All employees dread the day of long march to the boss’s office. The day of employee performance review! The process doesn’t have to be that scary. But it always is. Far-thinking companies are trying out new approaches to the old shibboleth of annual performance reviews. Many are replacing annual rating process with more frequent reviews and capturing critical incidents as they happen. Some are tapping into data and analytics.

Nevertheless, no matter the type of performance management system you have in place, in the words of Dick Grote, the author of How to be Good at Performance Appraisals;

What a performance appraisal requires is for one person to stand in judgment of another. Deep down, it’s uncomfortable.

And it remains so. To make the review process less nerve-racking and more productive, here are some do’s, don’t and strategies to help you make it through successfully and get most out of the process.

Five Must-Know Strategies for Effective Employee Performance Review

  1. Do reevaluate your goals.

Most organizations conduct the process of performance evaluation mechanically. Some examples of which are; necessarily conducting it annually, being over-tactical in your communication to the point of being vague, among others.

More often than not, such views of the process end up sending mixed messages to the employees, and you may end up leaving even your best employees feeling dejected and disappointed.

If taken up with the right approach, performance review can be an excellent opportunity to amplify the performance of its top performers and redirect the poor ones on an improvement path.

  1. Do set expectations. Earn the right to hold people accountable

Yes, you hired them, but that doesn’t automatically earn you the right to hold employees accountable, for they are not aware of what they will be evaluated against. At the outset, set clear directions about how will you evaluate your employees and tell them about your performance management system. You will see a drastic and immediate improvement in their performance as they will know what the boss expects. This will also earn you the right to hold them accountable. You can also hold discussions in the pre-evaluation phase about the process, and take your employees’ reviews.

  1. Do start early.

Lay the groundwork for those few hours of face-to-face interaction. Ask your employee to list her achievements and highlight all that she proud of her work, a week in advance. This process will jog her memories in a positive manner and prepare her for the D-day.  Along with that, take as many independent performance evaluations as you can. Finally, give a copy of appraisal documenting the feedback, an hour before the meeting. As Grote says, “Let them have some time on their own to process the information. So, with a calmer head, they can prepare for a constructive discussion.”

  1. Don’t be over-tactical in communication. Set a direction

This is one of the biggest mistakes made in employee performance evaluation. The problem of ‘feedback sandwich’ — give compliments, then criticism, followed by niceties. This system fails to send a clear message. Grote suggests, “Pick a side.” For competent employees, concentrate on things she has done well. Deliver a positive message. For weak workers, don’t sugarcoat. Point their deficiencies. For both sets, this tone will add to their reasons of being at the workplace and improve them further. Make sure to not be vague. Instead of saying you need to be more proactive, quote with real examples.

Grote suggests employing ‘stop, start and continue’ model — What is an employee doing which isn’t really working? Then, what they are doing now that’s highly effective? Finally, the actions they can take to be more effective?

  1. Do track the impact.

Performance reviews aren’t to weed out bad employees, but to spot them and make them better. Track the impact of your reviews on each of your employee; for both good and bad performers. Are they more confident now? Has their morale increased? Has the employee turnover rate has risen afterward? Among others.

Leave your employees with the feeling, “I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing that works.”