Quarterly performance reviews, compared to annual reviews, take away some of the pressure and anxiety, while also shifting the focus away from pay raises. They better align the review cycle with fiscal quarters, allowing the team increased flexibility and resilience.
Studies show employees who receive daily feedback from their managers are three times more engaged than those who only receive feedback annually. And 65% of employees share that they desire more feedback. But providing daily feedback as part of the performance review process can be overwhelming.
Annual reviews can be too infrequent for team members. But daily check-ins are logistically difficult to schedule for larger teams. In these cases, quarterly reviews can provide a good balance for performance management. In this guide, we’ll walk you through conducting quarterly performance reviews to help you foster a positive and efficient work environment.
We’ll cover everything from how to conduct a performance evaluation to common mistakes to avoid.
What is the goal of a quarterly performance review?
A quarterly performance review aims to provide employees with regular feedback, helping them stay aligned with short-term team objectives and engaged in their work. Unlike annual performance reviews—which often focus on broader, long-term goals—quarterly reviews hone in on specific milestones and achievements in the three month review period.
These reviews typically serve several purposes, including:
- Aligning employees with short-term goals and clarifying expectations for the next quarter
- Assessing performance and providing constructive feedback to keep employees on track
- Coordinating thoughts, processes, and strategies within teams or departments
- Setting goals and identifying areas of improvement and career development
- Strengthening employee-manager relationships through open communication and frequent feedback
Regular employee performance reviews are an important part of maintaining employee engagement, which improves both retention and bottom lines. Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to quit their jobs, and companies with high employee engagement are 23% more profitable than their lower-ranking counterparts.
Companies that move from an annual review cycle to quarterly performance reviews realize several key benefits. Quarterly reviews enable managers to give more timely feedback, encourage engagement by allowing goals to be consistently evaluated and adjusted goals, and promote a culture of continuous improvement.
How to conduct a quarterly performance review
A quarterly performance review is a key part of evaluating employee progress and ensuring alignment with company goals. We provide nine steps to a successful review.
- Gather performance metrics and data over time
- Look for trends in work quality, cadence, etc.
- Assess work performance against goals
- Consult with other team members
- Create positive and constructive feedback
- Create an outline to go over with the reviewee
- Conduct the quarterly performance review
- Encourage feedback and goals from the reviewee
- Provide the reviewee with info to use going forward
1. Gather performance metrics and data over time
The first step in the quarterly performance review process is to collect performance data and metrics on the team member. This allows you to assess their overall performance and identify areas of improvement or growth.
Some key metrics to gather include:
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These are quantifiable measures used to evaluate the success of an individual or team in meeting specific objectives. Some examples are the number of completed projects, customer satisfaction ratings, or sales revenue.
- Performance issues. Take note of any performance-related concerns that may have occurred during the last quarter. This can help you identify patterns or trends that need to be addressed.
- Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). This goal-setting framework focuses on setting ambitious objectives and measurable key results to achieve them. OKRs align employees’ efforts with the company’s overall strategic goals. For example, an objective could be to “Increase customer satisfaction,” with key results like “Reduce response time to customer inquiries by 25%.”
To gather this data effectively, track your employees’ progress and achievements throughout the quarter. You can use tools and systems to record and analyze the information with project management platforms, performance management software, or a spreadsheet.
2. Look for trends in work quality, cadence, etc.
After gathering performance data, analyzing this information is essential to identify trends in work quality, cadence, and other aspects of a team member’s performance. This analysis can help you prepare for the review meeting and provide valuable insights to discuss with the employee.
Look at any metrics or data you have on their past performance since the last review period, work quality, strengths and weaknesses, and collaborative efforts. Look for trends in cadence or the employee’s work rhythm to determine whether they maintain a consistent pace or experience high and low productivity periods. This can indicate possible roadblocks or inefficient workflows in the way of performance improvement.
3. Assess work performance against goals
After recognizing team member performance trends, it’s time to measure how their performance aligns with the overall goals and expectations of their position, team, and company. This comparison can help you provide targeted feedback during the performance appraisal and create a plan for improvement or professional development, if necessary.
To assess work performance against goals, consider the following:
- Individual objectives. Determine if the employee has met or exceeded their objectives for the quarter and identify any areas where they may have fallen short.
- Self-evaluation. Encourage employees to conduct a self-assessment, reflecting on their accomplishments and areas needing improvement. This self-evaluation can provide valuable insights and promote self-awareness during the performance appraisal.
- Team and company goals. Evaluate the employee’s contribution to the team and the company’s overall objectives. Assess their role in achieving milestones or tackling challenges.
4. Consult with other team members
Consulting with other team members and hearing their perspectives can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the employee’s performance, strengths, and areas for improvement.
Just remember: performance appraisals aren’t a democratic process, and leaders need to know their teams well enough to understand if there are any social dynamics between team members that need to be considered.
If you’re concerned about bias or personal animosities interfering with the process, consider using team management software that offers 360-degree reviews. The right software can help team members focus on their peers’ professional traits, and keep them from veering into any personal grudges.
Check out some benefits of consulting with team members:
- Peer feedback. Team members can offer insights into the employee’s collaboration skills, communication, and work ethic, which might not be evident from the manager’s perspective alone.
- Employee progress. Colleagues who work closely with the employee can provide valuable information about their progress in various projects, tasks, or challenges.
- Team dynamics. Team members can show how the employee contributes to the team’s overall success and collaboration and any potential conflicts or issues to address.
When consulting with team members, be sure to maintain confidentiality and professionalism. Encourage honest and constructive feedback, and use this input to complement your observations during the performance review process.
5. Create positive and constructive feedback
When giving feedback during a performance review, aim to balance positive and constructive feedback. Creating a friendly, approachable atmosphere can help make the process feel more like a helpful chat instead of a tense meeting.
To create positive and constructive feedback:
- Celebrate successes. Start by highlighting the team member’s achievements, strengths, and positive contributions to the team and company culture. This can boost their confidence and motivation.
- Be specific. When offering constructive feedback, provide clear examples of areas where they could improve. Specific, actionable suggestions make it easier for them to understand what needs to change and how to proceed.
- Focus on growth. Frame improvement opportunities as chances for personal and professional growth. Encourage direct reports to see feedback as a learning experience rather than criticism.
- Maintain a conversational tone. During the one-on-one meeting, keep the tone conversational and supportive. This can encourage open dialogue and help the employee feel more at ease.
6. Create an outline to go over with the reviewee
Before the performance review meeting, create a detailed outline summarizing all the information you’ve gathered in the previous steps. This can help you stay organized and cover all the essential points during the review.
Consider these tips for creating an effective outline:
- Use a review system or performance review template. Using a structured format can help you stay on track and ensure you cover all the important aspects of the review. Many organizations have standard templates or software to help guide the process.
- Highlight achievements and areas for improvement. Make sure to include the team member’s successes and the areas where they can grow or improve.
- Set goals and objectives for the next quarter. Clearly outline the short-term goals and expectations for the team member based on the current review and their potential for growth.
- Include discussion points for the employee’s input. Leave room for team members to share their thoughts, feedback, and goals during the review. Encouraging open communication can lead to a more fruitful and engaging conversation.
7. Conduct the quarterly performance review
We provide some tips to ensure the conversation is impactful and beneficial for the employee.
- Set a positive tone. Begin the meeting on a positive note by expressing appreciation for the team member’s efforts and acknowledging their accomplishments. This sets the stage for an open and constructive conversation.
- Be prepared. Use the outline you created earlier to guide the discussion, covering all the key points. Being well-prepared demonstrates you value the other person’s time and take the review process seriously.
- Encourage open dialogue. Give them plenty of opportunities to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns throughout the review. Actively listen to their input and show empathy, which can help build trust and rapport.
- Offer specific, actionable feedback. When discussing areas for improvement, provide clear examples and actionable steps the employee can take to address these issues.
- Discuss goals and objectives. Clearly outline the goals and expectations for the next quarter and work with the team member to create a plan for achieving them.
- Stay focused. Stick to the agenda, avoid getting sidetracked, and ensure the conversation focuses on the other person’s performance and development.
- End on a positive note. Wrap up the meeting by reiterating the employee’s strengths, expressing confidence in their ability to improve, and offering support for their continued growth.
8. Encourage feedback and goals from the reviewee
An essential aspect of the performance review process is to gather feedback from the team member and encourage them to set their own goals for the upcoming review cycle. This empowers them to take ownership of their development and helps them feel more invested.
To encourage feedback and goal setting from the reviewee:
- Ask open-ended questions. During the review, ask questions that invite the team member to share their thoughts on their performance, areas for improvement, and any challenges they’ve faced.
- Listen actively. Show genuine interest in the employee’s perspective by actively listening and acknowledging their input.
- Create a safe environment. Foster a comfortable atmosphere for open and honest conversation by maintaining a nonjudgmental and supportive attitude.
- Encourage self-reflection. Prompt the team member to reflect on their strengths, areas for improvement, and what they’d like to achieve in the next review cycle.
- Collaborate on goal setting. Work with the employee to establish realistic, achievable goals aligning with their personal aspirations and the company’s objectives.
- Offer support and resources. Assure the team member you’ll support them in achieving their goals and provide them with the necessary resources, training, or guidance.
9. Provide the reviewee with info to use going forward
When the performance review is complete, follow up and provide them with the information or resources they need to progress toward their goals. Providing clear, actionable notes and follow-up items helps make sure they have a solid understanding of their priorities and areas for improvement.
To provide the employee with useful information:
- Summarize key points. After the review, summarize the main takeaways, including accomplishments, areas for improvement, and goals for the upcoming review cycle. This can serve as a valuable reference for the employee.
- Offer specific action items. Any feedback or recommendations for improvement should be accompanied by clear, actionable steps the employee can take to address these issues.
- Set deadlines and milestones. Establish specific deadlines or milestones for achieving goals, which can help the employee stay focused and motivated.
- Schedule follow-up meetings. Set up regular check-ins or meetings to track the employee’s progress, address any challenges, and provide ongoing support.
- Provide resources and support. Offer resources, training, or guidance to help employees work toward their goals and develop their skills.
Check out this list of best practices for conducting a performance review:
- Be prepared. Come to the review meeting with a detailed outline and relevant data, demonstrating your commitment to the process and the team member’s development.
- Focus on specific, actionable feedback. Provide clear examples of the team member’s achievements and areas for improvement, along with actionable steps they can take to address these issues.
- Maintain a balanced approach. Offer a mix of positive feedback and constructive criticism to create an engaging and supportive review experience.
- Incorporate peer feedback. Include insights from the employee’s colleagues to provide a well-rounded perspective on their performance.
- Encourage open dialogue. Foster an atmosphere of trust and openness, allowing team members to share their thoughts and concerns without fear of judgment.
- Set clear goals and expectations. Collaborate to establish realistic goals for the next review cycle, making sure they align with the company’s objectives.
- Offer ongoing support. Assure the employee you’ll provide guidance, resources, and encouragement as they work toward their goals.
- Follow up regularly. Schedule check-ins or progress meetings to track the team member’s development and address any challenges that may arise.
Role of employees during the review process
Team members play an important role in the performance review process, and their active participation impacts the overall effectiveness of the review. Some key responsibilities of employees during the process include:
- Self-assessment. Before the review, employees should reflect on their performance, identifying their achievements, challenges, and areas for improvement. This self-assessment helps them prepare for the discussion and can contribute valuable insights.
- Preparation. Employees should gather relevant documents, data, or examples to support their self-assessment and be ready to discuss their progress in detail during the review meeting.
- Accepting feedback. During the review, employees should listen carefully to the feedback, take notes, and ask for clarification if needed. They should remain open to constructive criticism and be willing to learn from it.
- Sharing thoughts and concerns. Employees should feel comfortable expressing their opinions, concerns, and ideas during the review, contributing to an open and honest dialogue.
- Goal setting. Employees should actively participate in setting realistic, achievable goals for the next review cycle.
- Following up. After the review, employees should take the feedback and goals discussed in the meeting to heart, focusing on implementing the suggested improvements and working toward their objectives.
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Effective quarterly performance reviews nurture employee growth, foster a strong company culture, and help your team stay aligned with organizational goals. As you invest time and effort into refining your performance review process, don’t forget that having the right talent on your team is also crucial for success.
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