6 Tips to Ace Your Performance Review Conversation

It is that time of the year again! It is nice and cozy with the Christmas tree, full of lights and when you walk around the Christmas markets you enjoy a nice drink with your friends. It is almost impossible not to love Christmas! But every year, before we can start dreaming about Christmas, there is one of the most stressful events of the year: their performance review. 

Performance reviews are indeed one of the most stressful periods for both managers and employees. It is one of the most important responsibilities of a manager to help their team grow throughout the year. When poorly done, it can cause a lack of motivation and increased stress among team members. According to McKinsey, being supported by your manager is one of the key reasons why people are staying or leaving your company. So it’s critical to get this one right!

In order to be prepared and get the most out of your performance evaluations with your team while keeping them engaged and motivated, we prepared 6 performance review tips that you can use as a manager to improve the quality of your interviews. 

Before your performance review

Tip 1:Be prepared

A performance review is a moment where you discuss their future goals, what are their expectations for their careers, and maybe even reward them for the efforts they have done. That’s why you owe your employees to be well prepared for this. For your employees, it is important to know that you have done your homework and spent time planning the performance review. This is a sign that you care about them and you are not only there to have a boring stressful conversation but to create a connection. 

No one likes to be in a meeting where there is no clear agenda or goal. You might be busy with work or have a big team but never go into an employee performance review without preparation. Take the time to review your team members’ objectives (both completed or in progress), accomplishments throughout the year, feedback that you exchanged, development areas they worked on, and any completed self-assessment. Preparation needs to be both ways, so do not hesitate to remind your employees to come prepared. 

Don’t underestimate the impact of being prepared as a manager on your team members. By having an agenda, they will have a clear understanding and structure. Therefore, they can properly organize the topics they want to discuss. Then you can follow up on the topics that you both want to cover.

Tip 2: It is a dialogue

When performance reviews come to mind, it is often the case that is a one-way conversation from manager to employee. If that is the case, you are missing the opportunity to hear your team member’s point of view and to make the most out of your performance review. 

Performance reviews are for mutual exchange and should be engaging for your team members. 

Share your agenda beforehand and check if they want to add(or change) a particular topic. 

Make sure to have an open conversation and give your team members the chance to speak what is on their minds. 

More importantly, listen to them, ask follow-up questions, and encourage them to speak freely. This will build trust and reduce any anxiety, allowing them to actively participate in the conversation. 

During the performance review

Tip 3: Coach your employees and focus on progress 

As a manager, your role is to not only make sure to conduct the mandatory review, but also to coach your employees and support their progress. 

The first aspects that come to mind are: only focusing on improvement areas and what went wrong. However, these are not enough to enrich your conversations with your team members. 

Naturally, there will always be more areas of improvement. However, the importance lies in turning these areas into an action plan and working on them in the upcoming year. 

It is the perfect occasion to talk about these topics. Nevertheless, to enrich the discussion and make it an open dialogue, you need to add more elements: 

  • Talk about what projects and actions were successful and do not forget to give credit!
  • Openly discuss what they have learned from the past year and focus on progress.
  • Be the person they go to when they face a problem. Give advice and coach them.


By showing you support them and their growth, you will motivate your team members, increase employee engagement and productivity. It is important for team members to know that they are part of a team that supports each other.

Tip 4: Take a closer look at the whole year 

When it’s time to do performance reviews, most managers tend to think about the last few weeks (or months when you are lucky).

However, this is not the best way to conduct effective performance reviews and can often cause frustration. 

To be fair to your team members, you need to have the whole picture, which is only possible by having regular conversations with your team, making notes, and following the process throughout the year.

Employees are often surprised to hear areas of improvement or praise for the first time in their performance review. 

Therefore, as a manager, you need to have regular check-ins throughout the year with your team members to follow up on their objectives, areas of improvement, give feedback, and set expectations to prepare them for their performance review. 

If you give constructive feedback, it will give them a chance to improve. Furthermore, if you think they are doing a great job, tell them! Nothing is better than motivated team members who know their worth and are ready to take action! 

Employees benefit from having regular conversations to ask questions and talk about the challenges they face. Furthermore, it is not only useful for employees but also for managers to keep track of what’s happening during the year. Which will allow you as the manager to take a step back and consider everything that happened when preparing your evaluation.

After the performance review

Tip 5: Give and ask for feedback

Feedback is highly important for both managers and employees to develop. Giving regular constructive feedback to your employees will allow them to focus on improvement areas, work on them throughout the year, and have a chance to track their progress. 

During the performance review, make sure you go through any feedback you gave earlier and discuss any growth and evolution since then. Feedback is a powerful tool that enables team members to get guidance from you. 

Additionally, as a manager, you should always ask for feedback and encourage your employees to give it regularly. It is very important to keep the feedback loop both ways. Otherwise, you will not be able to change the points that you can do better. Performance review is a great opportunity for you to ask for feedback on the spot.

Being in a continuous conversation with your team members and asking for continuous feedback will help you enhance your leadership style and understand what your team members expect from you. At the end of your assessment, ask for feedback to better prepare for your next evaluation period.

Tip 6: Focus on the future, set clear goals

After reviewing what happened in the past, it is equally important to work towards the future. Set new goals and expectations, focus on career planning, and add development goals when needed. Align with your team members and make sure they know what is expected from them to increase employee success.  Always end with a positive note and motivate your team members. Be available and open to having a discussion about their challenges. Let them know you are a team and you are in this together!

In conclusion

There is no magic recipe for performance reviews but by following these 6 tips, you will make sure you get the most out of it. If there is one thing that you need to take out of this article, it is to not solely focus on what the employee can improve but to take a broader perspective: there are other topics that you can and should address to guide the conversation:

  • Development plan and growth areas
  • Hard work appreciation
  • Skills growth for future career opportunities
  • Alignment to company goals


We know, most of the time, the performance review is the occasion where you rush into a meeting room, without enough preparation, and feel stressed because you did not have time to check everything. Use these tips to get ready and be the shining star in that performance conversation!



Co-Founder & COO

I always found a way to get or to create for myselfs jobs where I could achieve my life’s purpose: connecting with people and helping them grow (while growing myself).

After studying general management and HR in Lyon, I joined Solvay where I had several rich & diverse HR experiences. I worked in Lyon, Brussels and Paris, to finally come back to Brussels and accept the challenge of creating and managing Solvay’s Digital Studio flagship.

Being an intrapreneur leading an innovation incubator, taking part of creating a new ways of working platform that transformed the company culture and HR woke up my inner intrapreneur and made me jump into co-founding huapii!

Today at huapii I use my HR and change experience to make the workplace a developing and empowering place to be.