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Five Components of the Performance Process and Review Meeting

By: Sharon Armstrong , Sharon Armstrong and Associates
Published: June 2006

Sharon Armstrong, of Sharon Armstrong and Associates, gives important guidance and advice for each of the five steps of the performance review process and meeting. The five steps include: planning and preparation, starting the meeting, discussion, closing, and follow-up.


Sharon Armstrong
Sharon Armstrong and Associates
202 – 333 – 0644

Planning and Preparation

  • Familiarize yourself with the form and the ratings
  • Think about the goals each employee has been working on.  What contribution is the employee/should employee be making?  Does the employee know clearly what is expected?  What are the strengths/areas for improvement?
  • Collect objective information, pull examples, observations
  • Pull job description
  • Fill out the form privately; put it aside; review the next day or so; be ready to justify ratings
  • Be sure to add specific examples
  • Plan your discussion in detail; compliments; areas for improvement
  • Schedule the meeting; plan enough time for the discussion; assure privacy; select a time when you and the employee are not under pressure
  • Review appraisal once more before meeting
  • Make sure it’s job and goal-related; fair and objective; based on performance
  • Remember – ABC (accurate, behavioral, and complete and consistent)
  • Discuss self-evaluation…and the value of it.  This is optional.  (If there are important differences, be prepared to discuss them as well as why you think one version is more accurate than another.)
  • The manager needs to think about how to involve employees in the process…how to get them to take part in the appraisals…in addition to a self-evaluation, how to get them to do most of the talking during the session, and help them identify and plan their professional development.
  • A Washington (USA) based employers, National Cooperative Bank, a financial services company in DC, calls its appraisal process the Max Plan.  Their process is employee-driven.  Employees seek feedback from their managers and team members, then review their prior year’s Max Plan and assess achievements demonstrating measurable results.  They then draft a new plan – all before meeting with their supervisors.
  • At the National Health Service Hospital in the UK, employees reported finding the process beneficial as long as they were actively engaged in the process.   They reported that the objectives they set for themselves were more interesting and challenging than those set by their supervisors.

Starting the Meeting

  • Always conduct a warm up/set the tone; keep small talk to a minimum
  • Put the employee at ease; acknowledge that the employee may feel uncomfortable; try to reassure; stress the routine of it; share your experience; say you have many positive things to say – if that’s true (lowers the anxiety level right away)
  • Keep it informal but business-like
  • Outline what you want to cover; in what order; explain the structure of the meeting – so employee will know what to expect (this also lowers anxiety); employee will have a chance to raise concerns
  • Clearly explain the purpose (and importance) of the meeting in positive terms.  Say that appraisals: are designed to help employee know how he/she is doing; ensure you are both on the same track in terms of realistic goals and priorities; provide a forum for problem resolution; provide feedback to help the employee succeed; are an investment in their professional development.
  • Indicate what you want to accomplish in meeting
  • Allow the employee sufficient time to read the appraisal. Ask for their impression. You can read the self-evaluation at this point.  Discuss any major differences.
  • Encourage the employee to discuss the appraisal with you.
  • Set ground rules – open and honest; 2 way; avoid defensiveness on both parts and getting sidetracked into a detailed discussion of one performance problem; problem-solving.


  • Describe the job in terms of how it fits into the larger picture; purpose of the position and importance of “less desirable” aspects.
  • Listen – give the employee a chance to talk
  • Go over the ratings; be prepared to be challenged/ready with examples
  • Explain ratings don’t equate to grades
  • Start with the positive; Say things like “You’ve made important contributions this year.” “I’m impressed by your performance on _________.” “You’ve been more conscientious about ________.” “I was pleased   to see ______________.”
  • facilitating discussion
  • Review significant accomplishments – give praise and credit (nothing is more stimulating/motivating; helps increase confidence and reinforce good performance.)
  • Ask open-ended questions to get a general reaction.  Many start with “How do you think things have been going” “Do these ratings seem fair?” “What would you do differently?”
  • Remember to focus on the job performance
  • Consider asking other questions to facilitate discussion: What did I do for you in the last 6 months that really helped your performance?  Hindered your performance?  What can I do in the next 6 months? What do you want most from your job? Under what conditions do you do your best work? How would you like to receive suggestions for improving your work? How can I help you reach your career goals? What inhibits your best work? What things have made your job more difficult? What do we need to do in the next year to help you be more productive? (These last 2 questions are from author Robert Bacal)
  • Discuss areas where the performance falls short – with specific examples.  “I was concerned _______________.” Focus criticisms on performance, not personality characteristics.
  • Be specific.  Stay calm.
  • Don’t discuss areas for improvement in a way that will seriously disturb a good employee; net result is to be encouraging.
  • Identify specific actions the employee can take to improve performance. Ask for their suggestions.
  • Work for understanding rather than complete agreement; can agree to disagree.
  • Remind employee about the feedback page


  • Just as important to end the meeting in a professional and positive manner, as it was to start the meeting.  You want the employee to leave the discussion with a positive impression of the process.
  • Summarize what was discussed
  •   If the employee introduced issues that would make you consider changing their evaluation, apologize for your oversight and tell employee you would like a few days to consider how this information might effect your evaluation.
  • Settle on a plan for the future; important to let the employee have input
  • Write goals together; make measurable; challenging but achievable
  • Offer your help
  • Express confidence that the two of you can successfully work through the difficulties
  • Think about training, skills development, opportunities or added responsibilities
  • Ask the employee to add any last thoughts/ questions/ reaction to the performance appraisal meeting; (“What’s been learned?” “Surprises?” “Was it fair?” “Your general reaction?” “ If you have more reaction later, my door is open.”).
  • Remind about the Feedback Form 
  • If the employee disagrees with any points brought out, let him/her know he/she has the following options: a) document the areas of disagreement on the feedback form; b) he/she can discuss the issue with the supervisor’s supervisor; c) he/she can discuss it with HR.
  • Review mutual agreement for next step and follow up
  • Share your ideas on where the dept is headed
  • Discuss department goals
  • Discuss company goals and review mission/vision (employees want to be in the loop)
  • Relate the employees past and present performance with department
  • Close on a friendly note – let them know they’re part of the team, that their performance matters to the company and the department
  • Encourage them; express appreciation for the employees participation; in the words of Former GE CEO Jack Welch, “I was a gardener providing water and nourishment.”
  • Both sign and date form. Explain that signing the form merely indicates that the form has been discussed with him/her and indicates the date of the appraisal discussion
  • Explain where the form will go; stress the confidentiality
  • Tell them you’ll continue to give feedback throughout the year; say, “feel comfortable contacting me at any time to discuss.”


  • Follow up on commitments you’ve made for support, training, etc.
  • Refer to HR to determine if a copy of the documentation should be sent to HR and kept in the manager’s employee file
  • Review your notes and evaluate yourself
  • Begin observations for next performance discussion with employees and record them!
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