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Performance review meetings – the borderline between a formal and an informal approach


In Performance Management, the performance review meeting, as conceptualized by Robert Bacal in his book “A Briefcase Book”, is seen as a process in which the manager and the employee encounter in order to work together and discuss performance matters, such as the degree to which the employee has attained his or her goals. Simultaneously, they seek to surpass any emerging difficulty. This type of meeting can also occur in companies with the name of performance appraisal meeting or performance evaluation meeting and normally refers to an annual meeting that takes place in order to attain a clearer overview of one’s evolution during the year.

In addition to an overall annual employee performance meeting, several shorter review meetings can also be conducted, throughout the year. This practice has the proven effect of preventing small performance matters from becoming larger. Nevertheless, the longer a problem persists, the harder it will be to remedy it. Therefore, having frequent performance review meetings, rather than a singular meeting per year, brings a higher rate of success and  demonstrates a performance oriented approach.

The meetings that come to complete or support the final performance meeting can have various designs, from spontaneous encounters, to prescheduled ones or even over having lunch together. The main characteristic of short performance reviews during the year is that they imply higher flexibility and that they take place in a less formal framework, which enhances open discussions that reveal true issues and the best prompt corrective actions.

As a part of the performance management system, out of all the components, performance review meetings have the highest potential for bringing awkwardness or uncomfortableness, if not properly conducted by the managers. In order to avoid such situations, it is recommended to fully understand the purpose and main objectives of such an encounter, which is meant to be productive and helpful for both parties involved.

Following a predefined guide within a performance review meeting is a simplistic, impersonal method that does not lead to a productive exchange. Each organization should adapt the flow of these meetings and the way they unfold, based on the company’s mission, vision and core values.  This does not mean that there aren’t certain principles that can be generally applied for all annual performance review meetings or employee evaluation meetings. Using universally valid principles can facilitate getting the most out of the encounter, while maintaining a high comfort level, with lower discomfort. Guiding principles for performance review meetings imply:

  • Even if managers have a clear and full understanding of what the purpose of the encounter is, this alone is not enough, as employees also need to acquire the same full and clear understanding of the purpose.
  • A clear perspective has to be drawn, since the beginning in order to highlight the fact that before, during and after the meeting managers are only focused on working with the employees, and not sanctioning them.
  • The performance review meeting is for the employee, therefore he or she has to speak the most during the conversation. If this does not occur, the employee has to be encouraged and drawn into active discussion.
  • Both parties should comply with the requirements that are set by the company’s policies, keeping the review process, at the same time, useful to the manager and the employee. Such output comes through an open approach.

Having an overview of the previous mentioned principles, the core aspect on which they are built is communication, which comes as bidirectional: towards employees, which is based on full and correct information; and from employees, that involves honest, active listening in order to further take actions based on their saying.


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