There’s no need to start from scratch—we’ve built an easy-to-adapt employee review template for small businesses, along with lots of other tips to help you evaluate your team.
Who dreads a performance review more: an employer or an employee? While performance reviews are essential in development and business growth, at their worst they can be awkward, ineffective, and tedious. Some employers treat performance reviews as a hoop to jump through and don’t give them the time and effort they require.
However, this is a wasted opportunity. When an employee performance review is properly conducted, it helps identify growth opportunities and areas of development. And, when your employees are working toward goals and staying motivated, your business thrives. Employees that are constantly growing, learning, and being supported are more likely to work effectively… and this improves employee retention.
Conducting an employee review for the first time isn’t easy. There are certain techniques that should be used to ensure that you and your employees are on the same page. The following guide provides tips, examples, and templates to ensure that you and your employees get the most out of performance evaluations. Read on to find out more on:
- What is a performance review?
- Why are employee reviews important?
- How to run a successful employee review
- Reviewing remote employees: Important criteria to include
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What is a performance review?
A performance review is a formal assessment where a manager evaluates an employee’s work. Traditionally, employee reviews are conducted annually, take place in real time, and occur face-to-face.
However, now that more companies are encouraging their employees to work from anywhere, performance reviews are more likely to take place over video calls. Our team collaboration software makes this possible, with built-in messaging, browser-friendly links, and the ability to switch devices during the call. A performance review process requires seamless communication, so you will need great call quality that doesn’t let you down.
During the performance appraisal, the following may occur:
- Constructive feedback: The manager will give constructive feedback, which involves analyzing the employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
- Comparisons: The manager will look at the employee’s past performance and analyze any dips or growths in performance.
- Performance goals: The manager may decide on some attainable goals and discuss the employee’s future with the company. These will then be discussed in their next performance review.
- Self-evaluation: The employee may be required to write a self-assessment in advance, where they talk about their experiences in the role and analyze their own performance.
- Employee feedback: This is useful to help you work on your performance management skills and keep an eye on company culture.
Annual performance reviews are important as they keep your team on track and boost employee morale. However, employee evaluation shouldn’t just happen once a year. As an employer, it’s important to have regular check-ins with your employees and follow up on your feedback. Weekly check-ins and informal feedback are just as important when it comes to employee performance and well-being.
Why are employee reviews important?
There are a number of benefits to conducting an annual performance review. The most effective reviews will get the following results:
1. Increased employee engagement
69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being better recognized. So, when an employee is given positive feedback, employee engagement increases. The employee feeds their new positive attitude into their work ethic and continues to want to impress. Initiatives and reward schemes help to provide incentive, too.
Sure, we all work to pay the bills, but recognition gives us the fuel and motivation to work that little bit harder.
2. Conflict resolution
Is your employee struggling to communicate with one of their team members? Are they confused about something in their job description? Are they unhappy with their current work environment? A performance appraisal gives employees the opportunity to voice any issues they might be having and have an open and honest conversation. This means that, instead of letting the issues fester, they can be resolved quickly and efficiently.
Don’t wait for the annual review to address interpersonal issues. Regular or weekly check-ins are important for a lot of reasons, especially when it comes to stopping problems before they start. Underlying resentments can cause difficulties in the work environment, so the sooner you can have a two-way conversation about the problem, the sooner it can be resolved.
3. Business growth
Small-to-medium businesses need dedicated, hard-working employees who will help push the company forward. So, as performance reviews increase employee engagement and resolve issues quickly, they also help the growth of your business.
Employee reviews also allow your employees to make suggestions to improve the business. There are no better people to listen to than those with firsthand experience. You never know what great ideas are growing within your team unless you ask, so make this a standard part of the review process.
For example, an employee might establish that working outside the office isn’t as easy as it should be. This means that you can work on implementing new software or structures to improve the way your business functions, such as the RingCentral app. Including team messaging, video meetings, and a business phone system built right in, this app is designed to help people work from anywhere.
Performance reviews ensure that employees are happy, motivated, and able to offer ideas. This makes them want to work hard and contribute to the success of the business.
How to run a successful employee review
Reviewing an employee’s work can be challenging at the best of times. The past year has created some additional hurdles. Many teams haven’t been working in the same physical work environment, which makes writing a direct report more difficult. It also adds in new factors to evaluate, meaning the traditional assessment you may follow is no longer relevant.
However, it’s still possible to conduct an employee review while employees are working from anywhere. Check out the following tips to get the best results from your performance reviews.
1. Begin with the positives
The first rule when giving feedback is always to begin with the positives. Human beings don’t like hearing about their faults. When a person is criticized, they:
- Become guarded
- Are less likely to listen
- Might become defensive
- Find excuses for their behavior
None of these are great attributes in an employee review. However, if you start the process with positive language and tell your employee what they have done well, they will become more engaged in the conversation—and the negatives won’t sting as badly. Here’s an example:
“Emily regularly receives four-star reviews from her clients. She forms positive relationships and works well under pressure. Emily needs to focus on her time management skills and keep a closer eye on the length of video meetings to ensure that clients aren’t waiting. This will take her client reviews to five stars.”
Here, the manager focuses on Emily’s strengths first: client relationships and working under pressure. The manager then goes on to mention Emily’s time management skills, which need improvement. If these were mentioned initially without the positives, Emily may become defensive and be less willing to make these changes.
2. Use tangible evidence
It’s important to use tangible evidence in employee reviews. Sweeping statements that aren’t backed up are unfair, and employees might reasonably complain to human resources. See the difference between these two examples:
“Mike needs to focus more during working hours as he is often disengaged and doesn’t complete tasks quickly.”
“Mike is not an active participant in the team messaging channels and takes 3–4 hours to respond. Since January, he has been completing 5–6 cases a day in comparison to his target of 12 cases a day.”
The difference between the two statements relies entirely on evidence: in the first statement, the manager has used none, whereas in the second statement, measurable data is used to analyze the employee’s competencies.
While managers should always use metrics when conducting employee reviews, it’s particularly important when employees are working outside of their normal work environment. Many managers use call recording software both to train new starters and to get a sense of how their employees are performing. These results can be used in an employee’s performance review.
At RingCentral, we offer automatic call recording that can save as many as 100,000 recordings per account. Individual or multiple recordings can also be downloaded for review and playback. This software helps to ensure all employees are following guidelines on the phone and handling calls in the most efficient manner.
Here are some of the other metrics you could use to measure success in an objective way:
- Number of sales
- Number of errors
- Response time via email or direct messages
- Net Promoter Score or client satisfaction
- Number of units produced
- Call handling time
3. Use an employee review template
It’s never advisable to conduct a performance review by staring at a template and following it in a robotic fashion. The conversation won’t flow, and you will struggle to properly connect with your employee.
However, performance review templates are highly useful in ensuring you follow all correct protocols and don’t miss anything during the review period. They can take the guesswork, and bias, out of conducting reviews so you can ensure an equitable process for all.
We’ve built an employee review template that’s competency based AND includes specific criteria for remote workers and hybrid teams.
4. Offer solutions
No one wants to hear a list of things they could be better at without also hearing a list of solutions. If your employee is constantly asking “But how?” you might be doing something wrong.
In a performance review, a manager should always offer solutions. There is always a way to become more skilled, confident, and organized. Check out the following example:
“Kishan sometimes has difficulty making their voice heard in video meetings. They should set themselves a goal to make three meaningful contributions during meetings and participate in our confidence-building courses on the workplace hub.”
Here, the manager has assessed an area for growth and has given constructive solutions to improve their performance.
Communicating on video calls is a new skill that we are all learning to develop, so the employee isn’t unusual in struggling in this area. RingCentral Video gives teams all the resources they need to host, join, and manage conference calls without disruption. This means that employees can focus on their own confidence without worrying about bad call quality or distracting background noise.
5. Follow up
Every employee review should have a follow-up. No manager should create a list of attainable goals for their employee without checking in later to establish whether the goals have been met or the employee is on target.
Most employers recommend waiting 30 days after the initial review before the follow-up. This gives the employee adequate time to focus on their targets and create some tangible results.
When an employer doesn’t follow up, employee reviews become less significant. An employee might start to become complacent because they know their goals won’t be measured or checked, and as such, your management team will lose credibility. Following up shows that you mean business and you want your employees to grow.
Reviewing remote employees: Important criteria to include
As you already may know, remote performance reviews can be more challenging than traditional ones. While technology does a great job at keeping us connected, it can be harder to express ourselves or set goals through a screen. And, it can be difficult to measure the performance of an employee you haven’t seen face-to-face in months.
So, how do you measure an employee’s performance when they’re working remotely? Managers should keep an eye on the following:
- Virtual communication: Effective remote work relies on good communication. If an employee is regularly checking emails, promptly responding to chat requests, and is always open to jump on a call, then they have the right attitude.
- Self-motivation and discipline: Working remotely requires the ability to get more done with less oversight. This is easy to measure by setting goals and monitoring progress toward those goals during the given timeframe. If an employee is still able to hit—or even exceed—these goals while working remotely, you can assume they excel in this area.
- Online presence and participation: How active is the team member in your team messaging software? Do they contribute regularly in virtual meetings? Figure out how to quantify “active participation” in a way that is meaningful to your business, and not just an arbitrary metric to track.
- Client reviews: While working remotely can feel completely different to working in an office, the world keeps moving and clients expect the same great service. Luckily, client reviews can measure an employee’s performance. If an employee’s client reviews are continuing to be positive, your employee demonstrates the ability to maintain high standards while working remotely.
Remote performance reviews will differ from traditional ones. It might feel like another experience entirely. Instead of sitting in a meeting room, you’ll be conducting the review over video call and will need to ensure you both have a good connection and a focused remote workspace. All forms will need to be completed and returned via email, and you should use screen sharing to ensure you’re both looking in the same place.
Employee review template for small businesses: Build yours today
You might not love the idea of conducting a performance assessment. However, the more seriously you treat a performance review, the better the results will be. When employees can see that their managers want them to work hard, learn new skills, and be happy in the workplace, they will develop a better work ethic and enjoy what they do.
Employee reviews don’t have to be frightening. Start early and give them the time and effort they deserve, and you’ll reap the rewards. And with our easy-to-adapt template, you’ll be on your way to more objective, meaningful performance reviews in no time.
Originally published Feb 25, 2021, updated Jun 14, 2022