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Performance Reviews Performance Management HR Resources

A Guide to Performance Review Templates for Managers

November 30, 2023
10 min read

Performance Review Templates


For too long, performance reviews haven’t been working —for anyone. 55% of employees say their reviews don’t help them improve their performance and a shocking 95% of managers are dissatisfied with their company’s process. 77% of HR managers say annual reviews don’t accurately reflect employees’ performance. Only one in four companies say their performance management strategies are effective.

Not only are they ineffective, but review season can also be nerve-wracking. That goes double if it’s the only time participants give or receive feedback and even more so if they feel unprepared. While we won’t claim that performance review season will become the highlight of your year, with the right preparation, no one has to dread its arrival.

Employees can look forward to the chance to discuss their accomplishments and plans for the future. Managers can enjoy the opportunity to give coaching and guidance to motivate and inspire their team members. And everyone can benefit from the productivity improvements that usually result from effective performance reviews.

So how can you prepare for a more successful performance review season in 2023 and every year? With performance review templates —keep reading to learn more.

Unlock the potential of your performance review process. Explore the art of customization and learn how to turn review templates into powerful tools that align with your company's culture and goals. 🌐🔧

What is a Performance Review Template?

Performance review templates are standardized evaluations that help managers assess their direct reports’ performance consistently and effectively. With a template, managers ask the same set of questions and evaluate employee performance on the same criteria. Preset questions help managers focus on productive performance discussions and thorough assessments rather than on creating performance reviews. Templates take lots of the burden off of HR, too, saving them time spent on compiling questions and allowing them to launch review cycles faster.

Review templates are an excellent solution for human resources teams dealing with common issues in performance management. Templates might be the answer —or at least the starting point —if your challenges include:

  • An HR team that is small or has other limited resources, including time
  • A need to evaluate large numbers of employees
  • A need for objectivity and fairness in evaluations
  • A lack of employee development
  • A need for clearer communication around performance
  • Employment law compliance and risk mitigation
  • Low morale or motivation among employees
  • Little insight into overall performance or trends

Review templates can be created by companies themselves, third parties like consulting firms, or performance management software providers. You can use templates as they are without making any changes or as a starting point for creating reviews specific to your company.

The key is to use the same review template for employees in the same or similar roles and to ask a standard set of questions in every performance review for a look at overall performance. That way, you standardize employee performance data, making it easier to analyze and understand.

How to Customize Your Review Templates

Making a few changes to employee performance review templates can take them from functional tools to invaluable resources. Assess performance based on what’s required for success at your company, in every department, and on every team.

  • Align the template with your company goals and values. For example, if an important company value is innovation, your reviews might ask how employees have demonstrated that value at work.
  • Tailor sections to specific job roles and responsibilities. Reduce the number of questions for part-time workers and add a leadership section for those in management.
  • Incorporate a self-assessment section to get employees’ input on their own performance. This helps their managers learn more about their strengths and weaknesses and helps foster better discussions.
  • Add 360-degree reviews to the process to collect feedback from a variety of employees about the person being evaluated. Peer reviews ensure performance is rated based on multiple perspectives, helping reduce bias and making reviews more useful for employees and managers.
  • Discuss the future, including near-future goals and career development plans and aspirations.
  • Integrate metrics that matter to your business and each role into the review template. If your template was for an entry-level sales role, it could include a question about the employee’s contribution to their team’s sales goals and the company sales goals for the quarter or year.
  • Ask the team how reviews could improve. Do they feel evaluations are frequent and fair? Do they leave employees feeling supported and motivated? Listen to your people’s opinions and apply their feedback to create performance reviews that actually help them do better work.
📊✨ Ready to revolutionize your approach to performance evaluations? Explore our guide on using performance review templates effectively. From customization to follow-up strategies, learn ways to improve employee performance:

How to Use Performance Review Templates

Templates help make performance appraisals easier if you choose the right one and apply it properly. Follow these steps for using performance review templates properly.

  1. Choose the right template: Look for a template that fits your company's culture, performance evaluation criteria, and review frequency. For some roles, this could be a simple one-page form, while others may need a longer, more detailed review. Whatever template you choose, be sure to use the same template for employees in the same roles.
  2. Customize the template: This is an optional step if the template you’re using requires some adjustments to fit your needs. Adjustments might include adding a new section to the review template, removing some questions, or changing the rating scale.
  3. Gather necessary employee information: Before starting the review, gather materials that show the employee's achievements, goals, and behavior from the past evaluation period. This includes both quantitative data, like sales targets, and qualitative data, like the employee’s teamwork or communication skills.
  4. Complete the template: Fill out the template by following its structure. Be specific and objective, and provide concrete examples when possible.
  5. Prepare for discussion: Use the completed template as a basis for your face-to-face performance conversation with the employee. Be sure to give both constructive criticism and positive feedback.
  6. Repeat the process: Start at step one to choose a template for a different role, or skip to step three and repeat the review process for all similar employees.

While performance review templates should be standardized, that doesn’t mean they should never change. Update your templates regularly to ensure their criteria align with role expectations and company goals.

After the Performance Review: Follow-Up

Follow-up is essential for productive performance reviews —but nearly half of U.S. employees get feedback just a few times or less during the entire year. That has a negative impact on engagement and retention. 17% of people looking for a new job say it’s because of “insufficient feedback.”

Managers are responsible for making the follow-up happen. Just like there’s a template for a good performance review, here’s a template for how to follow up on formal reviews:

  • Monitor employee progress toward goals. Look for ways to provide feedback and support, and make adjustments if necessary to keep them on track.
  • Schedule regular check-in meetings. One-on-ones of around 30 minutes each week are most effective for boosting employee engagement. Get updates on their goal progress, answer questions, and motivate them.
  • Track professional development plan progress. Alert employees to any areas for improvement and recognize ways they’ve grown during one-on-ones and reviews.
  • Document milestones for the next performance review. Make note of special accomplishments and significant projects, as well as skills that were developed. If you’re using software, digital feedback is automatically connected to each person so managers can easily compile goals and goal progress, peer recognition, and more performance-related data.

Performance Review Dos and Don'ts for HR and Managers

Reviews that follow some tried and true best practices play an important role in an effective performance management strategy. If you’re giving a performance review this season, or training someone on how to give a review, get familiar with these essential dos and don’ts.

traditional performance managment vs re0engineered performance management

DON’T: Wing It

A lack of preparation shows a lack of respect for your employees’ time and work and results in giving vague or inaccurate feedback and missing out on opportunities for improvement.

DO: Prepare Beforehand

Preparation means both filling out employee evaluation form templates thoroughly and reviewing them prior to the meeting. Look over peer reviews and self-assessments (if relevant), gather relevant materials to support your answers, prepare action items for the employee, and make a plan for following up.

DON’T: Talk At Employees

Reading employees your answers to the review template questions isn’t going to help them understand what to do next. Avoid giving a lecture by preparing some questions to help create that two-way conversation.

DO: Encourage Two-Way Conversation

Discussion is essential for a review that helps employees improve and grow. During reviews, managers who listen can learn valuable information, like how to best support a discouraged employee or which new skill a motivated worker is developing.

DON’T: Talk About Performance Once A Year

If employees don’t know how they’re doing or how to succeed and get vague feedback from their managers, it’s no wonder they’re more likely to quit. Talk about performance often, make expectations clear, and give good feedback.

DO: Check In Every Week

As we mentioned, weekly check-ins are the best way to keep employees engaged. It doesn’t need a formal agenda, either — open up discussion beyond deliverables and deadlines.

DON’T: Ignore Goals

Without clear expectations or markers of success, your employees will be less motivated to be productive. It’s also hard to measure what they’ve accomplished.

DO: Set SMART Goals

SMART goals increase the chances employees will reach them and serve to engage them and motivate better performance. They also provide clear markers of employee performance and progress.

DON’T: Focus On Mistakes

It’s inevitable that some reviews will need to address performance issues, and even top performers have areas to improve. But it’s important to focus on what’s causing the issue and how to fix it going forward rather than what the employee is doing wrong.

DO: Give Praise

Recognition is a top motivator for employees, driving higher retention and engagement. Say thank you and take notice of great work at every opportunity, especially during review season.

DON’T: Give Vague Feedback

Vague feedback leaves employees feeling confused and uncertain, both about what they did and how to proceed.

DO: Offer Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is actionable and specific. It tells employees exactly what they did well or what they need to improve upon.

“Managers should keep the focus on the future — identifying opportunities, quickly communicating changes and preparing for potential pivots. People still want to know that their long-term growth and success haven't been forgotten.” - via Gallup

DON’T: Review Only Recent Performance

Recency bias sometimes causes managers to focus more on recent performance instead of looking at overall performance.

DO: Evaluate Performance Since Last Review

Formal reviews should consider the employee’s performance in its entirety since their last formal review.

When To Use Performance Review Software

Performance review software can benefit any HR team, and it’s essential for any company that wants to help its employees grow. But you might be especially in need of a performance management system if any of these apply:

  • Your company doesn’t formally evaluate job performance.
  • Your annual performance review template hasn’t changed in a decade.
  • You’re using a paper-based performance review process.
  • Review periods are unpredictable and infrequent.
  • Employees are goal-setting, but managers aren’t goal-monitoring.

Your HR team, your managers, and your employees can all benefit from a performance management experience enhanced by technology. Take a look at features common in the software and how they can help.

Performance Review Templates

Kick off a review cycle in record time with expert-built templates for annual and semi-annual reviews, quarterly progress check-ins, and 360, new hire, and goal- and role-based reviews.

Customizable Reviews

Tailor your performance review cycle workflows, questions, scales, and communications to best support your roles.

Automated Performance Review Cycles

Launch and manage review cycles, track cycle progress, increase employee participation, and save HR time with automatic completion reminders.

Great User Experience

Reviews are complicated enough —no need to make performance management technology complicated, too. The best software makes it easy for participants to complete reviews on their mobile devices. They can also access performance-related data easily, including past goals, updates, notes, and more.

Goal Planning and Alignment

Set and track goals with ease, and show your employees their role in achieving company goals. Get regular goal updates between review cycles and keep everyone on track to reach them, enabling business success.

Reporting and Analytics

Dig into performance data to understand which employees are top performers, trends by departments and managers, and changes in performance over time. Look for ways to improve performance, address review ratings issues, and help your employees grow when you understand your performance data.

Get 5 Performance Review Templates

Now you know all the benefits of using performance review templates, how to get the most out of them, ways to customize your templates, and some of the top dos and don’ts of reviews. Ready to try review templates for yourself?Download five performance review templates from ClearCompany so you can launch your next review cycle in record time and make it your best one yet.

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