How to improve your employee performance management in 4 steps

Some people are probably wondering ‘what is performance management?’

Generally speaking, employee performance management allows people managers at all levels to measure if their employees are performing efficiently and effectively.

It is evident that employee performance is critical to business success, however, the topic is often seen as an HR tool to manage poor performance and justify decisions around pay and promotions. Effective performance management has a lot more value to offer when used as an opportunity to regularly hold structured performance improvement conversations and to identify development needs.

When I was working for a large multinational in my early twenties, I saw performance appraisals as benchmarking me against everybody else within the company. Not on how well I did but more so on whether or not I was under performing compared to the rest of the pack. As a staff member I was never praised on what I did well, but checked on what I didn’t do well.

The process didn’t feel like it was designed to help me, but rather whether the company I worked for got their money’s worth or not. This approach ended up having the opposite to the intended effect, which lead to me being less motivated to perform and rather just to fit in.

Because performance evaluation is such an integral part of any business and can significantly help with your human resource management, staff morale and company performance, we have compiled 4 steps to help with performance evaluations and to ensure your performance reviews motivate your staff.

1. Turn Performance Management into an opportunity for  Performance Coaching

Most managers have performance conversations with their staff far too infrequently, this results in these conversations often being focused around managing poor performance or pay reviews. Staff end up dreading performance management conversations and become disengaged in the process.

To turn performance management into performance coaching:

  • Make performance management a regular and positive routine (at least once a month)
  • Understand the areas the staff member wants to improve in and provide coaching to help them succeed.
  • Praise them on what they have achieved or improved on since your last coaching session.
  • Create an action plan that will aid with focus until the next coaching session.

2. Choose the right performance appraisal method for your employee evaluation

Depending on the size and type of business you have, there may be various methods you can utilize for your appraisals. Whether you chose self-assessment, critical incidents, management by objectives or 360 degree feedback there are advantages and disadvantages to each method.


As the name suggests, this technique entails your employee writing a review on their strengths and weaknesses around performance and potential to form a base for performance conversations with a manager

Critical Incidents

CI is based around the evaluation of critical behaviours that separate effective from ineffective behaviour.

Graphic rating scale

With this technique the employee can be rated using a set of pre-determined performance indicators and typically specifies 5 factors and rates the candidate against these from poor to great.

Multiperson comparison

Comparing the candidate’s performance with that of others in similar roles.

Management by objectives

This assessment method is popular in assessing managers and professional employees. MBO focuses on end goals and emphasises on result orientated outcomes and gives quantitative measures of performance.

Three-sixty-degree feedback

360 degree feedback utilises feedback from supervisors, employee and co-workers. It is an effective evaluation technique for career coaching and identifying strengths/ weaknesses.

Below is a table that will help you in choosing your appraisal method:

Source: S Robbins, R Bergman, ID Stagg, M Coulter – 2002

3. Provide effective feedback

Keep feedback impersonal

One of the most important rules is to ensure that feedback is based on the professional level of the person and not influenced by or involving personal feelings. An objective overview can be gained by using one of the above appraisal techniques and will help the evaluator to stay impersonal without mentioning personality or intelligence.

Focus on specific behaviours

When giving someone a performance appraisal it is important to keep in mind not to come across as critiquing everything the evaluatee does. Instead focus on a specific occasion or behaviour that you had in mind. As the person being evaluated, it is easier to listen to that one time behaviour where things didn’t go as planned compared to everything the person did wrong.

Make the feedback goal orientated

If we do not have a goal, we do not know when we achieve something or how to measure whether something is working or not. Setting goals with your people allows you and your team to take action in achieving these.

Consider the timing of the feedback

With feedback, time is of the essence. When employees do something well, they want to be praised for it, likewise if unwanted results come about, then it is important to give feedback while it is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Bringing something up weeks after it has happened is both unconstructive and can lead to other potential issues.

Ensure understanding

Sometimes miscommunication happens. The message we send and the message that is received can unintentionally vary. Effective people managers will ask the person they are dealing with to verify key points of the conversation to mitigate any misunderstanding.

If you want to increase your people skills around listening and communication, read our post on the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

4. Provide positive reinforcement

Ever wondered what exercises help a team perform better at work this year? The answer is positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement rewards positive employee behaviour to strengthen it and at the same time enhances self-esteem, which results in employee performance (Grawitch and Ballard, 2016).

Praise your people

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs explains self-actualisation as one of the deepest emotional needs, (Maslow, 1943). When you praise or approve of someone for their talent or potential, it can significantly drive motivation and confidence, leading them to repeat the behavior that earned the praise.

Listen to your people

Make your people feel important by listening to what they have to say no matter how small you may think their story is. Actively paying attention to everything they say is a powerful technique to make people feel important and raise self-esteem.

As a people manager you will have significant impact on staff morale. Read more about how to build staff motivation and morale.

To summarise here a few key pointers for your next performance appraisal:

  1. Performance Measurement is the meeting point between strategy, decision making and organisational learning, it is important you plan and prepare for them
  2. Clarifying role expectations, contribution and responsibilities is critical
  3. The HOW and WHY of each person’s contribution is fundamental to success
  4. Key Performance Indicators provide a feedback framework that is based on facts rather than opinion
  5. Each employee should have 3 – 5 KPI’s, developed using the SMART principle  [SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound ]
  6. Monthly meetings should be held to review KPI progress and provide performance coaching
  7. The Employee, rather than the Manager, should identify areas for improvement
  8. When improvements needs to be made, put in place a measurable period of time
  9. Create challenges to help develop a stretch and grow attitude

If you want to find out more on how we can help with performance management have a look at our performance management course as part of our one day leadership and staff development programmes


DeCenzo, D. A., & Robbins, S. P. (2007). Fundamentals of Human Resource Management, Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiles & Sons.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review50(4), 370.

Nelson, B. You get what you reward: A research-based approach to employee recognition. The Psychologically Healthy Workplace: Building A Win-Win Environment For Organizations And Employees., 157-179. doi:10.1037/14731-008

Robbins, S., Bergman, R., Stagg, I. D., & Coulter, M. (2002). Foundations of management. Pearson Education Australia.

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