How to prepare for a performance review

A performance review meeting is something most employees will take part in at some point in their career.

The process involves the manager and employee working together to assess performance over a set period of time to determine whether pre-set goals have been achieved.

The meeting enables the manager and employee to assess progress, seek to overcome any challenges where goals haven’t been met and agree upon a way forward. Also called a performance evaluation, or a performance appraisal, it normally takes place annually.

Planning a performance review meeting

Leading a performance review meeting is a key task for every manager. It needs careful planning to ensure it runs smoothly. If the team member is performing well in general, it can seem like a more straightforward task. However, if the team member has missed some goals and appears to be under-achieving, it can be a more complex meeting.

Either way, it’s still important that it is well-structured, helpful and productive for the employee. Prior to the meeting, as a manager, you’ll need to give the employee adequate notice of the date and time, so they can prepare too. This is usually a minimum of two weeks.

Give the employee a self-appraisal form, as this can be a useful part of the meeting’s agenda to see whether their opinion of their performance marries up with yours. Then, read up your notes from their previous review, so you can take a balanced look at their overall performance over the course of the year.

Find a suitable environment for the meeting. The rule of thumb is to find somewhere private, comfortable and free from distractions and interruptions. Many employers book an external meeting room for a day or two. This enables them to see several employees, one after another.

It also means there won’t be any interruptions from other staff members knocking on the door about unconnected matters. You can turn your mobile phone off if you choose, to ensure complete privacy and professionalism in an environment that focuses on the employee only.

In general, book out at least one hour for each meeting, planning and structuring it in advance, so you’re working to an agenda. Every appraisal will be different, but structuring the meeting is important to help both you and the employee to stay on track.

During the meeting

Start by explaining the purpose of the meeting, with the key being its benefits. It’s a chance to sit down to look at everyone’s strengths and goals, while sharing ideas on how you can work more effectively together.

Managers will have the opportunity to comment positively on the employee’s performance, or specific parts of it, while also inviting the team member to raise any issues they specifically wish to discuss. At the start of the meeting, it’s useful to encourage self-appraisal, inviting the employee to discuss their own performance.

This should be done in a positive light, such as asking them what they feel are their main successes, which projects have been most satisfying, what have they enjoyed most about their job and how they have overcome challenges.

Never start the review on a negative note, as this will set the tone for the rest of the meeting and it will be less constructive. You can ask them what their main frustrations and disappointments have been and how they have endeavoured to overcome them.

If the employee brings up issues here, it’s appropriate to discuss them, but as a manager, never bring up a whole list of negatives straight away, as the employee will go into defensive mode. Studies have revealed an employee who feels valued at work can be up to 50% more productive. If they feel under-valued, this can be reflected in their work, as it may weigh on their mind.

Research has proved an unhappy team member gets less work done, as their whole environment can become less conducive to productivity and collaboration.

The whole point is to jointly review the employee’s personal objectives, without any accusations, even if you feel something is going wrong. Address one objective at a time and after the employee gives their view, give your feedback after this, focusing on the positives.

Make sure an appropriate balance is achieved between discussing successes and challenges. Don’t spend too long focusing on things that could have gone better. The idea is to recognise mistakes, but to move forward, working out an action plan for the forthcoming months to avoid them happening again.

Personal development plan

Complete a joint review of the employee’s personal development plan and address any training activities that you both feel might be beneficial. This can include new employee development initiatives that have been launched since the last performance review.

Find out how useful the previous training and development activities were to the employee and determine whether they delivered the desired results. Ask them how the training methods suited their needs and whether they require any further action or support to aid future training. Ask if there is anything you can do individually, as a manager, to help their personal development, encouraging upward feedback.

Find out if they feel changes could be made to any organisational procedures to complete work more effectively. Discuss how well you communicate with the individual employee and with the team as a whole/

Special considerations

When completing this year’s review, take into account the major changes that have occurred in the workplace throughout the pandemic. With many people having worked from home, it may be necessary to take into account their duties and goals, and how they will have changed since they were discussed at a previous appraisal.


Agree on a set of future objectives for the next 12 months and discuss the next set of hurdles to overcome in what is still an uncertain climate – remain positive. Ask the employee for feedback and agree on the next steps.

© Gaudilab /