Performance reviews are a hot topic in the HR space these days—and there are many different opinions about whether or not they still serve their purpose, whether in their current incarnation or some other form, for both managers and employees. In fact, CEB research suggests that 9 in 10 managers are dissatisfied with how their companies conduct annual performance reviews.

But you may not want to torch your performance review process just yet—when done thoughtfully and with purpose, they can still provide you with immense value. They give companies an opportunity to evaluate employees and provide guideposts for improvement, and they allow employees to give valuable feedback that helps management determine if their workforce is clear on company goals, confident about the future, and enjoying a high level of morale around the office.

In order to get as much as possible from these performance reviews, HR managers should have a solid plan in place to help mitigate stress and better engage with employees. An effective performance management process enables managers to evaluate and measure individual performance and optimize productivity in several ways, including:

  • Aligning the employee’s day-to-day actions with strategic business objectives.
  • Providing more visibility and clarifying accountability related to performance expectations.
  • Documenting individual performance to support compensation and career planning decisions.
  • Establish focus on skill development.

So how can HR managers improve their performance review process?

Set expectations up front

Begin the meeting with a brief agenda so that your employee has a good idea of what to expect throughout the meeting. Outlining the “plan of attack” before getting into the bulk of things helps employees become more comfortable and relaxed in the knowledge of what’s going to be discussed.

Show that you’re listening

Asking the employee how things are going from their perspective sets a constructive tone for the meeting and helps you better understand what’s on your employee’s mind. Allowing them to raise any potential areas in which they’re struggling or suggest growth opportunities they would like to pursue creates a precedent for constructive dialogue.

Give specific and strategic feedback

Focus on the employee’s specific job or department responsibilities, and give them pointed examples of positive behavior while explaining why it’s important. Recognizing the areas where they’ve succeeded will reassure them that their work is noticed and valued, and starting the conversation off with a positive tone will be better for both parties—even if you have constructive criticism to give later on.

Ask plenty of questions

Asking the right questions makes employees feel heard. Consider questions such as: How does the employee feel about their time and work so far? What is and is not working for them? What are their professional goals over the next six months? Six years? Understanding their perspective goes a long way towards increasing productivity and their overall happiness.

Set expectations for the future

One of the biggest components of every performance review is helping employees understand their career path. Let them know if they’re in line for a promotion or a raise, or if you’ve witnessed some areas that need improvement. Sharing what lies ahead for your employee is one of the most powerful ways to keep them motivated.

By following these simple guidelines in any assessment of an employee’s performance, both managers and their employees will come out of every performance review feeling positive about their working relationship and knowing how both parties can support each other’s goals.

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