Conducting a performance review isn’t easy. However, when I saw the following question posed in The HR Capitalist: “Will Algorithms Ultimately Write Coaching Scripts for Managers?” the concept of automated people management seemed preposterous. Yet, computer analysis measuring employee productivity is already in use in some sectors, as Steve Boese notes in his blog post, “Maybe automation will hit managers as hard as staff.” Still, I think it’s safe to say that many organizations will continue the practice of having actual real people evaluate employees, based on “human” observation. This doesn’t mean though that those actual real people are necessarily always doing a good job of it! Without question, there are considerable challenges constructing a well-crafted better business review.

In most instances, performance reviews are both verbal and notated. While speaking one-to-one with an employee, about his or her performance, may be stressful for a manager, writing the review can be equally, if not more, challenging. After all, a written review becomes a permanent record. And that’s the reason writing a well-composed performance review requires much careful consideration.

What follows is what I think of as a better business writing guide for performance reviews. It sets some objectives for managers, who are sitting down to write a review, objectives that ultimately will lead to the improvement of a business’s overall health. If a manager clearly communicates both achievements and areas requiring improvement, it will, in time, likely have a positive impact on both the employee and the business, itself.

The Language Lab Better Business Writing Guide for Performance Reviews

Goal One: Specificity

Being specific is key when it comes to giving an employee feedback. For example, it’s not enough to say that someone “writes good reports.” That person needs to know specifically what it is that makes her or his reports shine. Is it the organization of the material, or the language used, or the clever way that key points are captured? As well, reviews should be precise and concise. Wordiness is confusing, and it leads to misinterpretation.

Goal Two: Positivity

While it’s essential to be honest and to not shy away from criticism, there has to be a genuine effort to adopt a positive attitude, when reviewing an employee’s performance. After all, what is the point of a performance review if not to lead to improvement? To some degree, this is a question of tone. It’s also a question of word choice. Feedback that is thoughtlessly worded is very demotivating for the recipient.

Goal Three: Solution-Oriented

It’s important to structure reviews so they are solution oriented. A manager needs to clearly note what actions and behaviors an employee could change, in order to improve performance. In many cases, performance reviews provide opportunities for employees to come up with their solutions- a highly effective way to help them achieve their potential. But before that can happen, a manager needs to clearly convey what he or she thinks would help to improve any areas of difficulty.

At this time of year many companies are doing performance assessments, and it’s no secret that some managers dread them. But focusing on specifics, not generalizations (or personal reactions) will go a long way to making sure that a review isn’t so daunting to write, and is a useful tool for all concerned. And solution-oriented reviews, delivered in a positive manner, are ones that help create a more powerful working relationship, and a highly effective business environment.


Do you need help crafting performance reviews? Contact The Language Lab.


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