Performance reviews are critical tools in evaluating your employees, determining raises and vetting internal candidates for promotion. When done well, a review is an invaluable conversation between management and employees about expectations and job performance; however, too many managers and companies regard the review process as more of a burden than a resource.

As a business leader, you can improve your performance review process by creating a process that has clear value. In writing your review forms, there are three archetypes you can follow.

Narrative form

In a narrative form evaluation, you and other managers write complete thoughts or sentences about the employee’s performance. You take note of both the positive contributions of the employee, and areas where he or she can improve moving forward. The best narrative forms also include development plans that set goals for the employee to meet in the next review cycle.

Sample employee review question: Discuss ways in which the employee exhibited performance that exceeded expectations.

Numerical evaluation

A numerical evaluation assigns a number, usually on a 1–5 scale, across several categories of employee performance. This approach provides managers with a more comprehensive guide to the review process than a narrative form, leaving few elements of the employee’s job description uncovered. The form also includes areas for comment to supplement the numerical grade.

Sample employee review question: The employee communicates well with management and co-workers (1–5)

Descriptive reviews

A combination of the other two review types, a descriptive review asks managers to use a predetermined set of descriptors to evaluate an employee’s performance. After selecting from the descriptors, the manager completes the section by adding justification for his or her choices.

Sample employee review question: The employee is ready for additional responsibilities (Strongly disagree–Strongly agree)

Once you have chosen the right archetype for your sample employee performance reviews, you need to tailor the questions to your specific needs. As you do so, avoid common pitfalls, like:

The “halo effect”

The halo effect occurs when managers overemphasize good or bad employee performance in the period immediately before the review. Falling prey to the halo effect means managers overlook the employee’s performance early in the year. To avoid the halo effect in your employee review samples, ask managers to evaluate performance from each month or quarter.

Preparation

When you look through sample employee performance reviews, you will notice that each example take time to complete. Reviews are not something you can rush, and you need to allow yourself and your team enough time to give a full evaluation.

Too much objectivity/subjectivity

Reviews are a balancing act between objective measurements of performance and subjective impressions of an employee’s value. Too much objectivity ignores intangible contributions and extenuating circumstances that impact performance. On the other hand, too much subjectivity leads to claims of “playing favorites” and rewarding low-performing employees who are well liked. During the review process, use measurable benchmarks as the starting place for the evaluation, but include elements of character and potential in your decisions as well.

Goal setting

The best sample employee reviews include sections for goal setting. This is the chance for both parties to discuss where the employee should be at the time of the next evaluation. Benchmarks need to be clear and attainable to be effective.

You may need to look through dozens of employee review samples before you find the best fit for your company, but the time it takes to settle on the correct form is a valuable investment in the future. Snagajob has integrated Performance Review Forms into our Employee Reporting features to help you better prepare for, and track, the review process.