Employee review time within your organization is likely a stressful one. Both managers and employees might see reviews as an annual forced exercise. “Many managers see performance appraisals as nothing more than an empty, bureaucratic exercise forced on them by HR,” writes Lisa Quast for Forbes.com. And that climate likely hurts employee engagement and morale. “Lackadaisical management attitude = employee apathy,” Quast writes.


But the performance evaluation process doesn’t have to be a waste of time, Quast writes, especially if the organization as a whole takes a high-level, proactive approach. “If you’re doing your job properly throughout the year, then the annual performance appraisal should be merely one more discussion in the on-going dialog of how the employee is performing,” she writes. It can also be a valuable opportunity to encourage exceptional employees and pull those who’ve had some issues back on track.


To help improve the process across your organization, empower your human resources department to become a resource for improving the process, Margaret Jacoby writes for the Huffington Post. HR professionals can provide tips on how managers can make the process both more powerful for all parties involved, as well as how to deal with difficult issues. They can also help managers tie employee goals to the organization’s overall strategy in order to move employees forward in a logical, cohesive way.


Other ways to make the process more useful: create a standard review cycle that gives managers ample time to prepare, and find ways to objectively rate employees, including with fact-based performance logs (which should be kept all year and used during review time) and specific metrics so employees know exactly what they need to do to be successful. “Review those metrics regularly to ensure the employee is on track,” Jacoby writes, which extends the focus on employee improvement throughout the year.


Andre Lavoie, CEO of ClearCompany, takes this idea a step further: what if you reviewed employees once a quarter, rather than annually, to give them consistent feedback and make sure they’re on target? “Conducting performance reviews on a semi-regular basis can help reduce the amount of employee apprehension that accompanies the formal, annual review,” he writes. “Not to mention, meeting regularly with employees simplifies the goal-setting process (what performance reviews should really be about), from adjusting goals to monitoring progress.”


Lavoie also suggests finding ways to encourage two-way communication during reviews, rather than simply having managers talking at employees. This could help lower employee intimidation. Managers might ask how they can make employees’ professional lives easier, or what customers want that a manager might be missing. “The performance review is an ideal opportunity for employers to gain insight into their own performance,” Lavoie writes.