Annual reviews can be more than challenging; they can be downright daunting. Not only does carving out the time to write out a review, go over the review with your employees, and then file the paperwork sometimes seem impossible, it’s equally difficult to quantify the quality of someone’s work or motivate employees to meaningfully self-evaluate.

Still, annual reviews are important to many organizations, and often provide the basis for everything from raises to promotions. Here are some ways to elevate your employee review practice and help your organization in the process.

1. Try New Review Methods

Traditionally, organizations review their employees by management writing a review that defines and evaluates employees’ success over the past year, while the employee often fills out their own self-evaluation. If this process doesn’t seem to be bringing out the best in your team, try something new. Can you ask others to report on an employee’s performance, such as peers or direct reports? Is it valuable to have an employee complete a self-evaluation, or is there something else that’s more valuable in terms of communication expectations?

2. Encourage More Communication

Sometimes employees and employers alike dread the idea of an annual review, because they are loaded with expectation. This might be the one time per year when an employee hears about their performance, or when an employer gets to offer feedback and suggestions. Consider having more frequent conversations with employees that aren’t just tracking progress towards a project. Having quarterly reviews or other informal conversations around general performance – both positive and constructive – can be valuable for individuals, managers, and whole teams.


One of the most important goals of an annual review is that both managers and team members walk away understanding what their next steps are, and what’s expected of them.

  • S – Specific: Goals shouldn’t be vague or general. Increasing outbound sales calls by 10 percent is a specific goal tied to a specific outcome.
  • M – Measurable: There should be some way to track evidence of a goals completion.
  • A – Achievable: Goals need to be based on each employee’s specific job, skill set, knowledge base, experience, etc.
  • R- Realistic: Goals can be challenging, but they should always be doable.
  • T – Time-bound: Each goal should have a due date, so employees have something to work towards.

This proven goal-setting method has helped people walk away from reviews feeling more grounded and motivated.

Employee reviews don’t have to be a source of dread. With the right format and frequency, they can be useful meetings that help inspire and organize team members.

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