People Management

How to Conduct an Effective Performance Evaluation

By Véronique Forest August 4 2021

The performance evaluation is an important moment for both employees and managers for different reasons.


For employees, the annual performance evaluation is often a very stressful time that’s decisive for their salary. For managers, it is a time-consuming exercise that requires getting out of their comfort zone to provide constructive criticism and feedback.

This being said, it is a key part of management, and helps promote and improve employee performance and efficiency. It is also an ideal time to value and recognize their efforts.

Below I have compiled our best advice for conducting a useful and effective performance evaluation.

Avoid Surprises

The golden rule for a successful performance evaluation is to avoid surprises. Instead, give your employees feedback throughout the year. This will avoid having to give criticism (or even compliments) that seem to come out of nowhere.

To avoid surprises, schedule regular meetings to give your employees feedback.

This way, when something isn’t working, you can swiftly discuss it and suggest solutions. Conversely, if all is going well, you will be able to recognize your employee’s good work and spur their motivation even more.

The evaluation should be based on realistic and quantifiable targets, which you will have already discussed with your employees beforehand.

Prepare in Advance

Given that a performance assessment is an important time for an employee, make sure you give it all the time and attention it requires. There’s nothing worse than receiving an incomplete evaluation because your manager was short on time.

Choose a private, comfortable place to hold your meeting, where your employees will feel comfortable and at ease. Invite them at least a few days in advance, so they can prepare.

During an evaluation, each of your comments should be specific and ideally put into context. All your observations, positive and negative, should be based on facts and not on impressions or feelings. Concretely explain what your employee is doing well, and state your constructive feedback.

For Example

Positive feedback: The team really appreciates your initiative. It helps us get ahead with many tasks and be ready for when things get really busy.

Critical feedback: In the last three months, you’ve been late at least once a week, sometimes more. As we’ve previously discussed, when this happens, other team members experience a lot of stress because they have to stay later to make up for your delays.

💡 Remember to provide a copy of your evaluation prior to the meeting so the employee can know what you are going to discuss and prepare accordingly.

Determine the Topics to Be Addressed

A poorly structured performance evaluation is a waste of time for the manager and the employee alike. So take the time to figure out what you want to talk about during your time together.

A comprehensive performance evaluation should, at the very least, address the following:

  • The goals of the evaluation, i.e., to follow up on the goals for the past year, validate the training to be done, establish the employee’s possible career progression within the company, etc.;
  • Objective assessment of the employee’s skills;
  • Objective assessment of the employee’s soft skills;
  • Strengths and areas for improvement;
  • The employee’s up-to-date training plan;
  • Opportunities for career development and advancement at the organization.

You can use our performance evaluation guide as inspiration for your future evaluations.

Focus on The Positive

Criticism for the sake of criticism is useless. I knew a manager who believed that yearly evaluations should never be perfect. He even prided himself on never giving a perfect evaluation, since, in his view, everyone can always do better.

Let me tell you that his employees did not appreciate this practice and that his department’s turnover rate was much higher than that of the rest of the company.

In this case, yearly evaluations were what determined employees’ salary increases. Never giving a perfect evaluation to employees became a way to avoid ever having to dole out the increase provided for in the company’s salary scale...

If none of your employees can meet all the goals, it’s likely that your goals are unattainable.

Try to also highlight your employees’ strengths and successes. As you will see, this will have a direct impact on their engagement at work.

Draw Up an Action Plan

Toward the end of the meeting, take the time to develop an action plan with your employee. Determine what actions need to be taken and what targets should be met by the time of the next evaluation. Let your employee voice their opinion and make sure they agree with the action plan.

After the meeting is over, ask your employee to sign their copy of the evaluation, which you can keep in your files. This is particularly important when conflicts arise, providing you with a paper trail of past actions.

Performance Evaluations Should Not Be a Yearly Affair

To reiterate, I firmly believe that performance evaluations should be done more than once a year. However, if you do choose to conduct only one yearly review, also be sure to do smaller follow-ups with your team members year round.

One-on-one meetings are a perfect opportunity to hear from your employees, recognize their good work, or discuss things that need to be improved. Don’t wait—try out this new approach starting today!


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