Advice for Reviewers

Before the Review

  • Where necessary, reporting relationships should be clarified to ensure that all staff are aware of whom their Reviewer is.  Where a job-share exists or where someone works for more than one unit, clarification should be sought around the review. It is not recommended that the Reviewee engage in more than one review. 
  • Agree with staff a review period or end date by which reviews are to be completed.  Staff should be aware of the review date within an adequate timeframe.
  • Two months prior to reviews taking place you need to ask Reviewees to decide are they going for the one to one meeting, ‘Local Peer Review’ or ‘Peer Committee’ If the Reviewee wants a full ‘Peer Committee’, contact the Department of Human Resources where the ‘third person’ will be randomly selected from the relevant Review Panel. 
  • Prior to reviews taking place in your Department/Area/Centre, it is recommended that you meet with staff as a group to focus staff on the purpose of the review process. Where possible inform staff of any forthcoming work/challenges that you may wish them to consider when engaging in self-reflection prior to the review meeting.  You may also want to provide reflection on the Department/Area strategy and/or outcomes from the last Quality Review process.
  • Once a date is agreed the reviewee engages in a self- review where s/he reflects upon his/her own performance, together with any issues or constraints s/he has experienced (Part A of Review Form. This is returned to you the reviewer at least one week prior to the review date. A fundamental aspect of the Part A of the review is outlining work goal(s) and objectives.  
  • The online form available on 
  • Reviewer Checklist - Before the Review

The Review Meeting

To ensure consistency of approach it is recommended that reviews be conducted in the following format:

  1. Start the Review with stating the purpose of the meeting, e.g. “This is the Performance and Development Review - an opportunity for us to discuss your work, the objectives you have identified and the development needs and supports required”.
  2. State the format of the meeting.  On average the reviews take between 45 minutes to one hour
  3. Ask the Reviewee to take you through the goals and objectives they have written in Part A of the form.
  4. The meeting now should become a two-way discussion - seeking clarification, along with probing the impact and/or the necessary actions resulting from the objectives identified.
  5.  Give time to appreciate the contribution the Reviewee has made over the last review period.
  6. Ask the Reviewee if s/he has any questions or anything relating to his/her work that needs further discussion.
  7. At the end of the meeting complete ‘Part B’ of the form jointly with the Reviewee - ‘Agreed Record of the Review Discussion’.  (Part B is normally completed within the final ten minutes of the meeting).  One should seek clarification at this stage by asking the Reviewee what his/her understanding of what has been agreed during the meeting.  By signing Part B, you and the Reviewee are saying that this summary is an accurate reflection of the discussion that has just taken place.   Where possible Part B should be signed by those involved in the meeting at the end of the Review.  If the Reviewee would like to consider the content of Part B in more detail, then get agreement that the form be signed and returned to you not later than five working days after the Review has taken place.

Reviewer Checklist - During the Review

Setting Performance Expectations

At least one week prior to the review date, the ‘Self Review Form’ is forwarded by the reviewee to the reviewer(s). This is an opportunity for the reviewer to reflect on the staff member's performance to date and to consider realistic performance expectations

To perform well, employees need to know what is expected of them. The starting point is an up-to-date job description that describes the essential functions, tasks, and responsibilities of the job. It also outlines the general areas of knowledge and skills required of the employee an employee to be successful in the job.

However performance expectations go beyond the job description. When you think about high quality on-the-job performance, you are really thinking about a range of expected job outcomes, such as

  • What goods and services should the job produce?
  • What impact should the work have on the organization?
  • How do you expect the employee to act with clients, colleagues, and supervisors?
  • What are the organizational values the employee must demonstrate?
  • What are the processes, methods, or means the employee is expected to use?

In discussing performance expectations an employee should understand why the job exists, where it fits in the organization, and how the job's responsibilities link to organization and department objectives. The range of performance expectations can be broad but can generally be broken into two categories:

  • Results(The goods and services produced by an employee often measured by objectives orstandards)
  • Actions & Behaviors(The methods and means used to make a product and the behaviors and values demonstrated during the process. Actions and Behaviors can be measured through performance dimensions.)

A performance objective is a future state of achievement that helps the organization succeed and create value. It is a direct link between the work an employee does and the department and organization’s overall objectives and mission. As the organization’s needs change and direction shifts, so will an employee’s performance objectives.

  • Performance objectives express mutually understood agreements for results that an employee is expected to produce during the performance review period.
  • Performance objectives are not separate from an employee’s job, but part of the job.
  • Performance objectives are “ends” towards which you and your employee direct effort and focus resources.

For these reasons it is best not to dictate objectives, but set them through discussion, negotiation, compromise, and agreement.

  • Set short-term goals with a long-term view. Objectives are generally set for periods of a year or less, which may sacrifice long-term gain to generate results in the short-term.
  • Identify critical issues and possible obstacles 
  • Do not underestimate resource needs.
  • Build in flexibility.  Regular status update and check-in meetings make it much easier to identify problems or shifts in unit priorities and change course

Gathering Evidence to Support the Review

Since one of the characteristics of a performance standard is that it can be measured, reviewers should identify how and where evidence about the employee's performance will be gathered. Specifying the performance measurements when the responsibility is initially assigned (at the beginning of employment) will help the employee keep track of his progress, as well as helping you in the future performance discussions.

There are many effective ways to monitor and verify performance, the most common of which are:

  • Direct observation
  • Specific work results (tangible evidence that can be reviewed without the employee being present)
  • Reports and records, such as attendance, safety, inventory, financial records, etc.
  • Commendations, constructive or critical comments received about the employee's work

Setting Work Objectives

A work objective is a mutually understood agreement about a specific work outcome that a staff member is expected to achieve.  It is not a list of all the activities (often action items)/ responsibilities of the staff member's role.  It is a direct link between the work the employee performs and the Unit’s operational plan and University’s strategic priorities. 

With clear work objectives in mind, one is in a better position to review and revise these objectives as work demands change during the PDRS cycle.  Work objectives also enable the manager to focus the PDRS discussion on measurable performance outcomes and facilitate the discussion of the reviewee’s development as part of the meeting. One can also seek ways to improve effectiveness, efficiencies and outcomes of the Unit and to the overall performance outcomes of the University

Potential performance objectives relate to opportunities for contribution.  Questions to ask that will help reviewer and reviewee identify appropriate performance objectives include:  

  • What are the Unit/School strategic objectives?
  • What are the emerging key issues for the Unit/School that will impact the reviewee’s work over the coming period?
  • What can the reviewee do to improve overall effectiveness of the unit?
  • Are there programmes or process changes that can help the School/Unit meet its objectives?


Setting Learning & Development Objectives

Managers and employees should work together to create development plans as part of the annual performance management process. The plan can focus on skills aimed at job mastery or combine job mastery with professional development skills.

  • Job mastery skills are those that are necessary to successfully perform one's job.
  • Professional development skills are the skills and knowledge that go beyond the scope of the employee's job description, although they may indirectly improve job performance.

Development plans commonly include classes, but can also include elements such as cross-training and special project participation.

For additional information on training and development see 

Giving Feedback

Once performance objectives and standards are established, the reviewer should observe an employee’s performance and check-in with them regularly, providing feedback. The manager has a responsibility to recognize and reinforce strong performance by an employee, and identify and encourage improvement where it is needed.

Some types of jobs and responsibilities have built-in feedback. In these jobs the knowledge of the results comes from work activity itself, such as when an electrician repairs a broken switch and it begins to work, when a development officer in charge of a capital campaign begins to receive donations, or when a SAO successfully helps a student through a difficult process.

This kind of feedback is very effective because it is immediate. However, even jobs with immediate feedback can benefit from external feedback, since it contributes to an employee’s overall knowledge of his/her results and work.

Managers are most likely providing informal feedback almost every day. By observing and providing detailed feedback, they play a critical role in the employee's continued success and motivation to meet performance expectations.

During the performance review the reviewer should continue the momentum established throughout the year with  ongoing discussions about performance in order to set the tone for an open and productive discussion. Outlined below are some steps you can take to make it as successful as possible.

  • Create a supportive environment by stating clearly the purpose of the discussion. Be as non-threatening and open as possible since the employee may be tense or uncomfortable.
  • Discuss key areas of responsibility and give examples of specific results. Have the employee go first, based on the self-assessment or the questions you provided in advance. Be sure to ask clarifying questions - if needed - to make sure you understand the employee’s viewpoints.
  • Readily acknowledge performance that reinforces the goals of the work unit.
  • Discuss what could have been done better. Identify your concerns and listen to the employee's explanations.
  • Focus on future performance.  Involve the employee in developing action plans, identifying problems and resolution options. This can help the employee identify where s/he needs to take responsibility for improvement.
  • Make sure you and the employee have a common understanding of future expectations regarding performance.
  • Discuss the employee's interests and potential new responsibilities. Discuss both of your roles in achieving new objectives while maintaining ongoing responsibilities.
  • Conclude on a positive note. Emphasize the benefits of your conversation and be clear that you remain available to respond to suggestions, questions or concerns.

Feedback allows people get a sense of where they stand in relation to their performance and development on the job.  No feedback can give the impression of not being valued. There are various reasons why managers don’t give feedback:

  • Unaware that feedback to staff is an integral part of their role
  • Nobody has ‘done’ feedback here before!
  • A perceived lack of skill to conduct feedback sessions
  • Not enough time to conduct feedback sessions
  • Uncomfortable with giving negative and/ or positive feedback


People experience feedback in various ways:

  • An opportunity to learn and develop
  • Criticism
  • Attack
  • Opportunity to be praised

Some people are willing to accept feedback and actively seek it even when it is challenging because they view it as an opportunity to grow.  People’s impression of feedback can be a result of earlier experiences of feedback, which may have been judgmental and not constructive.  


Giving Feedback Guidelines

  • Be clear on why you are giving the feedback and the message you want to give
  • Try and uncover the other person’s perspective
  • Carefully choose appropriate wording
  • Be aware of your body language and tone of voice
  • Have empathy when the feedback is not positive
  • Encourage
  • Don’t be judgmental or critical of the person
  • Focus on improvement rather than blame
  • Be specific
  • Don’t overload the person
  • Listen actively to what is being said
  • Start with something positive
  • When you give positive statements avoid adding ‘but’
  • Avoid general comments that can be open to interpretation
  • Explain the consequences of actions
  • Feedback should be appropriate to the needs, abilities and expectations of the person
  • Directive feedback should be used to guide a person in learning a new task
  • Giving good feedback requires an up-to-date knowledge of the person


While taking these guidelines into account, one also needs to consider the delivery styles adopted by the reviewer and reviewee.  From the perspective of the person giving the feedback, s/he may be effective or ineffective in delivering feedback on the person’s performance and development.  Such ineffective delivery can reduce morale and active involvement in the system.  Whereas effective feedback is delivered in a style that shows respect for the reviewee and explains the feedback in terms that the reviewee can use to improve.  


Effective Delivery of Feedback




Non-threatening and encouraging approach


Focuses on explaining the behaviors involved


Valuable to the reviewee


Feedback is focused and clear


Feedback is given with the feelings of the reviewee in mind


Feedback is given with an awareness of reviewees dignity


Focus on specifics

Appropriate Timing

Given within an appropriate timeframe


Given after consideration

Understanding Motivation

Motivation is one of the drivers of performance and this is evident through the display of day to day behaviour of staff.  It is useful for managers to understand what motivates staff on a daily basis. 

The review should be a motivating experience in which progress and future aspirations are discussed.  The reviewer has a key role in instilling a sense of purpose and enthusiasm around the setting of objectives.  An understanding of what constitutes motivation will help to achieve this.  It is accepted that motivation is an internal state often described as a need, desire, or want.  This inner state of arousal brings about activity, energy and direction of behaviour. 

Motivation Theory

Maslow (1954) brought together a large amount of research in the area of motivation. Maslow proposed a hierarchy of human needs at a number of levels ranging from basic to higher order needs: physiological needs, need for safety/ security, need to belong and feel affection, and a need to have a self-esteem.  Only when these four needs have been met then one can get nearer to self-actualisation and transcendence.  It is also suggested that one always aims for self-actualisation but one never reaches full self-actualisation –constant change.

 How does this relate to performance?  In order to perform any task one needs to have an inner state of arousal.  The intensity of this arousal is often equated to ‘motivation’.  

Yerkes & Dodson (1908) are widely acknowledged for contributing to our understanding of how performance and arousal relate in what has become known as the ‘inverted –U-shaped curve of behaviour’.  This gives an appreciation of situations where people under perform or become burnt out due to continued over performance.   It suggests that to achieve optimal performance a certain level of arousal is necessary, but the more one goes over this optimal level the more performance decreases.

When we consider the source of motivation we can say it is either ‘intrinsic’ or ‘extrinsic’.  Intrinsic motivation suggests that individuals are motivated from inside themselves and extrinsic suggests that s/he is motivated from outside sources.  Internal sources cover physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the person, feelings, thoughts, biological etc.  Extrinsic sources may involve rewards, company of others, etc.  Therefore, an individual’s performance can result from various sources of motivation from both within and outside the person. 

 Attribution theory looks at how people try and explain their success or failure to achieve goals.  Individuals can attribute such success and failure to inside or outside themselves and as either under their control or outside of their control.  Where an individual attributes their failure to forces within themselves and not under their control we are considering notions of ‘ability’, e.g. I didn’t attend that important meeting because I got food positioning from something I ate – therefore s/he did not have the ability to attend.  If this attribution is to forces within themselves and in their control we are looking at ‘effort’ – in our example, I didn’t attend because I could not be bothered.  Where the individual attributes failure to external sources outside their control, they are viewing situations as ‘luck’.  Finally, if the individual attributes failure to outside themselves and within their control they may tend to view their failure as due to the ‘difficulty of the task’ at hand.  The value of achieving the task or reaching ones goals also comes into play.  People tend to be more motivated by what they value.  If you have ample sources of money you may not be motivated by a good paying job (extrinsic reward), looking instead for a job that is interesting or fun (internal state).  Therefore, our wants and desires can influence our motivation to perform.


Increasing Motivation - Guidelines:

Gain an understanding of what motivates the individual. Once you have that understanding you can consider appropriate approaches.

Intrinsically Motivated Person:

  • Explain why performance/ skills are important
  • Generate or maintain interest
  • Provide a variety of activities and sensory stimulations
  • Set precise learning goals
  • Help the individual develop an action plan and get commitment to it

Extrinsically Motivated Person:

  • Clear statements of expectations should be given
  • Constructive feedback with corrective actions
  • Rewards should be provided
  • Rewards should be in some way valued by the person

As the sources of extrinsic motivation may not always be available an ‘intrinsic’ approach should be encouraged in the individual.

Gaining a basic understanding of motivation facilitates an appreciation of individual perceptions about job performance and effort. This information can aid the reviewer in understanding both under and over performance with the view to providing a supportive context

Issues that May Arise

It is difficult to predict the exact issues that could emerge during review sessions.  Preparation for the unexpected is the best approach to take.  Take time to consider the possibe issues or situtions that may arise.

What sort of issues may emerge during the review meeting?

  • Self review is not accurate
  • Adamant that s/he has no developmental needs
  • No interest in own career development
  • Issues of Harassment/Bullying raised
  • Personal issues raised as obstacles to achieving objectives
  • Poor objective setting
  • Non agreement with summary record of the review
  • Non acceptance of reviewer for review meeting
  • Underperformance
  • Over performance in terms of well being  

All these situations require sensitive handling and warrant discussion. 


 Self review is not accurate

It may simply be a case of the reviewee not having enough self awareness.  As the reviewer, you may need to help the reviewee build their skills of self-assessment.  It may also be the case that the reviewee has a lot of self awareness but may not wish to express what s/he considers a weakness or failure.   Fostering a supportive environment and creating an atmosphere of acceptance will allow you to help the reviewee express him/herself.


Adamant that s/he has no developmental needs

 The reviewee may not recognise their own need for development and training. The reviewer may need to bring an acknowledgement that it is acceptable to have training needs and this may not be reflective of their current performance.  The training need may purely arise out of developments in technology and work practices.  In certain instances the reviewee may have no training needs at that moment in time. The role of the reviewer is to support and encourage the person in embracing their development.


No interest in own career development

One cannot assume that everyone has aspirations to further their career.  The reviewer needs to aid the individual in distinguishing between training, development and career development.  Career development may be subject to the person’s interests, but training and development may be essential for him/her to be able to perform their job to an adequate standard in the future. Resulting from the piloting of the system, the Career Development section on the review form is optional. This allows those who wish to have this conversation the option of setting short and long term career objectives.


Issues of Harassment/ Bullying raised

The review discussion may highlight issues relating to harrassment and/or bullying by fellow workers or associates.  The reviewer needs to have a good understanding of the university’s policy on Harassment and Bullying and be aware of the official channels it which to refer this issue.  The reviewer should not take on the role as designated to those trained and experienced in dealing with this matter.  The reviewer’s role in this instance is to refer the reviewee to a trained contact person - someone to which the reviewee can express such concerns and get advice. 

Employee Relations Policies   


Personal issues raised as obstacles to achieving objectives

Personal life issues may be rasied, as these issues may genuinely be placing  an obstacle in the way of the reviewee performing.  Although these issues may not be borne of the work setting they have an impact on it. The reviewer needs to recognise the impact upon performance and have a knowledge of the services and supports available to help the individual. 

Employee Assistance Programme

Sick Leave Policy

Staff Wellbeing Website


Poor objective setting

Having worked through the ‘Objective Setting’ Module, you may have noted that there is a lot involved in setting good objectives.  As a reviewer, you may need to remind the reviewee of what makes a good objective and explain why the objective they have presented could be improved.  You may need to guide the reviewee through setting a few objectives until s/he has acquired the skill to do so for him/herself.


Non agreement with summary record of the review

Situations may arise where the reviewee may not agree with what has been discussed at the review meeting.  It is important that there is an accurate record of what was discussed. The summary is merely a record of the meeting, so by signing this the reviewee is agreeing to what has been discussed. If there is a disagreement on the content of the ‘Agreed Record of the Review Discussion’ the reviewer and reviewee need to meet again to clarify the content.  If agreement still cannot be reached then the Peer Committee should be utilised.


Non acceptance of reviewer for review meeting

On occasion one may find that the reviewee may wish to be reviewed by someone other than the person they report to.  This may be a result of a whole host of circumstances.  It is important that the person to whom the reviewee reports is not disenfrancised from the process.  An active interest in the development and performance of the reviewee is a duty which comes within their role.  The system was developed to allow some flexibility with the option of a Peer Committee (link back up to 3 options).



It is important to make a distinction between marginal underperformance, which can be facilitated through developmental discussion, and continuous underperformance which falls within the realm of the disciplinary action.  The reviewer needs to be familiar with the university’s Disciplinary Policy and Procedure.  At no stage should the review meeting become a diciplinary meeting – the review is a forum for development and improvement. Recognition should be given to the appropriate forum i.e. Diciplinary Procedure, for dealing with continued underperformance.

Capability Policy


Over performance in terms of well being

The welfare of staff in performing their role in the university is of utmost importance.  If a reviewee presents with performance levels and future objectives which stretch the reviewee to the point at which their health suffers, e.g. excess long hours, numerous tasks, etc. then the reviewer needs to take advice on how to address this matter.

Staff Wellbeing Website

Computer Aided Lifestyle Management

Employee Assistance Programme


After the Review

Following completion of reviews the Head collates

  1. The outcomes arising from all reviews and compiles a brief, non-personalised, summary of collective needs and issues highlighted by the process and forwards to the Head of College
  2. A non-personalised  Summary of Prioritized Training and Development Needs is forwarded to the Department of Human Resources. 

It is recommended that the Head of Unit communicate the main achievements, contributions, issues and needs in a non-personalised manner to his/her staff once reviews have been completed.  The summary forwarded to the Head of College will be useful in informing this briefing.

Once the review has taken place and you have signed the ‘Agreed Record of the Review Discussion’ (Part B of the review form) you should take time to reflect upon what you have taken from the review meeting.

  • Evaluate how you dealt with the review discussion: questions you may ask yourself may include:
  • Did I listen to what was being said in an open manner?
  • Did I encourage the reviewee to contribute to the discussion?
  • What are the key points I am taking away from the review?
  • Is there anything I need to go back and check with the reviewee?

Consider how you may need to act upon the review: questions you may ask yourself may include:

  • Is there any action on my part needed before the reviewee can work on an objective?
  • Do I need to seek further guidance or support to facilitate the reviewee?
  • Have I thought about the timeframe in which I will check back with the reviewee on his/her progress?

Reviewer Checklist - After the Review

Ongoing Performance Management

Once performance objectives and standards are established, the reviewer should observe an employee’s performance and check-in with them regularly, providing feedback. Managers have a responsibility to recognize and reinforce strong performance by an employee, and identify and encourage improvement where it is needed.

Some types of jobs and responsibilities have built-in feedback. In these jobs the knowledge of the results comes from work activity itself, such as when an electrician repairs a broken switch and it begins to work, when a development officer in charge of a capital campaign begins to receive donations, or when a staff member successfully helps a student through a difficult process.

This kind of feedback is very effective because it is immediate. However, even jobs with immediate feedback can benefit from external feedback, since it contributes to an employee’s overall knowledge of his/her results and work.

A manager is most likely providing informal feedback almost every day. By observing and providing detailed feedback, they play a critical role in the employee's continued success and motivation to meet performance expectations.

Human Resources

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