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New year performance reviews: Seven steps for managers

 New year performance reviews: Seven steps for managers

As an author and advisor in the fields of human performance and leadership, Karen Gately knows how important it is to give credit to employees where credit is due. She discusses how crucial employee feedback is, and how to ensure you receive positive results from annual review meetings.

How well do you leverage performance review meetings with your staff to influence engagement and performance? Do you invest the time needed to be well prepared? Do you engage in open and honest conversations with people about the standard of their contribution and how they can improve or grow further?

All too often I meet managers who avoid performance reviews, regarding them as a necessary evil at best. It’s common for both managers and staff to dread appraisal meetings for the stress and conflicts they so often cause. While unquestionably challenging, at times performance appraisals present a valuable opportunity to influence the engagement and performance of your team.

Get your team on track for a great year ahead by taking the time to share honest insight about what they are doing well and how they can improve. Talk to them about your organisation’s vision and strategy and the role you need them to play in the year ahead to enable success.

Seven key steps you can follow to ensure positive outcomes from review meetings include:

1. Step into the role of coach

Success begins with, and depends on, the quality of the work you do throughout the year. In order to ensure clarity of expectations, communicate frequently and provide ongoing constructive feedback.

2. Plan ahead

Prior to conducting reviews, take time to review the set objectives, and ask that each member of your team does the same. Think about how each person has performed relative to the objectives you set. Reflect on how aligned their behaviours have been with your business values. Consider the commitment they have shown to their role and their own development.

3. Discuss and explore

Begin with your team member’s self-assessment – that is, how well they believe they have achieved and behaved. Discuss your observations and assessment. If there is disagreement, take time to talk through the differences and remain objective. Be prepared to provide examples to demonstrate the reasons for your appraisal.

4. Be respectful

Irrespective of the standard of a team member’s performance, every member of your team deserves to be treated with respect. The way you deliver feedback impacts the trust people have in you and ultimately your ability to influence their performance. Consider for yourself how much more likely you are to listen to and learn from a leader who treats you with common decency and courtesy.

5. Be firm but fair

It may be easier in the moment to give in and agree to avoid a difficult conversation, but doing so undermines your ability to hold people accountable and drive performance. Being flexible but also firm when it comes to appraisals is the best approach. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself at the same time. It may be easier in the moment to give in and agree to avoid a difficult conversation but doing so undermines your ability to hold people accountable and drive performance.

6. No new or old news

It’s never appropriate to deliver constructive feedback you haven’t shared before in an appraisal meeting. Don’t wait until the review and take someone by surprise – it’s your responsibility to ensure you let people know as soon as you become aware of their need to do things differently. Don’t go over out-of-date issues that are no longer relevant.

7. Finalise outcomes

Confirm that both you and your team member have a common understanding of what has been discussed and the agreed-upon next steps. Reflect on and plan for the year ahead. Balance focus on achieving outcomes and developing talent and behaviour.

A strong working relationship can enable increased productivity within your business. Learn how to set smart KPIs for your employees to ensure they are on the right path.

Karen Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist and a founder of Ryan Gately. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit or contact

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