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Blog - How to manage staff reviews and why they matter

Sitting staff down to have a conversation about their performance may be considered a waste of time for businesses with small teams and few resources, but they can be vital in understanding how a company is performing, argues Steve Lipscombe, director of marketing agency, RONIN.

“Employees need to know what’s expected of them and how well they’re doing,” he says. “As a boss, you also need know whether you’re meeting the expectations of your team.”

Don’t do it at your peril, he adds; staff without a clear direction or purpose will be confused and unproductive.

Tracey Hopkins, director of employment law firm, Howarths, says that an effective performance review process should be more than a quick catch-up once every year. As a good basic framework, she suggests quarterly one-to-one meetings, followed by an in-depth annual appraisal.

“Meetings should be used as an opportunity for employees to discuss their progress and development with their manager, ensuring that they’re on track to achieve their targets,” she explains.

Productivity consultant, Marianne Page, adds: “People are often much harder on themselves than we might be, so give them a chance to tell you what they have done well and where they need to improve.” This makes the dialogue about improvement and support, rather then it feeling it like a telling off.

We ask staff to complete a form prior to their review, which we use as a guide for the discussion Steve Lipscombe, RONIN

For Karen Bates of Opus Energy, meetings should also be casual. “Being informal enables more open, flowing conversation, so you’re more likely to get to the heart of what’s on a person’s mind.” See it as a conversation about them, rather than focusing on form-filling, adds the HR director, who sometimes does them over coffee or during a walk. “It’s their appraisal, so ask where they would like to go – make it comfortable.”

Regardless of how you do it, you should be giving regular feedback outside of formal structures anyway, says Graham Schwikkard of online investment website, SyndicateRoom.

“It would be unfair to arrive at a six-month review and blindside an employee with a bad evaluation, or reward them for something that happened two months ago,” says the chief operating officer, who ensures that new starters are given reviews in their first, third and sixth months at the company.

Prepare properly

Meetings should be diarised well in advance and non-cancellable, states RONIN’s Mr Lipscombe. “We also ask staff to complete a form prior to their review, which we use as a guide for the discussion,” he explains.

The form features questions about what staff like and dislike about their role, as well as training that they might benefit from. Answering these in advance makes it easier for both sides to prepare and get more out of the conversion, he adds.


To ensure that they’re not a waste of everyone’s time, follow up on progress. Mr Schwikkard uses a management process called objectives and key results (OKRs) – a hierarchy of targets that are weighted by importance and tied to measurable results.

OKRs are useful, because they put an individual’s objectives in context alongside those of the organisation, he says, adding that they have to be very clear, such as a 50pc increase in web traffic. SyndicateRoom reviews these on a six-month basis.