8 Essential Performance Review Tips for New Managers

Explore essential performance review tips for new managers, including preparation, feedback strategies, and leveraging technology for team development.

Manager and employee in a performance review

Congratulations on becoming a manager! Now, you are tasked with conducting performance reviews. It’s an important and daunting part of the job. However, performance reviews are an essential aspect of leadership that can greatly impact individual and team morale and organizational effectiveness. 

In this article, we’ll explore eight essential tips for new managers conducting performance reviews. These guidelines will help managers confidently approach performance reviews, ensuring they can offer constructive feedback, recognize achievements,  foster continuous growth, and positively impact the employee experience.

1. Understand the purpose of performance reviews. 

Before diving into the details of conducting a performance review, it is important to understand their purpose. Performance reviews evaluate past performance while also laying the groundwork for future progress and development. They provide an opportunity to recognize achievements, identify areas for improvement, and align future individual goals with the team’s and organization’s objectives.

Bonus Tip: This one’s for organizational leaders: Train managers on the objectives of performance reviews. Help to frame how these evaluations contribute to broader HR initiatives and business strategies. 

2. Prepare thoroughly. 

Preparation is critical to conducting effective performance reviews. Begin by examining the employee’s past performance data and feedback received from colleagues, if applicable. Reflect on the employee’s achievements and hurdles over the review period.

Also pay careful attention to any self-assessments employees complete ahead of the review. Getting their perspective on their performance will be essential to having a holistic view of how things are going in their role and how your organization can better support them in their day-to-day work and long-term goals. 

Bonus Tip: Employ performance management software to streamline the collection and organization of feedback and data. Before the review, outline the main points you want to discuss, including specific examples of accomplishments and areas for improvement. 

3. Set the right tone. 

The tone of the performance review can significantly influence its outcome. Aim for a balanced approach that is professional yet empathetic. Creating an environment where the employee feels valued and understood, not judged, is essential.

Bonus Tip: Practice active listening and empathy in your communications. Role-playing exercises with fellow managers can be an effective way to prepare for setting the right tone during actual reviews. 

4. Encourage two-way communication.

A performance review should be a dialogue, not a monologue. Encourage employees to share their perspectives, concerns, and aspirations. This two-way communication fosters a sense of ownership and engagement in the performance improvement process.

Bonus Tip: Practice asking open-ended questions. These will encourage employees to open up about their experiences and expectations. 

5. Focus on constructive feedback. 

Constructive feedback is the cornerstone of effective performance reviews. It should be specific, actionable, and focused on behaviors rather than personal attributes. Highlight strengths and achievements while also addressing areas for improvement in a way that motivates the employee to grow.

Bonus Tip: Learn the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) model to structure your feedback. This helps you deliver clear, specific feedback by describing the situation, the behavior observed, and its impact on the project or team. 

6. Develop a forward-looking approach. 

Performance reviews should reflect on the past and look forward to the future. This involves setting clear, achievable goals and identifying the resources or support the employee needs to reach these objectives.

Bonus Tip: Employ the SMART goal-setting framework (goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) to help employees set realistic and motivating targets for the next performance period. 

7. Document the review. 

Accurate documentation of the performance review is crucial for several reasons. It provides a written record of the discussion, agreements, and goals set during the review, serving as a reference point for both the manager and the employee. Documentation ensures accountability and helps you track progress over time, making it easier to evaluate the employee’s development and contributions.

Bonus Tip: When documenting the review, be clear and concise. Summarize the key points discussed, including strengths, areas for improvement, and agreed-upon objectives. Use objective language and avoid ambiguity. Be sure to keep in mind legal requirements and best practices for acknowledgments, privacy, and record retention. 

8. Follow up and provide ongoing support. 

The performance review process doesn’t end with the meeting. Follow-up is crucial to ensure that the plans and goals set during the review are being pursued. Regular check-ins and ongoing support and resources are essential for continuous improvement and development. Continuous feedback and check-ins also support retention efforts.

Bonus Tip: To maintain momentum, schedule follow-up meetings and check-ins right after the performance review. Learn to use performance-tracking tools to monitor progress and provide timely feedback. Consider creating a mentoring program to help guide employees.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Performance Reviews 

On top of the essential tips outlined above, being aware of the common performance review pitfalls can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your evaluations. Avoid the following: 

  • Recency bias: Ensure evaluations cover the entire review period, not just recent achievements or issues.
  • Vague feedback: To avoid confusion, offer specific, actionable feedback tied to behaviors or outcomes.
  • Ignoring achievements: Balance critiques with recognition of successes to maintain motivation.
  • Dodging tough discussions: Tackle performance issues head-on with empathy and clarity for employee growth.

Mastering performance reviews is a critical skill for new managers: By focusing on the key strategies outlined here, managers can conduct reviews that assess past performance and inspire future growth and deeper engagement

Conor Hughes
Conor Hughes is a professionally certified consultant (SHRM-CP), board member, and marketer. He enjoys managing projects, creating strategies, and brainstorming ways to bring organizations to new heights. With the company in mind, he strives to serve others by building trust and relationships while guiding them through the process of growth. He seeks to use technology to empower organizations and individuals while guiding all steps of change management. As a board member of the Westchester Human Resource Management Association, he serves as the Social Media and Marketing chair. He helps foster collaboration and community engagement for HR professionals across Westchester, NY. Hughes specializes in communication and relationship building to strengthen teams. He is passionate about workflow optimization and solution-based technology to enhance an organization's mission-driven impact.