Employee performance reviews, coupled with ongoing verbal feedback, are the single most valuable tools a good manager can take advantage of to boost employee performance and business results.
But, the value of those reviews is directly related to how well a manager can deliver a useful and focused review. The review must be specific to the work the employee does so the employee understands what is being conveyed to them. The review must stay focused on the work and the workplace, and not run off track.
That takes practice, and we are here to help.
What follows are examples of five employee reviews you can use as a template to begin writing your own effective employee reviews for your staff.
These five reviews are:
- Review of a promising new employee
- Review of an experienced employee seeking a promotion
- Positive review for a middle-level manager
- Tough positive feedback for a newer employee, and
- Positive review to spur a manager’s growth.
Each of these reviews can be cut and pasted onto your own computer and then tailored to meet your needs. Remember to be specific to your company, workplace and industry, when tailoring these reviews.
What’s more, if you’ve run out of ideas on what to say about employee strengths and weaknesses, we’ve included 72 phrases covering six key employee areas at the end of this document. These phrases speak to the strengths or weaknesses employees might display in areas like flexibility, communication, conflict resolution, time management, leadership skills and dependability. Each of these phrases can be tailored and edited to your needs and is yours to use freely.
If you find this document of use, there are two other items on this website you should familiarize yourself with. One focuses on how to conduct an employee performance review and includes what kinds of information a manager should pull together when doing a review. The other lays out the thinking process a manager should go through when preparing to write a review.
This document is like a cheat sheet, where you put a completed review down on paper, then tailor it to fit your needs.
With some thought and a little practice, all good managers can develop useful and meaningful reviews that good employees look forward to.
These reviews, coupled with focused regular feedback, will help your team grow.
5 sample employee performance reviews
1. Review of a promising new employee
RE: Performance review
Here’s a summary of what we discussed at the performance review last [day of the week] after your first six months here.
- Exceptional skills – Be specific and use examples like fast learner, top-notched analytical skills, impressive communication skills, etc.
- Good skills – Be specific and use examples like “Good with new customers,” “Good with understanding data,” etc.
- Valuable participation in meetings.
- Takes ownership of your job.
Emerging skills to build on:
- Time management. You know that if you’re to take on greater responsibility, you’ll need to become more productive. The best way to do that is by developing the discipline to determine what the focus of each day should be. Once you’ve mastered the skill of deciding priorities, you’ll be best positioned to identify the tasks to get you there.
- Attention to detail. You’ve made good progress to reduce sloppiness in your own work, which had the unfortunate effect of making your work appear of less quality than it was. But you still have room for improvement there. It pays to focus clearly on how you present information to other departments and to review your own work one last time with a critical eye.
- Continuous learning. You are eager to take on more responsibility, but there are good and bad sides to impatience. Ambition is good, but your present priority is to get the most out of every phase of the training process before moving on to the next level.
- Core values. One of our core values is helping co-workers improve their performance without regard to rank or hierarchy. You seem to be unaware that most people find you hard to approach and connect with. But you have a lot to offer to others. Be aware that it’s important to reach out and extend a helping hand to others.
- Customer focus. You have embraced our long-term strategy to build customer loyalty. You’ve recognized it’s a step-by-step program and have approached it in a manner that will best position you to take customer focus to the next level.
You are well on the way to meeting, and in some areas exceeding, the expectations we had of you. We have every reason to believe that after your first year, you will be able to function as a reliable employee in an important position, producing quality results with as little supervision as possible.
There are other things connected with being a valuable employee: Be specific and use examples like being a liaison with the marketing department, public speaking skills to enthuse others, etc. But if you dedicate yourself to a solid learning process, your long-term goal of eventually becoming a manager and training others in our way of producing business results also seems achievable at this point.
You will realize that you still have much to learn on principles of management, leadership skills, the big-picture business outlook, etc. You’d do well to concentrate for the moment on becoming the best at what you currently do. That will give you the confidence and serve as the building block for future success in all other areas.
We’ll do everything we can to help you achieve it.
2. Review of an experienced employee seeking a promotion
RE: Performance review
Here’s a summary of what we discussed at last week’s performance review.
- You take ownership of your work
- Self-starter mentality, good at generating ideas
- Works well at helping other employees develop
- Keen awareness of procedures
- Strong core-area skills (Be specific to your workplace.)
Emerging skills to build on:
- Keeping pace with technology. You’ve mastered the execution of most specific aspects of your work, but yours is a field that’s always changing and updating itself. It’s incumbent on successful employees to stay abreast of these changes to keep themselves updated and ahead of the technological curve.
- Making yourself results-driven. You take to heart the task of making your work the best it can be, but I don’t yet get a keen sense you have etched in your mind it’s all for a business purpose (use specific examples here). Make those numbers your personal goal and link your tasks more closely to business results.
- Building and maintaining good relationships. Good relationships are the heart of future business success. These strategic relationships need to be developed and maintained on a regular basis.
Areas to improve:
- Meeting deadlines. Deadlines have turned out to be your biggest challenge. You should be able to deliver your work on a more timely and consistent basis, not just now and again. When you get it right, you shine. Find ways to maintain that momentum!
Action steps: Become better at thinking ahead instead of just instinctively acting. Activate the left “analytical” part of the brain, not just the right creative side. Try to emulate the success stories of others.
- General management/business knowledge. You’ve started to read business and management books, but a sophisticated level of understanding of business principles doesn’t yet consistently show in your work.
Action steps: Continue reading management and business books. Discuss what you’ve learned and show it in “upward communication” reports.
In many areas, you have exceeded expectations, such as in the genuine rapport you have established with your co-workers, which is essential to our business success and a model for other employees here.
Still, you’re not quite working as independently as possible after one full year. Your own insights as to how you should attempt to get there are on the mark (applying well-thought-out approaches to the structure of your work).
Now, it’s time to do it!
Your eventual goals of assuming more responsibility, and being a leader in the department, are achievable with hard work. Managing a results-driven business is much more than having a nice touch with certain people. It involves first mastering success skills yourself, then showing others by example, taking on initiatives beyond your immediate area of responsibility, and finally articulating the company vision through all your interactions. You’re definitely capable of getting there, and we’ll do all we can to help you.
3. Positive review for a middle-level manager
RE: Performance review
On the occasion of your most recent employment anniversary, here’s a summary of our performance review discussions.
- Good manager – With you on the job, the task gets done on time and always more than adequately.
- Strong results orientation – You buy into our system and get buy-in from others.
- Improved performance – In the past year, you greatly improved your skills in the performance review area and in administering employee work policies (Be specific here) aimed at what’s best long-term for the company.
- Excellent new recruit trainer – People learn our core functions and values from you and learn them well.
- Strong resource management skills – You’re valuable to me because you help me manage resource issues for the entire department.
- Great liaison – You show a strong commitment to fostering productive working relations with other departments.
- Excellent consultant – You’re willing to help other areas of the company as an “internal consultant” to cooperate with our quest for future growth in new areas.
- People development. This is perhaps the most important thing we can do as managers for the long-term well-being of the company, and you’ve made strong strides in this area. You’ve had successes in developing new managers and effectively delegating responsibilities to them. You’ve built up a solid track record as an excellent trainer in the basics for new recruits, and you’ve managed to create staff stability and solid retention in your group, while at the same time managing the economic expectations of some employees.
It’s been good to see a transformation to a situation where people are actually asking me to make you their supervisor. We can never rest on our laurels in this area, and new people will bring new challenges. Indeed, the same people need to be constantly motivated with new challenges, too, but it’s been a pleasure to see you grow in this area.
- Influencing results. It’s been a challenging year in our drive to exceed last year’s results. We have rowed upstream in a soft economy. In the end, results weren’t acceptable this year in our key areas. We didn’t anticipate how deeply external circumstances would affect us, and when we did react, it was too little, too late. We can’t look for too many excuses. It doesn’t do any good to argue (even if there’s a grain of truth in it) that results would have been even worse if it hadn’t been for our intervention.
If we want growth, we can’t be satisfied until we find ways to advance the ball. Of late, you’ve tried to be more creative with different approaches (and encouraged your group to do the same), as we urged in last year’s review. Not all those efforts will pan out immediately. Don’t be discouraged if results don’t immediately improve every time you try something innovative. Stay focused on high-impact efforts and don’t get too distracted by sideshows. We believe quality is king in our business and that’s where efforts should be focused!
- Job enlargement. You’re ambitious in the best sense of the word and you want to continue to move up in the company. Don’t dwell on the fact you’ve had the same title for the past three years and haven’t had another specific promotion. You have become more valuable in the management of the department and to the company as a whole because of the expertise you continue to acquire. Those contributions have been noted and are appreciated.
You make more frequent and valuable contributions in group meetings and are showing real leadership in the value issues, which are the most important. And you have become a valuable internal consultant to new hires. Our perspective is that you’re enlarging your role at the company and it’s important to keep that perspective.
As a department, we face three great challenges during the coming year and you will play an important part in all three.
First, you will see us as a company attempt all sorts of non-traditional activities in search of further growth. It’s up to us as managers not to show jealousy toward those new ventures and to do what we can to support them – even if we don’t get directly rewarded for our involvement. We will all share in the success if we do it right.
Second, we have to reverse the downward trend in our own business sector, and we’re looking to your group to show us the way even in the face of adverse circumstances. It’ll take a combination of hard work and getting back to basics with what has worked for us in the past, as well as a substantial dose of creativity and adaptability. It’s up to us to show real leadership in not being satisfied with any part of the business going backward. We aren’t satisfied until we see growth and advancement.
Third is your active collaboration in the important staff renewal we’re in the middle of at the moment. We are in the process of setting and enforcing high standards for productivity and quality. We’ve brought on and will continue to bring on a number of new people of varying levels of experience, and we all need to help integrate them as fast as possible and cheer their advances without any false sense of insecurity. The more smart, strong people we have at the upper levels of the department, the better it’ll make us all. I feel sure the next 12 months will be exciting for all of us, and I’m confident there will be a major role for you to play.
4. Tough positive feedback to a newer employee
RE: Performance review
Here’s a summary of what we discussed:
- Organizational skills and time management
- Attitude and work ethic
- Initiative – Eager to take on more than what’s required and expected
Areas to work on:
- Flexibility. You’re strong-willed and you believe in yourself. Strong convictions have given you a confidence base that served you well in tackling a difficult job and making the progress to date, which is considerable. There’s a flip side to strong convictions, however. If they aren’t tempered by flexibility, it can result in rigidity. There’s no room for rigidity in our culture. We’re a flexible company with few rules – the only rule is to try to serve our customers in the best possible way.
You’ve exhibited something bordering on rigidity in several ways. On a fairly minor point, you’re sometimes hesitant to start over when that’s exactly what is needed. We don’t believe that ironclad rules on who does what is good for our company. We also admire your ambition to be named a Group Leader in short order, but it worries us that you apparently think that you‘re just about there. You’ve already told us that we will have to agree to disagree on this point, but we still urge you to try to understand – and at least respect –management’s point of view.
As long as you require managerial hand-holding to get your projects into shape, you have to realize that any promotion is premature. Your focus at present should be on continuing to learn your field, or, in terms of a sports analogy, continuing to chart plays from the bench, understanding why something worked and why something else didn’t, instead of tugging at the sleeves of the coach saying, “Put me in coach, I can do it.” We hold no one back unfairly. We have a need for good people. When we feel you’re ready for more responsibility, we won’t hesitate to confer it.
- Developing expertise. You learned a lot about our business this past year, but you have more to learn. You may now understand the market needs, but you don’t always find the best ways to fill them. Be relentless in your efforts to find out what any piece of info really means to our customers and make the extra telephone call to regulators, consultants or other sources. Learn how business works in general and how business principles apply to your field. Ask in-house experts. Set up a site visit. Go to conferences to rub shoulders with people in our field. Above all, seize every opportunity to learn from our customers. We’ll help you in every way we can to scale the learning curve faster.
You came to us with little practical experience. We hired you mainly on the raw desire and determination we saw in you. In view of that, you have exceeded our expectations during your first year here. Your eagerness to learn a difficult area has pleasantly surprised us. You’ve made outstanding progress and you’ve shown yourself to be reliable. That’s made you an important part of the team that has shown improvements in the business results. You can be proud of what you have achieved in your first year.
But that pride should be tempered by a healthy dose of humility and the realization that there’s much more to learn. This is a generally positive review that hopefully provides the road map for your journey to scale to the next level at our company. Your intermediate goal is to (be specific here). Following this road map can get you there.
Over the next few months, we think it’s a good idea to open up some cross-training for you in another area, so you’ll be progressing on more than one track simultaneously. That’s so you will be able to take advantage of the first realistic opportunity for substantial advancement that arises. We trust you’ll tackle any new assignment with the same dedication you’ve shown so far.
5. Positive review to spur a manager’s growth
RE: Performance review
Here’s a summary of our discussions on the occasion of your annual PBP performance review.
- All-around good guy and conciliator – You try to find the good in people and make them feel good about their work here
- Extremely capable Unit Manager – You try to set high standards for areas over which you exercise quality control. This year those efforts seem to be paying off with some modest success, although we still have a way to go.
- Excellent job running cross-training program – You’ve done really well running the cross-training program, refining it every year based on feedback and improving the experience for both sides. The proof is in the pudding: We now have a large group of employees who can do most jobs here in a pinch.
- Great job staying on track – Although you battled serious personal issues outside work, you were able to manage those stresses and keep up with all the tasks entrusted to you with only minor schedule accommodations.
- Provided valuable assistance and leadership – Specifically, in the production of our newest growth area with sufficient quality and quantity to shore up revenue for this important new product line that has helped offset the dramatic setbacks in other areas. You’ve done this hands-on, both at the production level and manager level.
- Get along with everyone – You’re well-liked by the vast majority of the staff. As a senior person in your department with extensive experience working for other companies in our industry, you have a lot to contribute to some of the younger and less experienced members of our staff.
Areas of priority during the coming year:
- Pushing harder on legacy products. Now that external market conditions appear to be approving somewhat, it’s time to press the advantage and made sure we deliver the most relevant and compelling products we can. As we discussed, one of the employees you supervise tends to let us down when we need him most. This is a shakeup challenge for you as Manager. Another employee you supervise tends to repeat the same mistakes. All of our people are too busy to keep fixing the same mistakes over and over again. If managers continue to just “fix it,” they run the risk of becoming enablers for inferior performance. Guard against this and demand better.
- Breaking new ground. It’s our impression that we haven’t fully taken advantage of the opportunity for revenue enhancement presented in some key growth areas. Of course resources are always a problem – here probably more than elsewhere since we need voices, extensive production help, etc. And it’s also true that for the past few months, we couldn’t use our available market channels to their full potential. However, as this marketing situation tends to regularize itself over the next weeks and months, I would like you to assume the role of the champion for this product line. It’s one of the best possibilities for generating new revenues based largely on our own intra-departmental efforts and doesn’t need a lot of outside help to get it done.
I would like to see you carve out your own area of responsibility in our department with a significant revenue-generating project. You’re one of our most senior people capable of great things, and I’d like to see you develop your own bailiwick – something you can point to as your own success story. The (be specific here) seems to present the best opportunity to achieve that kind of crowning success for your already productive career with us.
The past couple of years have been tough for us as a company, trying to defend legacy products as much as possible while pressing at the same time for diversification. The coming year is one for going back on the offensive on all fronts. I look forward to you being one of the trailblazing leaders in this new phase.
Onward and upward!
72 strength and weakness phrases
- Willing to accept changes.
- Inspires others to accept change.
- You use a smile to lighten the mood on tough work days.
- You switch up your routine by adjusting your work style and schedule.
- You’re proactive when you see problems arising.
- You never say “It’s not my job,” or “Do I have to?” when asked to tackle a new assignment.
- You allow the stress created by changing routines to get the better of you.
- Colleagues avoid asking for your help because you often say “No.”
- You’re very rigid in what you will and won’t do on the job.
- You view your job very narrowly and seldom do more than the minimum.
- You never offer to stay late or agree to stay late when asked.
- You’re reluctant to take part in most any new training.
- Interacting with others seems to come naturally to you, and you seem to enjoy it.
- Your tone of voice is inviting, so that your co-workers are encouraged to engage in work discussions with you.
- You tend to stay focused when communicating, which helps reduce confusion and the exchange of unnecessary information.
- You’re a good listener.
- It’s clear you think things through before you speak.
- You’re confident. You sound genuine and appear to be sure of yourself.
- Your body language is closed as if you don’t really want to be here.
- Your co-workers say you’re difficult to engage in a work-related discussion.
- You tend to fly off the handle and complain loudly without offering any solutions.
- You tend to be defensive and unwilling to take a look at your work performance.
- You have a tendency not to be forthcoming, or to avoid difficult but necessary discussions altogether.
- You’re unwilling to discuss other ways of getting the job done.
Conflict resolution/Work ethic
- You listen to other worker’s input and concerns, and respond appropriately.
- You’re good at encouraging an unwilling colleague to express themselves.
- You know when to press on or when to back down when conflicts arise.
- You can explain and assert your feelings without blaming others.
- You move forward without harboring grudges.
- You accept when you’re wrong.
- You let problems fester into serious issues before dealing with them.
- You tend to interrupt when others are expressing their point of view.
- When a conflict arises, your language tends to be harsh.
- You tend not to explain a problem, but instead resort to anger.
- You jump to conclusions before getting all the information.
- Instead of defusing a conflict, your actions tend to make it worse.
- You have a great sense of the time needed to complete a project.
- You consistently complete tasks early.
- You tend to complete more work than what’s required.
- You get your work done without impacting the schedules of others.
- You’re always on time for work, including meetings and conferences.
- You’ve helped create new time-saving strategies.
- You spend too much time on non-priorities.
- You regularly fail to complete your work in a timely fashion.
- You avoid vital tasks and treat deadlines like they are optional.
- You often miscalculate the time needed to perform a task.
- You get left behind at times because you don’t ask for help.
- You spend a lot of time making up excuses rather than making up lost time.
- You’re empathetic, which helps you understand what others are facing.
- You’re confidence spills over onto the people you lead.
- You set strong examples that people readily buy into.
- You’re a great planner, and others feel comfortable following your plans.
- You highlight our successes and make people feel a part of that success.
- You delegate well, handing off key tasks to the right people at the right time.
- You are a micromanager, bent on controlling every part, no matter how small.
- You are overly critical and spend much of your day finding fault with others.
- You fail to set clear expectations, so employees feel almost anything goes.
- You have acted without integrity resulting in staff questioning your loyalty.
- You spend your day locked away in your office and seem mostly unavailable.
- You take criticism negatively and sulk when feedback is given to you.
- You’re one of our most dependable team members.
- You’ve proved yourself reliable again and again.
- You’re viewed as a loyal and trustworthy employee/co-worker.
- You consistently demonstrate you care about your job.
- You consistently demonstrate you care about your colleagues.
- You always perform above expectations.
- You tend to leave early, with the job half done.
- You can’t be relied on go the extra mile.
- You blame others when something goes wrong in your area.
- You’re unwilling to help others with their work.
- Your work results are inconsistent at best.
- You can be erratic and temperamental when pushed to finish a project.