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How to Deliver a Painless 90-Day Employee Performance Evaluation

January 14, 2020

By: Crystal Spraggins

Part of an effective onboarding process is providing honest, actionable feedback. Without feedback, employees don’t know whether they’re doing a good job or how they could do a better job. According to a recent survey, 32 percent of employees have to wait more than three months to get feedback from their manager, despite the fact that 96 percent of them felt that regular feedback was helpful. 

Unfortunately, far too many managers shy away from performance evaluations and providing feedback because they’re afraid of how it will be received. There actually are some justifiable reasons for this reticence. Research by Francesca Gino and Paul Green of Harvard Business School and Brad Staats of UNC-Chapel Hill found that people tend to stop interacting with anyone giving feedback they interpret as critical. They are less likely to listen to advice and could even develop a negative attitude regarding employee feedback in general. It’s important, then, to take deliberate steps to create a culture that embraces feedback throughout the organization. 

While it’s unlikely you’ll ever actually look forward to conducting a review, they’re a necessary part of the job that if done properly can actually drive high performance. How then, can you make this “dreaded event” less dreadful? Make the necessary tolerable, especially for new employees facing their first review after 90 days.

8 Tips for a Painless 90-Day Employee Performance Evaluation

1. Change your mindset.

Instead of telling yourself giving feedback is a waste of time and you don’t want to do it, flip the script in your head.

First, reviews and employee feedback done well are not a waste of time—far from it. These discussions are vital to employee development and engagement. Taking the time to plan and execute reviews also shows your employees you care about them and their career success, and these demonstrations are key to employee morale.

Second, you may not want to be the one providing feedback, but it’s you’re job, so better to get it done than keep discouraging yourself with regular negative self-talk.

2. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Don’t make a stressful task of giving an employee performance evaluation more stressful by rushing the deadline. Instead, prepare for the review bit by bit during those first 90 days. You’d be surprised how a comment jotted here or an email saved there can add up to a complete picture come review time.

3. Don’t forget it’s a conversation.

When it comes down to it, giving an employee feedback is about having a conversation. As such, there’s no need to get too worked up beforehand. You’re just going to talk about the job, that’s all. You can do that, right?

4. Keep it objective.

If you have to give negative feedback, keep your comments as objective as possible. Instead of focusing on who the employee is, focus on what the company or the department needs relative to the employee’s skills or performance. Not everyone is suited to every job, and even if it turns out your new hire wasn’t the best choice, that doesn’t make him or her a bad person. Keep the focus on behavior and performance, not on motivations or personal qualities.

Some objective performance review comments examples could include: 

Positive Performance Evaluation 

  • Paul is consistently on time.
  • Lucy delivers the necessary information to her team.

Negative Performance Evaluation

  • Chris is frequently absent or late to work.
  • Hanna does not communicate information clearly and effectively.

5. Refer to the job description.

When speaking with your employee, be sure to refer to the job description to back up your comments.

6. Set goals and expectations.

After tackling this first and very important conversation, don’t let the momentum slip! Set realistic goals and expectations for the remainder of the year, bearing in mind that priorities will change as time passes, and checking in regularly with your employee will keep you both current.

7. Invite employee input.

Again (see Tip #3), the review should be more of a conversation than not, and that means both you and the employee should have the opportunity to speak. Ask the employee what he’d like to learn in the next few months and whether the job has met his expectations so far. Listen carefully to the answers.

8. Don’t be afraid to be honest.

If you’re astounded at how well the employee is doing, say so. Although many managers hold back praise for fear of inflating their ego, it’s unlikely that positive feedback will give them a “big head.” At the same time, if you have serious concerns about whether your new hire will work out, don’t be afraid to say that as well. Ultimately, it’s better to tell the truth now than keep quiet only to have to drop the hammer later without warning.

Most new employees are eager for reassurance that they’re performing well, and all new employees deserve early intervention when there are problems. By setting good habits early and conducting a painless 90-day performance evaluation that reveals your expectations and your commitment to the well-being and success of employees, you can set them up for continued success and build a workplace culture that embraces feedback.

Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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