Employee performance reviews are key to offering helpful feedback to managers and employees.
But not knowing what to say or write can make the process downright painful — especially when you’re on a deadline.
If you do annual performance reviews, it's important to get it right. This is key to boosting employee engagement.
In this post, we’ll share 100 of the most useful performance review phrases you can use during your next round of employee reviews.
If you're a manager, these are great ways to communicate with your reports. If you're an employee, these can work equally well for your self-evaluation.
That being said, let’s jump right in.
Why Worry About Phrasing?
Many of today's performance reviews aren't nearly as effective as they could be. Let me explain.
Fast Company reports that 74% of younger workers walk out of performance reviews unsure of what their managers actually think of their performance. Think about that!
In large part, this is because those reviews lack good performance evaluation comments.
This mirrors the fact that, according to our own research, 79% of employees don't think their organization's review process is all that good to begin with.
No matter how good your performance reviews are, you could almost certainly do better.
Effective Performance Review Phrases [Categorized]
If you want more inspiration, these performance review examples are based off the book Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals.
When you include these in your performance reviews, you'll communicate positive and constructive feedback more clearly — which is exactly the kind of useful communication employees need.
Keep in mind that these are starter phrases and you should be specific when you're writing any feedback for reviews.
Creating a positive work environment and fostering positive attitudes start with acknowledging the achievements of your peers and subordinates. The following phrases could help with that:
- Achieves optimal levels of performance and accomplishment with / for ...
- Provides strong evidence of [specific accomplishment]
- Excels at developing programs / strategies that have delivered X results
- Improved production by X% through [specific task]
- Exceeded the original goal of X by X% through [specific task]
Whether you have a proper team or a one-person department whose job description entails looking after the administrative tasks, use the following phrases to evaluate their performance:
- Continuously examines administrative effectiveness and seeks better procedures such as [tasks]
- Develops successful administrative strategies such as [task] that led to [results]
- Establishes effective systems for information retrieval through [task]
- Improves administrative support systems through [task]
- Keeps documents organized via [task] to avoid duplicate information
The ability to coach and guide others says a lot about a leader. Here are some phrases that could potentially help you review that quality:
- Shows a sincere interest in employees and the solutions to their problems
- Lends support and guidance to employees by [task]
- Uses sound coaching techniques to solve disciplinary problems
- Provides continuous coaching
- Is highly respected by employees for sharing concerns, problems, and opportunities
The ability to clearly communicate is a management skill that’s a must for every employee along the chain.
In reality, this is an umbrella term that includes oral, written, non-verbal, and listening skills.
Here are some useful phrases that could help you express your feedback regarding this area:
- Effectively communicates expectations
- Excels in facilitating group discussions
- Keeps meetings action-oriented by task
- Effectively communicates upward, downward, and laterally
- Enforces company policies and values without creating negative reactions
Are your employees getting along and cooperating on projects? Is everyone being a model team player?
Use these phrases to report on these qualities:
- Encourages collaboration with the team
- Shares ideas and techniques
- Builds strong relationships with others by [task]
- Displays a harmonious and cooperative spirit by [task]
- Gladly shares expertise
Establishing a culture of out-of-box thinking can go a long way in ensuring business success – regardless of your industry.
Use these phrases to evaluate the creative-mindset of your employee/manager:
- Seeks creative alternatives such as [examples] that drove [results]
- Clever and imaginative when confronted with obstacles
- Is continuously experimenting to drive [results]
- Initiates and executes creative ideas such as [example]
- Seeks new ideas and approaches
Are your managers doing a good enough job at delegating tasks and dividing the load? These phrases could help:
- Empowers employees with the authority and resources to achieve X results
- Helps employees gain visibility through [task]
- Encourages employees to solve their own problems
- Delegates to match personal strengths
- Delegates with clearly defined responsibility and authority
If your teams/individuals aren’t showing any improvement — whether in terms of hitting a KPI or how they interact with each other — you should be concerned.
Consider using these phrases to evaluate this area:
- Develops continuous improvement methods
- Conceives of totally new strategies
- Continues to grow and improve
- Devises improved means of accomplishing results
- Is continuously planning for improvement
Innovation, whether in terms of business strategies or coming up with a new product, is important if you want to keep your business relevant.
Here are some performance review phrases you can use to gauge the quality of innovative thinking in your employees:
- Develops innovative strategies such as [example] ...
- Is very innovative under adverse conditions
- Seeks innovative solutions
- Fosters a curiosity for innovative possibilities
- Promotes innovation by [example]
How are your employees working together as a team? Would you say that you are satisfied with the level of dependability in your workplace?
You can express your feedback through the following phrases:
- Recognizes the needs of others and reaches out to lend a helping hand
- Establishes effective working relationships
- Generates synergy
- Builds on mutual dependence and understanding
- Promotes the company culture among peers
The ability to learn new skills and grasp complex concepts is a necessary quality for successful teams.
To find out where you stand in this department, consider throwing in the following phrases to your reviews:
- Displays an ability to learn rapidly and adapt quickly to changing situations
- Shares learning experiences with peers
- Promotes a learning culture
- Committed to continuously learning through [example]
- Responds quickly to new instructions, situations, methods, and procedures
Being able to manage a team is more than just giving pep talks and delegating tasks. It involves a whole lot of other things as well, such as supporting your team, making difficult discussions, and offering both positive and negative feedback.
Employees can use the following phrases to evaluate the management capabilities of their supervisors:
- Provides team with support through [example]
- Collaborates with individual team members to establish a development path
- Holds employees accountable for their own results
- Provides team with the resources needed to attain results
- Provides support during periods of organizational change
How good are your teams at planning ahead and looking at the big pictures?
Make sure that you evaluate this area properly by using the following phrases:
- Develops workable action plans
- Creates flexible plans to meet changing opportunities
- Effectively puts plans into action
- Excels in developing strategic alternatives
- Formulates strategies, tactics, and action plans to drive X results
Managers need to realize the hidden potential of their subordinates and give credit where it’s due.
Here are a few phrases that could help you discover that potential in your company’s next performance review:
- Is capable of distinguished performance in a higher-level position
- Has reached the level for promotional consideration
- Can handle bigger projects and assignments
- Is making a strong effort to acquire greater experience and skills to increase potential for advancement
- Is enhancing growth potential through additional education and training
Not every employee is a problem-solver. It requires a combination of creative thinking, a proactive mindset, and the ability to remain calm under pressure.
You can use these performance review phrases to rate the problem-solving skills of your employees:
- Displays a practical approach to solving problems
- Develops creative solutions
- Turns problems into opportunities
- Effectively solves problems rather than symptoms
- Is skilled in proposing optional solutions
At the end of the day, employee productivity is what REALLY impacts your bottom line. To make sure that everyone’s meeting the expectations, use these phrases to evaluate their performance:
- Exceeds normal output standards
- Continuously produces more than expected
- Is an important contributor to the successes of the department
- Makes a substantial contribution to the continued operation and growth of the organization
- Consistently exceeds performance goals
These apply mostly to supervisors who lead projects. But a few can also be used for evaluating the performance of certain employees who step up:
- Completed X project with X results
- Sets realistic timetables to keep projects on target
- Is transparent with a project's progress
- Makes effective use of all available resources when given a project
- Clearly establishes project goals and objectives
These apply only to managers and supervisors — not subordinates:
- Gives consistent recognition to employees
- Maintains a work situation which stimulates the growth of individual employees
- Makes certain that employees have a clear understanding of their responsibilities
- Is readily available for support to employees
- Recognizes and deals with signs of employee burnout
Time is the most crucial resource for any professional.
Are your employees making full use of this immensely important resource? Use the following phrases to find out:
- Consistently meets all deadlines
- Prepares meeting agendas that are concise and time-saving
- Keeps meetings on schedule
- Respects the time of others
- Makes effective use of discretionary time
Last, but not least, are your managers and their subordinates passionate enough towards achieving your company’s vision?
Use the following phrases to find out:
- Excels in living the organization's values
- Promotes strong support of the company's mission and vision
- Is able to turn visions into actual action plans
- Demonstrates an ability to transfer vision into execution
- Excels in contributing to the company's goals
These words mean nothing unless you attach specific examples and data to them.
Now you have the template and phrases to get started, it's time to reevaluate your performance review process and make sure it's truly effective.
When review cycles have a 12-month lag, it’s easy for managers to focus on what’s fresh in their minds.
But this brushes aside any positive or negative behavior that has gone unaddressed.
Lisa Mullen, Manager of Corporate Human Resources at Halogen Software, believes that the review process should be a year-round activity.
“Managers should take the opportunity to discuss and record milestones, accomplishments, successes, and challenges as they occur, when the details are fresh.”
In order to really gauge how an employee is performing, you need to poke and prod indirect managers, team leads, peers, or even employees from other departments.
Globoforce highlights the importance of crowdsourcing feedback:
- 80% of employees see crowdsourced feedback as more accurate
- 80% of peer-reviewed employees get a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses
Employees want to be evaluated by people other than their direct managers, and multiple viewpoints allow you to get a better understanding of an employee’s performance.
That's why you should use a tool like TINYpulse to keep a pulse on your employees and get comprehensive feedback from their peers, collaborators, and external stakeholders on an ongoing basis.
If you're not sure what performance review process works for you, ask your employees!
Cindy from Wheelhouse DMG shares how she uses TINYpulse to crowdsource ideas to design their performance review process, which became a huge success for the company.
"And, the feedback we collected afterwards, after reviews were done, is ‘This is so much easier, much better lift,' and the whole process felt better for everybody.”
—Cindy Larson, Director of People and Operations at Wheelhouse DMG