Performance Development Reviews: How to Maximize Employee Growth
Ever feel like your annual performance reviews are a box-ticking exercise? You're not alone.
Performance reviews shouldn't be a monotonous loop of critique and defense. Instead, they can be a goldmine, a catalyst for employee growth and organizational success. And, if done right, they can transform from mundane to motivating.
That's the power of performance development reviews. It's about turning static feedback into dynamic action plans. It's about recognizing that each employee is on a journey, and the review is a pit stop to refuel, recalibrate, and set a course for new horizons.
This article will dive deep into:
- How performance development reviews move from judging the past to planning for the future.
- How they can drive employee performance and career growth.
- How to revamp your current performance review system, making them the backbone of employee growth.
It's time reviews felt less like judgment day and more like a growth masterclass. Imagine a world where each review session becomes a milestone in an employee's career.
📈 What is a performance development review?
A performance development review (PDR) is a structured process organizations use to evaluate, discuss, and enhance an employee's work performance and development. Unlike traditional performance reviews focusing solely on assessing past performance, PDRs emphasize past achievements and future development opportunities.
Put simply, a performance development review provides a safe space for managers and employees to discuss:
- overall employee performance during the period;
- progress toward goals;
- goals for the upcoming period;
- an action plan to achieve set goals;
- an individual development plan.
There's no hard-and-fast rule on how often you should hold a performance development review.
But given its essential role in building a solid performance management cycle, it's best to make it frequent.
🆚 Performance development reviews vs. Traditional performance appraisals
Both performance development reviews and performance appraisals (annual performance reviews) are important in managing an employee's performance.
But there are some key differences.
For instance, you can conduct PDRs as frequently as you need. And this supports feedforward that's timelier and more actionable.
It helps employees continuously improve their performance and achieve long-term growth.
Traditional annual reviews focus more on past performance over a specified period, usually a year. They provide evaluative feedback, which isn't as timely.
Traditional performance appraisals also evaluate employees based on predetermined metrics of performance success.
Performance development reviews don't only handle performance issues. They emphasize continuous development and improvement.
As a result, high-performing employees get to benefit as well. Managers can identify development areas to keep all employees on a growth path.
In addition, the high frequency of performance development reviews creates stronger manager-employee relationships.
Due to the continuous interactions, solid relationships develop.
It leads to more engaged feedback discussions. And the employees are more likely to own the goals and development plan created.
Most employee appraisals happen annually or semi-annually. This limited contact can't cultivate the kind of positive relationship PDRs do.
🎯 What is the purpose of a performance development review?
"Cultivating a culture of constant iteration and learning is the new gold standard that will set your business apart in a world where disruption is the norm." Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn's CEO.
Performance development reviews allow managers to evaluate employees' work and results to determine how well they fulfill their responsibilities.
But PDRs are more than that.
Through these 1:1 conversations, employees learn about their strengths and shortcomings.
They get a space to express any challenges limiting their performance. And leave with solutions on how to progress.
It's an opportunity for managers to identify the skills employees need to achieve their goals and develop. And this helps in creating relevant development programs that support ongoing growth.
PDRs are also key in aligning performance, growth, and development with organizational goals and employees' personal goals.
In the experience of Sarah Watson, a certified coach at BPTLAB:
"Ensuring consistent growth and development of employees is not a destination, but an ongoing journey.
Performance development reviews serve as our compass in this journey, allowing us to better understand our team's needs, abilities, potentials, and areas for improvement.
At BPTLAB, we've noticed a significant alignment of personal goals with the company's mission as a direct result of our comprehensive reviews. The clarity and direction these reviews provide directly correlate with enhanced employee satisfaction and productivity."
✍️ How do you write a performance development review
Kick it off with performance highlights.
It sets a positive tone and makes the employee more comfortable with the discussion.
Write specific examples of how they met expectations or gave exceptional performance.
Mention their notable skills, attitudes, and contributions. If you can tie these achievements to the organization's objectives, the better.
Example: Completed project X successfully and tackled the challenges effectively. The project led to a 35% increase in company sales.
Conduct the performance evaluation
Remember to balance the positives and negatives.
Example of positive feedback: Demonstrated strong analytical skills in the quarterly market research report prepared. It provided valuable insights that led to a more competitive and profitable pricing strategy for the company.
Example of negative feedback: Worked independently on project Y and did not seek the input of other team members in the planning or decision-making process. Engaging other team members in future projects can bring unique insights, leading to better results. It also supports a more positive team dynamic.
➡️ If you need extra help delivering effective feedback, get inspiration from these 40+ performance feedback examples.
➡️ We have another guide you should check out on how to write a performance review.
Identify areas of improvement
Note down the knowledge gaps and areas the employee could develop their skills further.
It's important to be specific about what they could improve about their current performance. Use encouraging words.
Example: Shows excellence in performing routine tasks. However, enhancing their analytical skills could make them better at solving complex problems more effectively.
Set goals for the next period
Collaborate with the employee in writing down SMART goals for the upcoming period. Set both performance and development goals.
They should align with the employee's career aspirations and the organization's strategic objectives.
Example of performance goal: Get a satisfaction rating that exceeds 90% in post-interaction customer surveys conducted in the following review period.
Example of development goal: Complete a project of increased complexity and scope within the next period. Achieve this by enrolling in a project management certification course and mentorship program.
Give an overall performance rating
Provide a clear and concise assessment of the employee's performance. You can use a 5-point rating scale or a percentage-based rating.
It acts as a quick reference point for understanding their performance level.
An overall rating also makes tracking the employee's progress and gauging their development easy.
Create a plan of action
Collaborate on the steps you'll take to achieve the set goals. Agree on the support and resources the employee will get to improve their performance.
Compile all the steps and resources into an employee development plan.
💡 Tip: Be clear on the responsibilities and expectations for the manager and employee.
📝 Performance development review form template
The performance development review plan template we have for you is simple but comprehensive.
It covers all crucial areas like achievements, areas of improvement, goal setting, and creating a development plan.
This PDR template also lets you assess performance against specific core skills and provide an overall rating.
Expect to provide lots of specific examples when using this template. It'll make your feedback more actionable and easier for the employees to understand.
➡️There are plenty more templates you can use to power your performance management process. Feel free to tweak any of our collection of performance review templates.
💡 Tip: Use these performance review questions to customize your chosen template.
💬 How to structure a performance development review meeting
A great PDR meeting covers five stages.
- Analyze the employee's job description. Get an understanding of their performance expectations.
- Collect performance data from 360 feedback, self-assessments, and other relevant reports.
- Provide the employee with the agenda of the meeting in advance. Give them enough time to prepare for the areas you'll cover.
Welcome and opening
- Set a positive tone for the meeting by expressing appreciation for the employee's contribution to the organization's success.
- Emphasize that the meeting is development-focused and how it contributes to your people's career growth.
- Encourage employees to express their thoughts throughout the meeting, share feedback, and seek clarifications where needed.
Review of performance, goals, and expectations
- Start on a positive note. Give specific examples of the employee's achievements and contributions.
- Evaluate the employee's skills based on their role expectations. Acknowledge both strengths and areas of improvement.
- Provide constructive feedback on how they can improve performance.
- Provide an overall rating of their performance.
- Work together to set measurable performance goals for the next period.
- Collaborate on a development plan to address skill gaps and improve performance. Set development goals as well.
- Discuss the steps the employee will take to achieve these goals. Address the training, resources, and support they'll need.
➡️ Here are some employee development plan examples and examples of development goals to guide you in this section.
- Summarize the key discussion points. Restate the goals, development plan, and other action items.
- Check if the employee has any unaddressed issues or questions.
- Get the employee's feedback on the performance development review meeting. Get their input on how to make future meetings more productive.
💡6 Tips for your performance development review meetings
Use the SMART framework for planning
The SMART framework ensures there's no confusion in your PDR meeting.
It clarifies the purpose of the meeting, defines its scope, and makes it possible to track the impact of the performance and development review.
Here's how you can use a SMART framework to make your meeting more organized:
- Be specific: Clarify the objectives of the meeting and the concrete results you expect.
- Make it measurable: Define the indicators that'll measure the success of the PDR meeting, such as decisions made, creating a development plan, etc.
- Make it achievable: Set realistic objectives you can achieve with the available time and the employee's capabilities.
- Ensure it's relevant: The meeting agenda should be relevant to the employee and within the scope of performance development.
- Make it time-bound: Allocate enough time for each item on the agenda. It'll prevent you from spending too much time on some items and rushing through others.
Follow up with development goals and a plan
Developmental check-ins are as important as the performance and development review meeting. They are two-way conversations where:
- The manager gets to check if the employee is implementing feedback.
- The employee can seek guidance in executing the action items. They can also get support for handling roadblocks.
Follow-ups keep the employee progressing toward the desired outcomes. They maximize progress.
To make them more effective, have a strict follow-up timeline in place. And communicate it to the employee.
Incorporate performance coaching
Performance coaching involves using coaches to provide ongoing support to the employees. And closely working with them on their goals.
It helps in maximizing their potential and increasing their output.
But the benefits of coaching go beyond performance improvement. It drives a high-performance culture, improves self-awareness, and builds trust in the workplace.
➡️ Learn how to conduct effective training on coaching skills to make your managers more effective coaches.
Define suitable growth methods
"Learning requires leadership that reinforces learning, a supportive environment, including especially psychological safety, but also an appreciation for differences when you're working with people of lots of different backgrounds, and openness to new ideas." Sara Singer, expert in organizational behavior.
Discuss with the employee the development methods you'll use for their skill enhancement.
It'll ensure that your combination of methods matches their preferred learning style and career aspirations.
Combine theoretical and practical approaches. It'll help the employees learn the necessary knowledge and how to transfer it into their daily responsibilities.
You can try:
- training programs;
- mentorship programs;
- stretch assignments;
- workshops and seminars.
Maintain proper documentation
Record the main discussion points, goals, and action items.
Documentation provides a point of reference in future performance development reviews. Plus, it shows the employee's performance improvement over time.
Proper documentation also acts as evidence to justify decisions such as promotions and salary raises.
Ask the employee to carry out a self-assessment before the PDR meeting. Use it as a starting point for your performance discussion.
It harmonizes the employee's understanding of their performance with the manager's perspective. And this leads to a more engaging development conversation.
The employee is also more likely to take ownership of their development after a self-reflection.
🆓 Check out 9 employee self-evaluation form examples.
➡️ Drive performance and growth with Zavvy’s 360° growth system
Zavvy offers an all-in-one employee growth system for more structured performance development reviews:
- 📈 The highly customizable performance review tool lets you collect insights on employees' performance, strengths, and areas of improvement using self-evaluations and multi-rater evaluations.
- 🌱 You can create personalized development plans using our powerful employee development software and create a continuous growth cycle among your workforce.
- 🧭 You can tie any growth-specific action items to a career progression framework.
- 💬 The flexible one-on-one meeting software lets you discuss performance and growth with your people.
📅 Enlist Zavvy to help you transform each review session into a milestone in your people's career. Book a free demo now.
What do you put in a PDR?
A PDR should include:
- Performance evaluation of the period
- Areas of improvement
- Goals for the next period
- Overall performance score
- Action plan
What is PDR in performance?
PDR in performance is the process of evaluating an employee's performance over a specific period. It involves providing constructive feedback and finding development opportunities to improve their overall organizational contribution.