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Making the Most of Informal Performance Reviews

Informal reviews are one-on-one conversations with employees and valuable opportunities to provide feedback about their performance. When done correctly, informal reviews serve multiple purposes including addressing issues, answering questions, and providing encouragement and support. Below are some examples of what you can accomplish through an informal performance review:

  • Provide feedback for a specific situation

  • Set goals and clarify job duties

  • Offer guidance as to good and bad habits

  • Celebrate special skills and accomplishments

  • Give special recognition for job performance

When you conduct an informal performance review, be sure to take the employee’s perspective into consideration. The work they produce reflects on their identity and sense of self-worth, so most will try to do a good job. If you can show that you value and honor what is most important to an employee, they will be more likely to listen to and comprehend what you have to say.

Take this opportunity to point out successes and give direct, constructive criticism. Reinforcing their strengths and gracefully identifying any areas of weakness will encourage them to work hard. By giving valuable feedback and an extensive evaluation in an informal setting, you encourage your employees to participate actively in the dialog—which will translate into better performance. If you take the time to give consistent feedback, you build a strong rapport and help put employees in a receptive frame of mind for coaching.

“People will continue to do things for which they get desirable rewards,” said Mike Poskey, CEO of ZERORISK HR.

What to Include in Every Informal Review

Include these three items to ensure an effective and successful informal evaluation:

  1. Acknowledge successes and thank the employee

  2. Discuss any challenges or issues that have come to your attention that need improvement or correction

  3. Tell the employee that you hope they will be successful in the future because of the strengths and abilities you have seen in their work.

Giving feedback is an art, but there are great rewards when it’s done correctly. As you gain experience, like most skills, it quickly becomes easier. Here are some guidelines and objectives to keep in mind.

  • Address one issue at a time—take care to reassure and avoid overwhelming the employee, or seeming to be on the attack.

  • Focus on inspiring them to work harder, not on being upset with themselves.

  • Give specific examples that effectively illustrate the behavior at issue and its impact on the team.

  • Finally, give employees plenty of time to respond and ask any questions they may have.

An informal review should never seem like an interrogation. Set a positive tone by adopting a relaxed and open conversational style. Over time, effective and regular informal reviews give your employees valuable encouragement and feedback, helping the team as a whole to thrive and grow.


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