Skip to navigation
6 Min Read

How to Create an Effective Performance Review Template: A Guide for HR Specialists

Claire Beveridge

As HR specialists, you know that the performance review process isn’t a formality or hoop that companies and employees jump through. It’s a transformative tool for driving real organizational growth and success, and that’s why you’re here.

By following these tips for creating a performance review template, you can design a performance appraisal that promotes accountability, fosters growth, and enhances overall employee satisfaction and engagement.

What is a performance review template?

A performance review template is a document that supports the process of evaluating an employee’s performance in relation to their roles and responsibilities, job performance, results, and contributions to business goals.

Use a performance review template to guide your appraisal conversation with direct reports. This ensures that each employee is evaluated using the same criteria. This helps foster a culture of fairness and equity while ensuring consistency across the appraisal process. 

A template also provides a clear framework for managers and employees. This clarity helps employees understand what areas are being assessed and what’s expected of them, helping reduce confusion and ambiguity.

Use a template for performance reviews to save time and streamline the performance evaluation process. For example, instead of starting from scratch, you simply fill in the relevant information in the template, making the review process fast and effective.

How to create a performance review template

1. Set clear employee goals and objectives

Set expectations regarding employee job performance and responsibilities from the outset. This helps employees clearly understand what they need to do to perform highly in their roles and gives them a roadmap for success.

When goals are aligned with organizational priorities and individual job responsibilities, employees understand how their performance contributes to the business’s overall achievements.

This level of alignment ensures that the performance appraisal process is transparent because employees know the criteria against which their performance is evaluated.

At 15Five, we use the OKR methodology. Whatever goal setting methodology you use, goals should be set 2-4 times per year (ideally, on a quarterly basis) and progress on said goals should be monitored via check-ins and 1-on-1 meetings between managers and their direct reports. Ensuring not only that there is clarity around goals, but also that there is a clear line of communication between managers and employees about goals, will imbue employees with a much greater sense of efficacy and purpose. That way, there are no surprises when reviewing progress on these goals come up during performance reviews.

2. Identify the right performance appraisal system

Choose a performance appraisal system that best suits your business’s size, operational needs, and culture. 

For example, a small business with 20 employees will need a different appraisal system than a larger enterprise with over 300 employees across multiple locations.

Whether you choose forced ranking, management by objective (MBO), or a 360-degree feedback approach, select a system that provides meaningful and valuable insights into employee performance while aligning with your company’s values and objectives.

Use performance management software to increase the efficiency of running appraisal systems and leverage technology to automate and streamline the process.

3. Include a self-evaluation

Depending on the size and goals of your business, you might need to ask employees to complete a self-evaluation and fill out information about their strengths and weaknesses, job performance, and contributions to company goals. 

By empowering employees to take ownership and accountability for their performance, you encourage them to reflect on their achievements, challenges, and areas for improvement. 

Reflecting during the self-evaluation process helps promote self-awareness and provides valuable insights that can help support the employee’s development even further. For example, you can gain insight into employee perspectives, which helps create open dialogue and improve communication and collaboration.

4. Gather and provide feedback

When used properly, feedback is a powerful tool that helps improve employee performance, supports engagement and enhances trust and communication between employees and leadership. 

Constructive employee feedback lets individuals understand how their actions and behaviors impact their performance and the overall success of the company. By identifying areas where improvement is needed, employees can take proactive steps to enhance their skills, productivity, and effectiveness in their roles.

Gather feedback from multiple sources. For example, coworkers, peers, direct reports, customers, and clients. This will give you a holistic view of an employee’s performance. 

Ensure your feedback is honest, specific, actionable, and focuses on behavior rather than personality traits. General statements such as “You didn’t succeed on project X” or “Your work needs improvement” will lead to confusion and ambiguity, leaving employees feeling anxious and unsupported.

Further reading: The Power of Positive Feedback at Work

5. Discuss career development opportunities

Performance reviews are an opportunity to discuss employees’ career aspirations and development goals. For example, a mid-career employee might want to discuss how to advance into a leadership role or make a lateral move into a different department. 

Use the performance review template to initiate meaningful conversations about professional growth opportunities, skill development, and career paths within the organization. Then, tailor development plans to each employee’s strengths, interests, and long-term objectives.

For employees who are underperforming and failing to meet expectations, introduce a performance improvement plan (PIP). The tool is designed to support employees by outlining clear goals, focus areas, and timelines for improvement.

6. Include a comment section

The best performance review templates provide a section for additional information and context, clarification around points discussed, formal acknowledgment of achievements and contributions, and any notes from the conversation.

7. Regularly review and update

A performance review template isn’t a one-and-done document. It has to evolve to reflect changes in priorities, job roles, and feedback from employees and managers. 

Regularly review and update the template to ensure it remains relevant, effective, and aligned with the organization’s evolving needs. 

This is easy when you use a dedicated performance management platform like 15Five, which lets you track all your conversations and systematically review performance reviews.

15Five: Your go-to for performance reviews

15Five’s easy-to-use platform was created to help HR leaders design a performance program from the ground up and take action. Our research-based platform can be customized to suit your organization’s needs so you can drive performance aligned with your company’s culture, market dynamics, and technology stack. Each of our features, such as performance reviews, 1-on-1s, Check-ins, Objectives, High Fives, and more, work together to help HR leaders conduct review cycles that are not only convenient and user-friendly for their people but also effective at driving change. 

To create a fair assessment of performance that suites your company’s needs, 15Five offers a variety of review types and questions: self-reviews, manager reviews, upward reviews, competency reviews, objective reviews, and peer reviews, along with guidance from our available research-based question bank, further reducing uncertainty and manual work for HR leaders. Each of these elements enables a more fair and objective measurement of an employee’s performance, and identifies skill and perception gaps, while also enhancing transparency in the review process.

 Sign up for a free trial or book a demo today to get started.