Skip to Main Content
Filter By +
Topic +

How to Write a Performance Review: Tips and Examples

10 Minutes to Read

Topics covered


    Every organization needs to write performance reviews to effectively develop its workforce. But between the different approaches and your employees’ unique needs, landing on the right approach can be harder than it seems. Luckily, by understanding the different performance reviews and experimenting with each one, your company can land on the ideal process. Read about the differences between popular performance reviews and how to effectively write each one.

    Writing a performance review might feel daunting, but it’s a critical part of management. After all, performance reviews allow leaders to:

    • give employees feedback on their performance
    • set goals for the future
    • identify areas for development

    Evaluations also allow you to recognize employees for their achievements and contributions to the team. And writing effective performance reviews is valuable for new supervisors and seasoned managers alike.

    Let’s dive into the different types of performance reviews, the best practices for conducting each type and how to write a review that’s helpful and motivating for your employees.

    How to write different types of performance reviews

    Writing a performance review takes a lot of thought and care. It makes sense, given effective feedback and direction greatly impacts an employee’s success.

    Whether you’re providing focused feedback on a specific project, gathering insights for broader professional development or simply establishing clear expectations for the future, these strategies can make your performance reviews more meaningful and impactful.

    360 performance reviews

    Who conducts 360 reviews?

    While an employee’s manager or HR department typically orchestrates a 360 review, the actual feedback process involves a wide range of participants. Multiple individuals who closely interact with the employee provide input. This often includes:

    • a manager for a top-down evaluation
    • peers for insights into collaboration and teamwork
    • subordinates for feedback on leadership style
    • external clients or customers in certain cases

    Best practices for conducting a 360 review

    Successful 360 reviews require careful planning and clear communication. Start by clearly defining the purpose of the review and selecting the specific skills and behaviors you’ll evaluate. Choose a diverse group of raters who have regular interactions with the employee and ensure anonymity to encourage honest feedback.

    Before rolling out the review, make sure everyone involved understands the process, the timeline and how to give constructive feedback. After collecting the responses, compile them into an easily digestible report for the employee. Finally, schedule a meeting to discuss the results and create a development plan.

    Pros and cons of 360 reviews

    360 reviews offer a significant advantage over other types of reviews: a well-rounded, comprehensive picture of an employee’s performance from multiple angles. This multisourced feedback can reveal strengths the employees themselves might not recognize and illuminate areas for improvement that a manager alone might miss. By fostering this broader self-awareness, 360 reviews can be a powerful driver for professional development.

    That said, 360 reviews have downsides, too. They’re often time-consuming and potentially expensive to implement effectively. Anonymity, while helpful for promoting honest feedback, can also make it difficult to address specific issues. And 360 reviews can sometimes become overly focused on weaknesses, so it’s important to balance constructive criticism with a recognition of positive performance.

    360 performance review example questions and format

    Here’s a mix of sample questions and formats to consider for your 360 performance reviews:

    • Open-ended questions. These elicit qualitative feedback and are great for identifying both strengths and weaknesses. For example:
      • “What are the employee’s most significant strengths?”
      • “In what areas could the employee improve?”
      • “Describe a situation where the employee demonstrated strong leadership.”
    • Rating scales. Use these to rate specific skills or competencies on a scale (e.g., 1-5, from “Needs Improvement” to “Exceptional”). Examples include:
      • “Rate the employee’s communication skills.”
      • “Rate the employee’s ability to meet deadlines.”
      • “Rate how well this employee collaborates with others.”
    • Forced-choice questions. Offer raters a few statements to choose from, which can help gather specific insights. Example: “This employee: (a) is always willing to go the extra mile, or (b) sometimes shows reluctance to take on additional work.”

    To streamline the process, use the right performance review software. Paycom, for instance, offers customizable templates, question banks and automated reporting. These tools ensure raters provide specific examples to support their feedback, regardless of the chosen format.

    Self-assessment performance review

    What’s included in a self-assessment performance review?

    Self-assessment performance reviews require employees to analyze themselves across various aspects of their job. Typically, individuals reflect on their accomplishments and successes over the review period, considering the goals they’d set previously. They’ll also honestly identify challenges they faced and areas where they believe they could improve.

    Self-assessments usually include questions about how the employee aligns with company values and demonstrates problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills. A well-rounded self-assessment helps the employee take ownership of their development and leads to more open, productive conversations with their manager during a more formal review.

    Best practices for conducting self-assessment performance reviews

    For self-assessment reviews to be genuinely helpful, give employees a structured framework and ample time for reflection. Clearly outline the specific areas of performance you want them to evaluate, like:

    • job responsibilities
    • skill development
    • goal achievement
    • alignment with company values

    To encourage honest self-evaluation, assure employees their responses will remain confidential. When a self-assessment is paired with a manager’s evaluation, be sure to schedule enough time in the review meeting to discuss agreements and discrepancies and set new goals based on the insights you’ve gathered.

    Pros and cons of self-assessment performance reviews

    Self-assessment reviews have some significant advantages. For starters, they promote self-awareness, encouraging employees to take ownership of their performance and professional development. This helps managers get an insider’s perspective on how the employee views their work, the challenges they’re facing and what motivates them to succeed.

    However, self-assessments can also fall short. Some employees may be overly critical of themselves, while others might inflate their accomplishments. Because of their subjective nature, it’s important to pair self-assessments with evaluations from the manager to get a balanced picture. Ideally, self-assessments should be viewed as a conversation starter, encouraging open dialogue and collaboration throughout the performance review process.

    Example questions and format of self-assessment performance reviews

    Here are some sample questions and formats for self-assessment performance reviews:

    • Accomplishments and goal alignment
      • “List your most significant achievements during the review period. How did these align with your previously set goals?”
      • “Highlight one goal you didn’t achieve and discuss what factors hindered your progress.”
    • Strengths and weaknesses
      • “Identify 2-3 key strengths that contribute to your work. Be specific and include examples.”
      • “Discuss areas where you feel you could improve. How do you plan to address these challenges?”
    • Development and support
      • “What skills or knowledge would you like to develop further?”
      • “What kind of support or resources would be helpful?”

    Consider using a mix of open-ended questions for reflection and rating scales for evaluating specific competencies. And of course, be sure to encourage employees to provide examples that illustrate their accomplishments and areas for growth.

    Peer review

    Peer reviews offer a unique perspective on a person’s performance and work ethic by highlighting their strengths, growth opportunities and impact on the team dynamic. Co-workers are often keenly aware of day-to-day work habits, collaboration skills and specific instances where the employee demonstrated a strong — or less than ideal — work ethic. This feedback can help employees gain self-awareness and identify opportunities for growth that they might not see on their own.

    How to conduct an effective peer review

    To lay the foundation for a successful peer review, set clear expectations and outline a straightforward process. Start by clearly defining the purpose of the review for all participants — is it for general development, focused on specific project feedback or part of a larger performance evaluation?

    Then, select specific competencies or behaviors you want peers to evaluate, such as:

    • communication
    • problem-solving
    • teamwork
    • or something else entirely

    Provide examples of what strong or weak performance looks like in each of these areas to guide the feedback process. Emphasize the importance of honest, constructive comments that are behavior-focused and provide specific instances to support their observations.

    Pros and cons of peer reviews

    Peer reviews offer a unique advantage because co-workers observe day-to-day work habits and interactions that a manager might miss. Feedback from peers can uncover hidden strengths, reveal blind spots and provide specific insights into an employee’s collaboration skills.

    However, peer reviews also have their drawbacks. There’s a risk of bias if there are personal conflicts or friendships within the team, and without proper guidance, peer feedback can become overly critical or lack depth. Mitigate these concerns by creating a constructive review process that focuses on behaviors, encourages specific examples and offers some degree of anonymity for the reviewers.

    Example questions and format of peer performance reviews

    Here are some sample questions and formats to consider for peer reviews:

    • Open-ended questions
      • “What is one significant strength this employee brings to the team?”
      • “Describe a situation where this employee showed strong problem-solving skills.”
    • Rating scales. Rate specific competencies on a scale (e.g., 1-5 from “Needs Improvement” to “Excellent”). Examples include:
      • “Rate the employee’s ability to collaborate effectively.”
      • “Rate the employee’s willingness to help others.”
    • Situational questions
      • “Describe a time when this employee went above and beyond to support the team.”
      • “If you could change one thing about how this employee interacts with the team, what would it be?”

    Consider using a mix of question types. Encourage reviewers to provide specific examples, regardless of format, to make the feedback more meaningful and actionable.

    Statements to include in a work performance review

    Here’s a breakdown of performance review statements, tailored to various situations with a mix of positive and constructive feedback.

    When giving positive feedback

    When giving positive feedback during a work performance review, it’s important to:

    • be specific
    • acknowledge the employee’s contributions
    • encourage their continued growth

    Highlight specific achievements and skills with statements such as, “Your ability to navigate projects with precision and solve complex problems has helped us succeed.”

    Recognize interpersonal contributions with feedback: “Your collaborative spirit and effective communication have fostered a positive team environment, enhancing overall productivity.”

    And conclude the interaction by offering encouragement and support for ongoing growth with something like, “We’re excited to see your continued development and look forward to supporting your growth.” This type of feedback reinforces the employee’s value to the organization while motivating them to continue their professional journey in it.

    When giving negative feedback

    It’s important to be constructive and specific when delivering negative feedback during a performance review. Start with a positive note to set a productive tone, like this: “You’ve shown a lot of dedication to your role, and we appreciate your efforts.”

    Then, address areas for improvement with specificity. For example, “We’ve noticed challenges in meeting project deadlines, which impacts team workflow. Focusing on time management and prioritization could enhance your performance.”

    Finish by offering support and expressing confidence in their ability to improve: “We believe in your potential to grow and are here to support you with resources and guidance to help you succeed.” This approach can help motivate the individual to get better while helping them feel valued and supported.

    Remember, performance reviews are a powerful tool for employee development and organizational success. By approaching reviews with open communication, specific feedback and a focus on setting attainable goals, you can foster a culture of growth and continuous improvement.

    And don’t look at performance reviews as just a box to check — embrace them as an opportunity to recognize your team’s contributions, address business challenges and set the stage for even greater achievements in the future.

    Writing performance reviews: FAQs

    Should you use a pre-made template or create your own?

    Both pre-made templates and custom reviews have their advantages. Pre-made templates offer a helpful starting point, ensuring you cover core performance areas and maintain a consistent approach across your organization. However, customizing a template or creating your own review form allows you to tailor questions and focus areas to the specific needs of different roles and your company’s unique goals.

    Who should conduct a performance review?

    Typically, an employee’s direct manager conducts their performance review, as they have a strong understanding of the employee’s day-to-day work, contributions and challenges. In some organizations, HR professionals might assist with the process or conduct a separate review focused on broader development goals and compliance with company policies.

    Why is peer feedback important for a performance review?

    Peer feedback offers a unique and valuable perspective that traditional, top-down manager reviews often miss. Co-workers can provide specific insights into an employee’s daily work habits, collaboration skills and overall contributions to the team, helping create a more comprehensive evaluation and revealing potential blind spots for the employee.

    Why is employee self-assessment important in performance reviews?

    Employee self-assessment encourages workers to take ownership of their performance and professional development. By reflecting on their accomplishments, challenges and growth opportunities, employees can heighten their self-awareness, leading to richer performance discussions with their managers and more targeted goals.

    What are some tips for first-time managers for conducting an effective performance review?

    As a first-time manager, focus on preparation and open communication. Familiarize yourself with the review process and the specific things you’ll be evaluating, and encourage employees to participate in a self-assessment prior to the review. During the review itself, be sure to create a comfortable setting, focus on both accomplishments and areas for growth, and establish clear courses of action for the employee to take in the future.

    Explore Paycom’s resources to learn more about performance reviews, employee development and more.

    DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.