Tips for Conducting an Employee Review

Writing and performing an employee review is one of your most important responsibilities as a lab manager, and it's often also one of the most challenging. While you want to recognize your employee's achievements, you'll also need to point to goals that weren't met. Be forthright in your assessment but also sensitive to extenuating circumstances, and while you cover the year in review, keep the future in your line of sight.

Establish an Effective Framework

One of the most effective approaches in reviewing your employees is to use a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). This framework can help you analyze both the positive and negative attributes of an employee's performance and provide a road map for the future.


Starting with an employee's strengths gives you the opportunity to strike a positive tone for the entire review. Constructive feedback is a frequently overlooked opportunity to express support at any time of the year, so take advantage of this annual review to highlight what you appreciate about your employee's efforts.

One way of articulating strengths is by itemizing specific areas where your employee met or exceeded expectations. Were they particularly attentive to details and thus produced consistently high-quality work? Were they reliably punctual and willing to work overtime? Did they team up well with their co-workers, and were they quick to help?

By expressing your esteem for their contributions, you highlight their qualities and abilities in leading tasks.


The flip side, of course, is where your employee needs to improve. Ideally, after setting a positive tone, you're in a position to discuss their weaknesses while encouraging them time to become more valuable to your lab.

Perhaps they didn't communicate with you or their co-workers as well as you'd like, or they made errors that indicate a lack of thoroughness or readiness to check their work. It could be they were inconsistent in maintaining a regular schedule, whether by habitually arriving late to work or frequently leaving early for personal reasons. These tendencies can indicate a weak commitment to their job.

As a manager, it's your job to keep your employees operating at their best to achieve your lab's goals, so it's important to clearly point to the elements that need improvement. But don't forget to applaud what they already do well!


Weaknesses can reveal opportunities to improve, so the review period is a chance to help your employees develop skills and strengthen their work.

Chances are you've developed an array of options for ongoing employee training, and that range allows you and your employees to choose specific programs that will help them work on skills or necessary categories of knowledge. To demonstrate your commitment to your employees' growth, consider offering government trainings. Look into those offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or regional and industry organizations such as the Water Quality Association or the American Water Works Association.


What could negatively impact your employee's performance following the review? While your goal for the review has been to highlight your employee's achievements, strengths, and specific areas where they need to improve, in any business, there are both internal and external elements that could threaten both your lab and your employee's ability to achieve what you've asked of them.

Some of these elements are beyond an employee's control, but others revolve around an unwillingness or inability on the part of the employee to make the necessary changes. Set up a formal meeting to discuss potential threats to their success, and provide an understanding of what might get in the way of your mutual goals.

Create SMART Goals

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based—SMART goals are a management system originally developed by Peter Drucker in the 1950s. Since that time, the system has been developed and applied to both organizational and personnel management across multiple industries.

In an employee review, you must make sure that you and your employee finish the discussion with an understanding of the goals you've laid out for the year ahead. Each goal should be specific (S), and your employee should understand that progress will be measured (M) with milestones. The goal will need to be achievable (A), so steer away from being overly ambitious or setting your employee up to fail. Also, be sure the goal is relevant (R) to the employee's job and the lab's overall success. Finally, design goals that can be completed within a time-based (T) window that aligns with your review period cycle.

Clear, measurable goals are one of the most effective systems of assessing and achieving progress for both you, your employee and your lab. By taking the time to explain your perspective and by listening to your employee's concerns, you'll set everyone up for success.

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Jeff Rowe
Writer and Editor

For the past 25 years, Jeff Rowe has worked as a writer and an editor for the nonfiction and professional markets, including researching, writing, and editing feature articles, blog posts, speeches, project reports, and magazine essays. He has published numerous articles and essays on developments in health care and health information technology, the home medical equipment market, natural resource and environmental issues, and food topics. He has also been editor and community manager for numerous industry-targeted websites, as well as author of a developing series of novels set in medieval Spain.