How to Do an Effective Team Performance Review
by Julie Bennett on February 15, 2024
Team performance reviews aren’t exactly the most fun part of being a project manager. But that doesn't mean they should be looked at as a necessary evil.
You can make a team performance review work for you– aka, find out meaningful information about what you can improve. All while keeping your wits about you.
Remember, these types of evaluations will inform how you shape your company culture and how you can increase your profitability.
In short, team performance reviews shouldn’t be taken lightly. They require intention, emotional or ‘soft’ skills, and a willingness to accept feedback, even outright criticism.
There are a lot of avenues to take when doing a team performance review. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of inspiration to get you started.
In this article, you’ll learn:
What is a team performance review?
A team performance review assesses how effectively each team member executes their work, both in their individual roles and collaboratively with the team.
This evaluation includes a discussion that provides each team member with actionable insights into their strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities for growth.
In other words, team performance reviews let you in on how much people are thriving in their work, which is why they’re so important.
Taking the time to do this kind of official performance review has two main aims:
- To discuss an accurate evaluation of each person’s work, along with action items
- To help develop each team member’s skills and abilities to excel in their role(s)
Essentially, you’re bridging the past with the future each time you do a performance review. You start out discussing what’s happened in the past (the period of time being reviewed), and then move into explaining what’s expected in the future. Part one is the constructive feedback; part two is the next steps.
Team performance reviews bridge the gap between past triumphs and future greatness by scrutinizing what’s occurred in the given time frame and then projecting that into what’s expected going forward. Here are the benefits of doing a team performance review:
Clarify the expectations for each position
A team performance review is a great opportunity to reiterate the expectations for each position. Perhaps the goal posts have moved a bit for certain roles as the business has scaled. Or perhaps an individual has been working in their role for so long, they may have forgotten some of the nuances.
Uncover strengths and weaknesses
When you review the data of each individual, you may be able to see their strengths and weaknesses on paper. Or you may uncover more in your one-on-one discussion with them for the performance review. Once you have a better idea of each person’s strengths and weaknesses, you can better manage them when issues pop up during projects.
Find out who works best together
Learning individual strengths and weaknesses can help you realize who works best together. You can also blatantly ask this information or do a peer review during the team performance review process. Moving forward, this will improve the success of your teams by putting the best people together.
Figure out where more training is needed
In some cases, poor performance isn’t due to a lack of motivation or work ethic, but rather a lack of knowledge and direct experience. During the course of conducting your performance reviews, you’ll have a chance to figure out where any training gaps might be lurking. You can then cost out your training budget more accurately.
Reward & incentivize
The team review process is an apt time to reward and incentivize your top performers. Rewards make people feel appreciated, while incentives encourage them to keep up the good work. This study shows that financial incentives do positively impact job performance and that leadership is needed to keep them in balance. That’s precisely where a brilliant project manager shines.
Shape company culture
Anytime you have an authentic, one-on-one conversation with a team member, you’re helping to shape your company culture. Showcasing empathy and an openness to feedback can help engender camaraderie and a sense of cohesion among your team and ultimately, the entire organization.
You’ll get a chance during your team performance review to see where everyone’s at as far as their skill set. Use your experience as an opportunity to point individual team members in the right direction, encouraging them to hone their skills. This may mean devoting extra training or connecting them with a mentor, so that they can explore their talent, and ultimately, perform better.
Because team performance reviews are revealing by nature, managers can detect areas for improvement/optimization that directly impact profitability. Perhaps your team gives you feedback as to how to build a better workflow. Maybe you see that one person is getting bogged down by tasks that can be automated. Be sure to take a good hard look at any profitability reports you have before starting the process of the review with everyone.
Often, conducting team performance reviews will greatly inform hiring decisions. The team may reveal that another person is needed to improve the quality of services. You’ll find out where your workflows may be getting stressful, who’s stretched too thin, and how urgent it may or may not be to hire new talent.
When should you conduct the team performance review?
A performance review doesn’t technically start when you sit down to have a one-on-one meeting. That’s because project managers should be providing informal feedback on a regular basis to keep projects moving forward and to enhance the quality of deliverables.
That said, project managers can conduct team performance reviews at various times of the year, such as in quarterly, bi-annually, annually, etc.
For professional service businesses, it’s especially recommended to do project-based team performance reviews. Once you’ve reached the closing phase of your project, evaluation is in order. Conducting a team performance review forms a critical piece of this phase, where opportunities for growth and learning abound.
What metrics to consider
The performance of a successful team is measured by job-related and people-related qualities that represent metrics of performance. Here are a few examples:
- Time management
- Client results
- Problem solving
- And more…
Exactly how you go into each metric is up to you (here are some free templates if you need help). You can get granular within each metric by adding a few qualifiers, too. Then, you’d score each one and average them together for the final value. For example:
(1-5) Meets deadlines | Score: 4
(1-5) On time for meetings | Score:3
(1-5) Respects the time of others | Score:5
(1-5) Prioritizes billable hours | Score: 4
Overall: 4 of 5
What are the types of performance reviews?
There are various ways to conduct a team performance review. Below are a few methods that you can pick and choose from to complete your process. Or you can go a more comprehensive route and include them all:
This is the most popular way to score team performance reviews, as it’s straightforward. For each category or question, simply rate each team member on a numerical scale. You can do this on a scale from 1 to 10 or 1 to 5. A scale of 1 to 5, or the star system, is the more popular option for performance reviews.
A self-assessment can be a powerful part of the review process. In fact, Google employees do this regularly as part of the company’s mission to foster personal growth. A self-assessment puts your individual team members in the driver’s seat. It also sends the message that you value everyone’s individual perspective. Self-assessments make a team performance review more of a two-way conversation, a great method to garner honest feedback about your operational efficiency.
A holistic team performance review will take into consideration how each employee is viewed by their peers. In a professional service team setting, peer evaluations put another level of accountability on employees to collaborate effectively and ‘do what’s good for the team’. Peer evaluations should be reviewed by a manager and then discussed individually with each team member, without explicit disclosure (aka no ‘he said, she said’).
A final way to do a team performance evaluation is by finding out what the customer thinks. You can get this information by way of informal surveys or an email. Depending on the client, a phone call may be necessary. Pick the path of least resistance so that you can get the most information out of the customer without inconveniencing them.
How to do a team performance review (with templates)
1. Get your documentation down.
First, you need to make sure you have a defined way to document and keep track of your performance reviews. You’ll want to be able to easily access past reviews over time to identify trends, improvements, etc. Create a digital folder and make sure the performance reviews are accessible to those who need them.
2. Select your method
Now you need to employ some kind of rating system that you’ll use to evaluate each team member. You can do this however you want, but be sure to put a structure in place, so that you stay consistent. Numerical scales are a popular way to go, rating each category between 0-5 or 0-10.
3. Choose your metrics & create your review
What do you want to measure? What questions do you want the review to answer? Choose your metrics and then create your review in a document. Be sure to leave plenty of room for comments, especially if you’ll be conducting your reviews in person with a pen in hand. If you’re stuck, here’s a bunch of FREE performance review templates to get you started.
Here’s an easy example of what a team performance review document can include:
Date of review:
Ability to accomplish responsibilities:
Suggested areas of improvement:
Demonstration of core values:
4. Gather your data
You’ve got your team performance review document ready to go. But before you jump into the interview process, gather your data first. It’s important to have real numbers to go by when evaluating each person on the team. Take a look at your project management solution to get time tracking data, profitability analysis, and anything else you might need to see what each person’s performance looks like on paper. Run custom reports to gather the information you want to see.
5. One-on-one discussion
Schedule a one-on-one discussion with each member of the team to discuss their performance review. If you’ve done self-assessments and peer evaluations, you’ll want these completed before your discussion. While technically, it’s the project manager doing the reviewing, be sure to encourage feedback and openness on the other side as well.
During these performance review discussions, consider supplementing your assessment process with examples of computerized adaptive testing. Incorporating tools such as adaptive skills assessments or personality inventories can provide additional insights into each team member's strengths, areas for improvement, and potential career paths. By leveraging these examples of computerized adaptive testing, you can enrich the evaluation process, fostering a more comprehensive understanding of each individual's unique talents and development opportunities.
6. Follow up
The step that’s sometimes missed but just as important as the others is the follow up to the team performance review. Follow Ups are effective at reiterating goals. You can touch on the strengths and weaknesses from the review and see where everyone on the team stands. Have things shifted? Check in with the team and reference key items from your reviews.
Do’s & Don’ts for the (Almost) Perfect Team Performance Review
Do ask for a self-assessment
Google’s infamous yearly team performance reviews always involve self-assessments. Their employees note that the company culture is open, with feedback encouraged. Self-assessments encourage introspection and can help individuals grow. As a manager, you can get more of an insight as to how each person views themselves in their role.
Do remember to follow up
This is the part a lot of managers miss. Work gets in the way, things come up, and the review follow-up gets thrown to the wayside. However, it’s a very important piece to reinforce goals. The follow-up will remind everyone that you’re invested in where they stand and how they can improve themselves, both internally and in their work roles.
Do be mindful of your phrasing
Know your audience and adjust your performance review accordingly. Each person is different, with different communication styles and different ways of receiving feedback. What sounds like effective evaluation rhetoric for one individual won’t hit home with another. For example, a team member with excellent non-verbal communication skills may not require the same approach as another who struggles to ‘read the room’. While in the midst of your team performance review, stay mindful of your phrasing. This often means speaking more slowly and deliberately, which is a good thing.
Do focus on clarity
Be crystal clear and expect the same back. Speak in clear language and avoid vagueness, unless your EQ tells you to do otherwise. Encourage team members to be clear as well. If you don’t understand something, ask them gently to repeat. Practice active listening to discern exactly what they’re trying to say. Focusing on clarity will keep expectations more obvious on both sides.
Do end things positively
End each team performance review on a positive note. One of the best ways to do this is to express gratitude. Let each person know how thankful you are for their contribution to the team and to the organization as a whole.
Don’t ask anyone to change
For most people, change is scary. Flying out the gate asking someone to change behavior can feel like an attack. It can also backfire. If you want someone on the team to change something, first speak to their past actions and how things can be improved (not changed). Also, provide context, like how other team members are affected by the behavior. This is a more growth-encouraging way to conduct your reviews versus demanding sweeping change.
Don’t beat around the bush
Don’t beat around the bush when there’s a pressing issue, even when it feels uncomfortable. People can feel this anticipatory energy, and it makes things more tense on both sides. It’s better to get the tough, uncomfortable items over with at the beginning of the review. Eat the frog and move into more positive scenarios immediately after.
Don’t be brutal
Honesty is the best policy for team performance reviews. You must be honest about expectations and honest about performance, but not brutally honest. The best advice is to offer feedback the way you would want to receive it.
Don’t make it one-sided
Make your team performance review more of a collaborative endeavor by encouraging a two-way conversation. The goal is to make sharing and feedback feel natural, as this communication skill will translate over to day-to-day work with the team. Opening the door to input let’s individuals know you’re on their side and that you value what they have to say.
Don’t forget praise
Everyone needs praise, from top performers to those who could use drastic improvement. Praise keeps the tone positive. Praise also motivates employees to keep up the good work, that they’re recognized for their achievements. Dish out rewards and incentives where appropriate to keep your top performers happy.
Team performance reviews are highly constructive ways to make your business better. There’s a lot of information out there about what approaches to take; so we hope you’ve received actionable insights from this article. You can easily conduct your next team performance review using the info, resources, and templates we’ve provided.