How to give your employees a fair performance review

As we enter the last quarter of 2021, many companies will be beginning to think about performance reviews. During normal times, performance reviews are often maligned for being time-consuming, uncomfortable and sometimes counterproductive. However, things are even more complicated due to the pandemic and the effects of lockdowns and social distancing. Therefore, how should managers approach reviews to ensure they are useful and effective but also fair, given the times that we are living in.

Acknowledge Change

The pandemic has completely changed the way in which the majority of workers approach their jobs. Lockdown has meant that many people have been furloughed and those who can work at home, have been. This has had a significant effect on our approach to work and therefore our approach to work review. Whilst many employees enjoy the benefits of working from home, there are some drawbacks to acknowledge. For example, those who are working longer hours and feel like they never switch off from their job, due to constant emails and text messages.

When conducting a performance review, managers need to acknowledge the new normal that we have been living in. Employees may be completing the same workload at home as they did in the office but over longer hours. Businesses also need to consider the overall stress of the pandemic, lockdown and work changes and the effect it can have on workers.

Personal vs Professional

One of the common missteps when completing performance reviews is managers making judgements on the person themselves. This isn’t only alienating for your employee, it’s also not going to provide any meaningful information on how to improve business. Instead of reviewing the person, review their behaviour and results. For example, instead of ascertaining whether your worker is conscientious or motivated, look for evidence of this within their actions. This is where data is going to become incredibly useful, for example how often did they finish their project on time, did they meet their quota, did they reduce waste etc.


Performance reviews aren’t everyone’s favourite thing to do, whether you’re an employer or employee. Therefore, they are often rushed through, once a year, to get them out of the way. The problem is that this doesn’t allow for any meaningful growth which is going to benefit both the worker and business. The solution is to spread this process across the year, with regular check-ins from both parties. This approach allows businesses to work on short-term goals, which are often more manageable and more likely to succeed. Regular performance reviews throughout the year are also less intimidating and therefore easier for both parties.


There are two ways to approach a performance review- a tool for development or a discussion on salary. Many managers will try to use their reviews as a way to do both but this just doesn’t work. When employees know that their salary is involved, they will understandably focus on this and the discussion on development and coaching will fall by the wayside. Employers should focus on one issue at a time in order to get the best out of their staff. Development within the workplace is much more achievable without money attached.

In fact, there’s evidence that salary increases as a form of compensation for good work just don’t work. Many companies will offer a small percentage increase in pay as a compensatory and motivating tool but what that means in real take-home wages is often insignificant and therefore doesn’t have much of an effect. Modern thinking is that you should go for significant wage rises as a reward and just offer the smaller increases to all staff.

Performance reviews are often seen as a necessary evil but they don’t have to be. Involve your staff throughout the process and aim for manageable, achievable goals. Post-covid, many business owners are doing things differently and our approach to reviews could be one more positive change on the horizon.