How to write an effective performance review

By Jostle

5 min read

How to write an effective performance review
Illustration by Kevin Yu

Nowadays, providing regular and constructive feedback to employees is no longer just an option. It's a crucial element in fostering growth and driving employee engagement.

No wonder 65% of employees desire more feedback, highlighting the untapped potential for growth and development that lies within our workforce.

Employee performance reviews present an ideal opportunity to meet this demand and propel your team toward success. However, the effectiveness of these reviews relies heavily on how they are conducted.

Done right, a performance review can be a powerful tool that empowers your employees to reach new heights, improve their skills, and contribute to the overall success of your organization. Conversely, a poorly executed review can lead to disengagement, demotivation, and even employee turnover.

Here's where this guide comes into play. Our step-by-step approach to writing an effective performance review will provide your team with valuable insights and inspire them to excel and thrive.

Through the principles outlined in this guide, you'll be able to harness the full potential of employee performance reviews.

Are you ready to unlock the full potential of your workforce? Let's get started. 

Preparing for the review


Before diving into the actual performance review, it's crucial to set the stage for success. Preparing thoughtfully allows you to align your goals, clarify expectations, and create a supportive environment for open communication.

This phase ensures that you have a well-rounded understanding of your employee's performance, strengths, and areas for improvement. It also provides an opportunity to discuss their career aspirations and establish development goals that align with both their professional growth and the organization's objectives.

A well-prepared performance review can transform routine evaluations into powerful growth opportunities for both managers and employees, complementing employee recognition efforts.

To boost your review preparation, here are some helpful tips.

  • Review past feedback and performance data: Take the time to revisit previous performance reviews and any other relevant feedback to identify patterns and progress.
  • Seek input from multiple sources: Gather feedback from colleagues, peers, and other stakeholders to gain a comprehensive perspective on the employee's performance and impact.
  • Document specific examples: Collect instances of notable achievements, areas of improvement, and instances where the employee demonstrated exceptional skills or went above and beyond.
  • Collaborate on goal setting: Involve the employee in setting their performance goals to ensure alignment with their interests and aspirations.
  • Make goals SMART: Ensure that goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, creating a clear roadmap for improvement.
  • Establish mutual expectations: Discuss not only what you expect from the employee but also what they expect from you and the organization to foster a collaborative and supportive relationship.

Preparing for a performance review sets the tone for a constructive and positive experience, where feedback becomes a catalyst for growth and development. 

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Writing the review

When it comes to writing an effective performance review, you need to be specific. Offering concrete examples to support your feedback demonstrates that you are genuinely paying attention to your team member's performance, boosting the overall employee experience in the workplace.

Having a record of specific instances allows you to provide well-founded feedback instead of speaking subjectively, which may cause confusion. A specific example will help the employee visualize their actions and their impact, making it easier for them to grasp your perspective.

To make your review impactful, be sure to use clear and concise language. Avoid ambiguity and jargon that might muddle your message. Clearly articulate your observations and recommendations, making it easier for the employee to act upon them. 

While addressing areas for improvement is necessary for growth, it's equally vital to acknowledge the employee's achievements and strengths. Balancing positive and negative feedback helps create a supportive environment where employees feel motivated to continue excelling. 

These strategies demonstrate your commitment to their success and encourage a culture of continuous improvement. Remember that a well-crafted review is not just about evaluation but an opportunity to inspire, develop, and strengthen the bond between you and your team members.

Delivering the review

Self performance review

When delivering a performance review, a supportive environment is key. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Choose an appropriate setting: Select a comfortable and private space for the review, free from distractions, where open dialogue can thrive.
  • Show empathy and active listening: Demonstrate a genuine interest in your employee's feedback, concerns, and career aspirations, creating a safe space for them to express themselves.
  • Encourage two-way communication: Encourage your employee to share their thoughts on their performance and areas where they feel they need support or resources.

Set the stage for an open and honest discussion. Put the employee at ease by expressing your desire to provide constructive feedback that will contribute to their growth and success within the organization. Encourage them to ask questions and share their thoughts throughout the review process.

Active listening also plays a crucial role in fostering a safe space for dialogue. Pay attention to their reactions, emotions, and body language, and respond empathetically to any concerns they may raise.

Lastly, provide actionable feedback. Be clear about the support and resources available to help them reach their goals, reinforcing your commitment to their development.

By creating a comfortable environment and being open to discussion, you foster a culture of trust and growth. This approach empowers your employees to take ownership of their development and fosters partnership in achieving shared organizational objectives.


Writing an effective performance review plays a crucial role in unlocking employee success within any organization. It goes beyond a routine evaluation as it cultivates a healthy and productive workplace.

When employees receive specific, actionable, and balanced feedback, they feel valued and understood. This connection to a thriving culture, where their contributions matter and their growth is nurtured, empowers them to put their best foot forward.

As managers, we hold the power to inspire, motivate, and elevate our teams through the power of meaningful performance reviews. Let’s embrace this opportunity to create an environment where success becomes the norm and our organizations flourish with engaged, passionate, and thriving individuals. 


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