Build great Teams – People management

Review – Don’t Make It Too Spicy

Review – Don’t Make It Too Spicy

If you’ve ever had a good experience when receiving an end-of-year review it is probably because you were not surprised by the outcome presented in the review.

You’d had clear goals to work towards, and received ongoing feedback along the way. You also received a well-written accurate and balanced evaluation that was tied to your goals.

A great review:

  • Is relative to SMART goals.
  • Is based on feedback from relevant key people.
  • includes information gathered from a self-evaluation.
  • Results in a rating that corresponds to their appropriate level of achievement.
  • Relate The Review To The Goals

    For an employee to have a great review experience, their review should be relative to their SMART goals. If you asked them to grow apples, don’t evaluate them on how well they grew pears. Make sure you have a copy of the employee’s SMART goals in front of you when you are assessing them and when you write the final evaluation.

    Remind yourself what you asked the employee to do, and stay focused on that. Create a template to fill out that includes the SMART goals. In it, record whether the goal was met or not. Record what was done well and point out areas where there is room for improvement. Include sections for both in your template to remind you to provide positive feedback as well as constructive criticism.

    Feedback To Include

    Ask other relevant people to provide feedback that you can use to reinforce your observations. That could be people who have worked with the employee, or who have been impacted by the work the employee has done. Ask contributors to focus their feedback on the employee’s SMART goals.

    Create a template to send to the person who will be providing feedback. Make sure it includes the SMART goals. A template allows you to capture all feedback in a consistent format. It also helps the other person focus feedback on the areas relevant to the employee’s SMART goals. Give the template to the person who will be providing feedback at least one month in advance. Ask them to return it at least two weeks before the employee’s review meeting date. That will give you time to read it, ask for clarification if required and absorb the feedback into your final review.

    When you request feedback from someone else, ask them to provide their honest and constructive feedback on the employee’s performance. Remind them that the employee will not see this information. It’s not a formal record. Explain to them that it is a tool to help you provide the employee with more balanced feedback.


    Ask your employee to write a self-evaluation. This will show you their level of self-awareness. It may also raise considerations you haven’t thought of. Ask them to focus it towards their SMART goals. Create a template that directs them to think about both positives and negatives. Ask the employee to summarize their goals as the first step of the self-evaluation. This makes sure they are fully engaged in what they were asked to do, and helps further reduce any surprises in the final meeting.

    Make sure the template allows the employee to provide open-ended feedback on whether they’ve met their goals, what they’ve done well, and areas for improvement. Include space for them to provide any other feedback if you want prior warning of anything else they want to get off their chests, before the meeting. Send the template to the employee at least one month in advance, and request it be returned at least two weeks before the review meeting date so that you have time to read it and absorb the feedback into your final review.

    When you request a self-assessment, let the employee know that you want them to provide their honest and constructive feedback on their own performance. Remind them that it is not a formal record, but that you want to use it to help you provide a well-rounded review.

    Make It Fair

    Once you have all the information, evaluate it against the goals. Make sure that the annual rating corresponds to their level of achievement. Rate fairly. Don’t inflate a rating to avoid a difficult conversation. Be careful that you don’t award a high rating based on past track record – the rating should reflect the review period in question. Make sure the written evaluation is accurate, fair and balanced and helpful to the employee.

    Appropriate Environment

    Once you are ready to conduct the final review meeting, choose an appropriate, private environment. Let other people know you’re conducting a performance review so you are not disturbed. Make sure you are not tempted to take calls or read emails during this time.

    If you use SMART goals with continual feedback, the result at the end of the year will not be a surprise to either party. Use the suggestions for gathering information provided in this article, and you will be able to make a fair and balanced assessment. Even if the rating is lower than the employee would have liked, the review will be a more pleasant experience for both of you.

    My Question To You

    How do you feel about holding reviews/appraisals with your team? What sort of experience is it for both parties in your company? If you don’t do reviews, why don’t you do them? If this is something you would like to discuss or would like some help with, contact me at You can also buy my book Accelerate to Team Success which is available as a paperback or on Kindle.


    About the Author:

    Nikki Faulkner photo Dr Nikki Faulkner founded Mulberry Bush Consulting to work with business leaders and their teams to make the 'People' side of their business as effective as possible. Mulberry Bush Consulting's specialty is helping small businesses who are new to having employees and helping businesses who are growing rapidly and increasing their employee-base at a rate that is creating a significant challenge.

    You are not alone and we can help.

    We offer a Team Success program that will help you build a successful team that will support you, freeing you up to spend your time and energy growing your business.

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