Are you feeling apprehensive about conducting your first performance review? It’s pretty normal. Even if you’ve done them before, it’s always good to run down the basics again to ensure you’ve nailed an effective performance review— and we’ve got just the checklist for you.

Interestingly enough, about 60 to 90 percent of employees (including managers) feel negative about performance reviews. To put it bluntly, they’re universally disliked. So why conduct them in the first place? When executed correctly, it should be a productive (and even fun) session for both parties— and not like you’re pulling teeth. 

Your sessions should be like a two-way conversation between yourself and your direct reports and encourage open and effective communication.

First, let’s see why you can’t leave out “performance reviews with the team“ from your to-do list this quarter. 


Why You Need Performance Reviews 


As your managerial responsibilities grow and the team expands, it’ll be increasingly difficult to maintain consistency and be on the same page with your reports. Here’s where conducting performance reviews regularly with your team members can help. 

Whether you’re conducting them monthly, quarterly, or annually, regular  and effective performance evaluations with your team can tick off these boxes for you: 


✅ Celebrate and encourage high-quality performance 

✅ Set performance standards
✅  Personalized career development based on their individual role and responsibility 

✅ Gradually improve and develop your team’s individual performance over time 

✅ Aligns each individual objective with the business objectives 

✅ Motivates them with achievable but challenging milestones for further career development 

✅ Encourages consistency and productivity amongst the team (making them aware of their own roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities)

✅ Gives you an overview of the key players within your team 

✅ Familiarize yourself with each employee’s strengths and weaknesses


However, it’s important to remember that the purpose of conducting performance reviews isn’t just an evaluation tool, but a great opportunity to keep your team engaged.  Building positive relationships between employees and their direct managers dramatically improves your team’s engagement and their daily experiences. 

Here’s a great performance review checklist we put together below to make sure you tick off all the important bits as a leader and it becomes an enjoyable process for everyone involved. 


Your 5-Step Effective Performance Review Checklist 


1. Set SMART Goals With Your Team 


Before you—the reviewer, and them, your reviewee sit down, you should know what you’re about to review. For this we recommend SMART goals as a guide for setting goals together with your team.

Setting SMART goals is a great way to provide your team with a sense of direction, motivation and a clear focus to what they should aim for. 

We detailed what SMART stands for and some useful guiding questions to help you frame your goals:


  • Specific: A goal that’s linked to a single activity, thought or outcome 
    • Who is involved or assigned to this goal? 
    • What do you want to achieve with this goal? 
    • Why should you (the assignee) work on it?


  • Measurable: A goal that is quantifiable and trackable. One-off tasks count too (complete/ not complete) 
    • Is it quantifiable? 
    • How can you measure your progress? 
    • What is an indication that you’ve reached your goal?


  • Actionable: A clear set of actions required to make progress towards a goal
    • Has this been done before?
    • What are the specific steps you need to take to bring you closer to completing it?


  • Realistic: How likely are they to achieve it
    • Do you have sufficient resources and capabilities to achieve this goal? 
    • Is the goal attainable within the given time and resources?
    • If no, how will you attain it?


  • Time-bound: Every SMART goal must have a specific start and finish date to set a clear expectation and motivate them towards completion
    • When do you want to achieve your goal?
    • Are they specific steps you want to be completed within a specific timeframe?


So, what does a good SMART goal look like? A great example of a SMART goal strikes a balance between being challenging enough to motivate them but defined enough so that they have a clear roadmap of what needs to be done to achieve it.

If you have yet to set specific goals with your team, it’s best to get cracking. 

Do it as soon as you can even if the next review is still some way off or you have yet to book their time to conduct your performance review on a regular basis. 


2. Take Notes For The Next Performance Review 


Make the most out of your performance reviews by taking down notes and documenting your findings. As far as good conversation flows, you’ll see how helpful it is to capture both quantitative and qualitative attributes of your direct reports.

Record-keeping is also important to formalize the performance review process. Here’s why it’ll help you in the long-run:


  1. Gives you an overview of their individual strengths, weaknesses and accomplishments
  2. Allows you to discern any positive or negative patterns in their behavior and work ethics 
  3. Helps you track their long-term performance 
  4. Makes your employee reviews less time consuming
  5. Helps you stay on track with the meeting agenda (See item #5 on this checklist)
  6. Maintains transparency and leaves no room for misunderstandings 


We hate to break it to you, but no two employees are alike, and your development plan doesn’t always run like clockwork. You may find that in some cases, disciplinary action or a warning is needed for untoward behavior. 

Performance logs or meeting records can also serve as official work documents should you need to raise a formal grievance towards any members of your team. You’ll want to be able to present a clear audit trail of what’s been discussed and agreed upon— and that you’ve handled the issue fairly and appropriately. 

When you’re running a lean team, you may think this is an optional step. But soon you’ll realize it’s harder to remember everyone’s progress and backstory when you have 20 performance reviews to conduct each quarter. 


3. Your Performance Review Etiquette 


Here’s the fun bit—talking to your team. Running a performance review should be conversational, productive and by all means, feel like a great coaching session. 

As a manager, your words hold a lot of power and influence over the members of your team. But that doesn’t mean you can’t say what you have to deliver if it’s anything other than positive. 

Here are some great pointers below, speaking from experience as an employee: 


  1. Ask the right questions that encourage them to give their feedback 
  2. Open up room for comments and discussion 
  3. Be clear and precise with your language
  4. Communicate respectfully: Be thoughtful and considerate 
  5. Practice active listening (another reason why you should take notes)
  6. Develop a habit of delivering feedback frequently to address any patterns or issues before they become a habit
  7. If it’s negative, center your comments on the behavior and not the individual 


Remember, it’s not a trial at a Salem witch hunt but a discussion between you and your team to uncover the right habits and skill sets to contribute value to your team and organization. They should leave feeling like they got something out of the coaching session, and that leads us to the next point of our performance review checklist.


4. Always End With An Action Plan 


“Performance reviews are needed to help employees understand where they are performing well and where they need to develop their skills further to be successful in the organization while performing their role.”

Gina Abudi, President of Abudi Consulting Group. 

So you’ve had a really fun hour celebrating their wins, how they’re contributing value to the team, and the next challenges that they’ll be able to take on. You may have also taken down some areas of improvement and skill or knowledge gaps that they’ll need to plug.

To answer this question of: so what’s next? you’ll need to set an action plan before you end the meeting so that they’ll be able to leave with actionable feedback from the review. 

Depending on how it went, you can sit down together to discuss a:


  1. A new set of SMART Goals
  2. A to-do lists of ongoing or one-time tasks 
  3. A performance improvement plan 


Doing this helps you measure the efficacy of past and future performance reviews, set up specific milestones for them to work towards and lays out the expectations to revisit during your next session or sooner. 


5. Prepare A Performance Review Agenda 


You’ll soon find that effective reviews are like a two-way street rather than a one-way critique. While having tangible and measurable milestones helps you to gauge your report’s progress so far, they’ll actually benefit from knowing what they’re being reviewed for in advance.

Here are some helpful tips on what you can do to boost the effectiveness of your next session: 


  1. Book their time 2-weeks beforehand or even better if you already have a fixed interval agreed upon
  2. If the need be, hold “check-in” meetings in between 
  3. Prepare a game plan in advance and share it with them, you can even share an outline of your performance review points too
  4. Collect a 360 Employee feedback with other members of your team: peer feedback, up-level feedback from employees to management and a self-evaluation 


Providing them with ample and accurate preparation each session can lower the stress on your reports and yourself.  It also allows the individuals of your team time to prepare and reflect on any questions or conversations they’d want to have with you. 

This gives you a better understanding of who it is that you’re reviewing and will encourage you to use the session productively.


Wrapping Up An Effective Performance Review 


You’re all set! You’re probably an expert at conducting performance reviews by now and making sure it’s an effective one. 

But before you go, let’s recap the items in our 5-Step Performance Review checklist above:


  1. Set SMART goals together 
  2. Take notes for the next performance review
  3. Remember your performance review etiquette
  4. Always end with an action plan 
  5. Prepare a performance review agenda before each session


Engaged employees translate to a high-functioning team and an empowered company. The next step you can take is implementing a workflow that best fits the goals and outcomes for this quarter or the next. Check out why implementing workflow systems are great to boost the productivity of your team


Need help in supercharging your team’s productivity and workplace engagement? Schedule a call with us today to find out more about how Slick fuels a healthy work dynamic while offering a rewarding experience for your team.