How To Conduct Employee Reviews

Employee reviews: managers dread them as much as employees do.

Despite this aversion, reviews are an integral part of building your team, whether you’re a company of 2 or 20,000.

While it’s natural that staff may expect a financial reward and/or promotion for their work, the biggest drivers of performance are still the intangibles: staff members feeling like they matter, and that their employer is invested in their growth and success. For this reason, employee reviews shouldn't only consist of past performance appraisals, but rather be a session where you and your team member create a compelling future together.

Here are few proven strategies that will help you make your employee reviews much more productive, to where you and your team can be excited about them:

Don’t cook every ingredient in the same pot.  

Performance reviews cannot be done without you knowing and communicating your restaurant’s goals, expectations and standards for each individual person's role in your business.

Most restaurants use review forms that are too general and which do not reflect their particular businesses. These basic forms have categories such as: Job Knowledge, Productivity, Punctuality, Attitude, Cooperation, Communication, etc. While these categories may seem important, they are too vague and are hardly saying anything to your employee.

Take “Attitude” for example. While we generally expect positive attitude from all of our employees,  what does Attitude look like in your servers? What does having a positive attitude look like for your cooks? You may want your servers to be gregarious, empathetic and patient in order to provide genuine hospitality to guests. For your kitchen staff, attitude may entail  assuming responsibility, diligence and collaboration.

While all these qualities are interchangeably important for all roles in your restaurant, you still must define what's most important for each role and what it looks like specifically. You may not need your cooks to be outgoing and gregarious as much as you need that from your servers and hostesses. But you may want them to be communicative and collaborative in order to execute their work in groups and under pressure.

Define specific standards for each role in your restaurant in order to set clear expectations.

Performance reviews begin at hiring.

The smoothest path to having high-performing employees is by setting the right foundation with them from the beginning. Employee reviews start with you setting clear goals and expectations during the hiring process.

Let your potential new hires know what the goals of your restaurant are, and what  they can do to become an indispensable part of your restaurant. Let them know what a “good job” means specifically, and what qualities and skills they would need to bring forth to succeed at work.

Just as you would not build a house without a foundation, conducting employee reviews is futile if your employees do not clearly understand from the beginning how to succeed in their roles. It will be much easier to start your employees on the right path from the start, than have to continually course-correct them later.

Employee reviews are not an annual thing.

The method of doing annual reviews from the top-down was started by large corporations, and this practice hardly makes sense in the restaurant business. Chances are, most restaurant employees don't even make it to a year.

For many, restaurants are a transitional path people on the way to “real” jobs or careers. Yet,  this truth is a poor excuse for the industry’s notoriously high turnover. In reality, lack of employer support and diminished growth opportunities -- not the prospects of a “real job” -- are some of the biggest contributing factors to why most people leave the restaurant industry.

Waiting for the  one-year mark to give an employee feedback on past performance is a reactive way to run your business. Going back and identifying and correcting past performance issues costs more money, energy and time for you and your employees. Many year-old mistakes get forgotten. Too many year-old successes don't get the acknowledgement they deserve. This robs your employees of opportunities to improve, grow and have a sense of purpose and fulfilment in your restaurant.

As a result, you lose people.

Consider conducting employee performance reviews quarterly, rather than annually or (in the case of many restaurants) not at all. When done effectively, quarterly reviews provide valuable feedback, support and encouragement for your employees.

When your people are consistently supported and encouraged to grow and succeed, they do.

Give instant feedback.

Many restaurant employees would concur that they don't get enough feedback from their employers. More often than not, a boss’ focus is on business results, while the very  people who deliver those results get overlooked.

Don't wait for a quarterly review to bring up a performance issue, or to reward a positive behaviour or result. Give feedback on the spot as soon as you see it.

If you wait too long to correct an employee’s fixable performance issue, that issue becomes a habit and sets a poor example for the rest of your employees.

Conversely, if you wait too long to acknowledge and reward the positive contributions of your team members, they will be much less enthused to repeat them.

Change the tone.

Let’s face it: managers and their employees dread the inevitable  “opportunities for growth” section of employee reviews. And understandably so. Even though the constructive part of the review is referred to as an “opportunity for growth”, most of the time it’s not communicated as an opportunity. It usually sounds criticizing, admonishing and reprimanding.

Employee reviews should encourage growth and improvement of your staff, rather than be an emotional throwdown or confrontation.

A much more productive way to encourage growth and improvement of your staff is with the the concept of Start, Stop and Continue. When preparing for your employee review, reflect on what should your employee start doing, stop doing and continue doing in order to move forward towards their goals.

Communicate the Start, Stop, Continue concept while keeping the focus on the employee and their goals. Deliver each change that needs to be made  from an angle of what’s in it for them. The best way to have your people buy into your business goals is for them to know that you are invested into theirs.

Employee reviews should not be mere performance appraisals, but an opportunity to have an open dialogue with your staff to help them be the best they know they can be.

These discussions should not be one sided. Ask questions like:

what's the biggest challenge for achieving your goals?

What have I done to help your performance?

How can I be a better manager for you?

Listen with an open mind, and encourage an open and honest dialogue. The answers you receive will reveal valuable insight on how you can become an integral part of your staff’s success.

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