Performance Evaluation: Rewarding Excellence and Fostering Positive Change

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May 19, 2015

Annual employee performance review meetings are standard in many workplaces and serve as a method to formally document an employee’s contribution and to identify development opportunities. However, this is just one aspect of performance evaluation and management.

Recognizing good performance and coaching employees to develop new skills should occur throughout the year. This ongoing interaction includes a variety of communication techniques. When communicating, be consistent in your treatment of all employees.

Here are a few tips for rewarding excellence and fostering positive change.

Rewarding Excellence

Take time to reinforce excellent behavior throughout the year. This is accomplished through verbal praise, positive recognition at team meetings, letters, and acknowledgement in a staff newsletter or blog. Why is continuous positive feedback important? It serves to motivate the team. When you acknowledge positive performance you set the tone that strong performers will be recognized for doing good work.

Describe the specific performance and how that performance benefits the firm. Examples of excellence include the following: Surpassing a revenue goal, consistency in performance (reliability), improvement in a skill, acquiring a new client, completing a complex project, supporting other team members, or many other situations in which an employee “went the extra mile.”

In addition to praise, actual rewards may be appropriate in some circumstances. Rewards are not always monetary. They may include granting the employee more autonomy or authority, offering development opportunities to prepare an employee for future promotions, and recruiting employees for special teams or company tasks forces. Of course, most employees appreciate traditional tangible rewards such as tickets to an event, gift certificates, and bonus checks.

Fostering Positive Change

Sharing feedback regarding performance weaknesses is challenging. However, if you don’t initiate communication, the situation could worsen. When you wait for the annual meeting, the employee may genuinely be surprised that her performance is lacking. Do your best to address behavior or performance issues as they arise. Also, the sooner the issue is addressed, the quicker it can be resolved. That amounts to less impact to clients and greater profits in the long term.

When you communicate with team members, focus on the result that you expect. Provide training and coaching to fill the performance gap and meet  expectations. With this approach, you can positively impact employee performance. Be specific about the performance problem or lack of skill and how this potentially can impact the success of the department and company. Have examples ready to share.

Some words have a negative connotation and can cause the employee to disengage from the conversation or get defensive. Avoid words like “failing,” “poor performance,” “bad behavior,” or “weakness.” Start with a summary of positive aspects of performance. Then present any issues as developmental opportunities and share how excellent performance in the particular areas can positively impact specific business objectives. Engage the employee in the discussion to create a plan for employee development. Document the plan and follow up regularly to note progress and provide coaching and support.


As a manager, team leader, or owner, it is important to be fair and reasonable. Ongoing communication with employees will help build trust. Both excellent performance and development opportunities should be discussed throughout the year. When it is time for the annual review, it will be a more productive review with a better outcome.

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