammate and brainstorm a path to make their goals a reality. 

To avoid being lackluster or repetitive, balance consistency and creative elements into each performance review. If you’re a new manager looking to hit the ground running with performance reviews, or craving a reset, here are a few tips to get started with conducting performance reviews. 

A Few Tips for Conducting Performance Reviews 

Performance reviews should not be a long walk to the principal’s office. Leaders must create a safe space for open, honest dialogue with definitive goals and values. “Clear is kind,” as Brené Brown likes to put it. Be sure each conversation has direction, focus, and empathy in the mix for the best results. If you are a new manager, this formal process may initially seem intimidating. Whether you are putting a new review process in place or fulfilling a company-wide initiative, be confident and diligent about communicating expectations. Always give the opportunity for feedback loops and build a team culture that promotes curiosity and problem-solving. 

What is your team setup like? Will most of your performance reviews be conducted remotely? If so, avoid jumping into metrics too quickly. Set aside time to show your investment in the person you’re meeting with, and provide thoughtful questions to demonstrate your commitment to their personal and professional growth. 

5 Steps to Creating A Winning Formula for Each Performance Review 

Here are the key components for hosting effective performance reviews. 

Step 1: Check in with a personal greeting and thoughtful questions.

Step 2: Summarize the strengths of each individual team member. 

Step 3: Present clear areas of improvement and growth opportunities. 

Step 4: Provide an overall rating and communicate the final decisions.

Step 5: Discuss a path toward growth and development and establish a follow-up.

Lead Your Performance Review with Mindfulness

Be mindful as you go through each session. Each individual is different, and they might carry stress, guilt, or anxiety into the conversation. The employee may have had a negative experience elsewhere. You could have some hurdles to overcome first to build trust. 

Unfortunately, a Gallup study revealed that just one in five employees agreed that their company’s performance practices motivated them. You can beat these numbers by staying focused on what’s ahead without digging too much into what occurred in the past. 

One key differentiator in an effective and highly sought-after manager is the ability to give effective feedback to their teams and each contributor. Present some initiative phrases while going through various performance conversations to recognize a growth mindset in each person. 

Initiative Phrases to Use in Performance Conversations 

Take careful thought into how you phrase compliments or points of affirmation during a performance revenue. Employees often grow tired of hearing repetitive initiative phrases over time. Others might seek inspiration through specific new keywords used to describe their character. It’s encouraging to hear your boss noticing the little things others might overlook.

This all adds up and can be the difference between a thriving employee and one stuck or ready to move on. Practice gathering a collection of phrases to include in your employee evaluations. These will help describe ways each employee can continue to engage and lead other team members with their natural tendencies and abilities. 

5 Initiative Phrases for Performance Review Conversations

Here are some good examples you can add to your list describing personal initiative for each individual’s performance. 

  1. You require minimal supervision. You show initiative on your own.
  2. You don’t wait for instructions. You show the initiative to find new tasks yourself.
  3. You are goal-oriented and set your own priorities to accomplish your job.
  4. [Employee] supports new ideas, goals, and working methods no matter where they come from. 
  5. You are flexible and have the ability to adjust to any situation. You are willing to do whatever is necessary to get the task done.

How to Follow Up on Performance Reviews 

So, you’ve put together the next steps with your direct reports, now what? Building in follow-up time based on each performance review helps provide accountability and scheduled check-ins for offering assistance. Employees need to know that you’re not mandating or building in unrealistic goals but working through each win, struggle, and tough question that might come up throughout the year. 

The follow-up process in performance reviews is where you’ll have time to level-set, ask if a new tactic or responsibility is working, and build timelines for projects and individual goals. This all leads to an active plan for employee engagement throughout the year. A recent study found that employees who received daily feedback from their manager are three times more likely to be engaged in their work than those who receive feedback once a year or less.
How to Give Feedback that Lands

Build a consistent sequence to track employee progress.

How does your team measure and track performance? There are many methods and tools to help employees stay on task, report on their progress, and have discussion time to work through roadblocks. Do you have a current system in place, and is it working? It’s important to combine qualitative and quantitative results to present a well-rounded evaluation. Try out what suits you best, and adjust accordingly. 

There’s no magic one-size-fits-all model for what will work for your team. Get to experimenting, and carve out opportunities for the group to define success and offer suggestions. Here is a good example of a feedback cadence and format to implement if you are a new manager getting started.

Weekly Meetings

  • Use work tools like project management software, CRMs, etc. to visualize results.
  • Incorporate 1 on 1s with each direct report for feedback. 

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Quarterly Sessions

  • Set SMART Goals for the team and each individual. 
  • Determine KPIs and how you’ll respond to setbacks.


6 month – Annual Reviews 

  • Evaluate employee performance and provide development resources and opportunities 
  • Align on compensation, benefits, and mobility within your organization for each direct report

Learn to remove fear when giving and receiving feedback and stay positive.

“Feedback” may be a fearful or hurtful word for some individuals. They may have fallen into unhealthy conversations or toxic work cultures that only focus on the negatives to try and inspire better performance. These scare tactics have to go! Moreover, you have the opportunity to reshape the conversations, processes, and motivating factors for your team. 

Research has found that  two-thirds of employees whose managers focus on their strengths are “fully engaged.” Stay positive in your interactions, and maintain a balance between praise and respectful critique. Creating a foundation for honesty goes a long way in establishing trust, mutual respect, and vulnerability. Without these, you may find that some employees are interacting with fear attached, and your review process is less effective. 

Personalities, unique differences, and ranges of skills should all be celebrated for every individual. Try your best to reinforce what you see as superpowers for your direct reports. Encourage them to try new things. Otherwise, how else will they know what they truly enjoy and what motivates them? 

Give them the grace to be adventurous and have someone to fall back on if they try hard and don’t succeed at first. And it shouldn’t need to be said, but make sure to celebrate the moments when your team or individuals accomplish something BIG! 

Next, Add Employee Follow-Ups Throughout the Year 

Do your direct reports get the feedback they are looking for? If you aren’t sure, ask! Some team members will crave validation, while others may feel smothered or distrusted based on frequency. 

Make sure each person understands your systems and framework for constructive dialogue and encouragement. Each employee is then granted the opportunity to revisit the main points acknowledge in the review session and show how they are making progress. 

Not sure where to start or ways to update your current process? That’s ok! Learn how to reduce stress and fear around performance by downloading our guide  – 5 Tactics for Stress-Free Performance Reviews

☀️ School may be out for summer — but L&D never stops!