How to Implement Manager Performance Reviews—Best Practices

Most organizations have some type of performance review process for employees. But what they don’t always consider is a performance review process for managers. Either managers get the same treatment as employees, or they don’t get a performance review at all.

Managers should be reviewed. But, in order for these appraisals to be effective, you won’t just be able to use your standard employee review form. Manager performance appraisals will have their own process and questions that are specific to managers.

In this article, we’ll share how to successfully implement manager performance reviews, along with the key benefits of having both supervisors and employees review their managers. 

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What Is a Manager Performance Review?

At the heart of every performance review is an assessment of performance. That means assessing the performance of an employee in a standard review, and in a manager performance review, it means assessing the performance of a manager.

Having a dedicated review process allows managers to receive feedback that comes from a supervisor about their leadership abilities. It is a great way to assess their strengths and weaknesses so managers can continue to learn, evolve, and improve.

Is a Manager Performance Review the Same as an Upward Review?

In both a manager performance review and an upward review management skills and leadership abilities are being assessed, but who is doing the assessing is different.

Supervisors take on the role of reviewer in a standard manager performance review. In an upward review, employees get the opportunity to provide feedback to their managers.

Giving employees the ability to provide managers with feedback is important. Especially when 50 percent of workers have left a job in order to get away from a manager. By incorporating upward reviews alongside a manager performance review, you can paint a holistic picture of a manager’s abilities and better support them to learn and grow.

manager performance appraisal

What Are the Benefits of a Manager Performance Review?

Feedback is important for employees at every level of an organization because it helps improve performance, identify strengths, and determine opportunities for personal growth and development.

For managers, this kind of feedback can be extremely insightful, especially when it comes from both supervisors and their direct reports.

Managers can benefit from feedback in a number of ways, including the following:

  • More sources of feedback
  • Better communication
  • Strengthen relations
  • Support a culture of trust
  • Improved leadership
  • Reduce employee turnover

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More sources of feedback

When you combine a manager performance review with an upward review, managers can receive feedback from multiple sources. They can see how their performance is perceived by a supervisor, and when most managers have multiple direct reports, they also receive multiple reviews from their employees.

Better communication

The review process encourages transparency, which leads to better communication. It opens the door for supervisors to talk with managers about their performance, and it also opens the door for employees to talk with their managers about how best to support them.

Strengthen relations

Not only is communication improved, so are interpersonal relationships. When the lines of communication are open, the relationship between supervisors, managers, and employees is strengthened. Both positive and negative feedback happens more organically, and everyone supports each other to learn and grow.

Support a culture of trust

By opening the lines of communication and strengthening working relationships, you are also supporting a culture of trust. When given the chance to provide feedback, employees feel that their input matters. It also provides a sense that supervisors, managers, and employees are all working together.

Improved leadership

Manager performance appraisals can help managers tap into opportunities for growth that might otherwise never have been uncovered. Feedback from multiple sources should provide managers with many ideas and opportunities to improve their leadership skills.

Reduce employee turnover

When there's better communication, stronger relationships, and a culture of trust, top talent is more likely to stick around for a while. Not only does it save money, as turnover typically costs employers 33 percent of that employee's annual salary, but it also means you have a workforce that wants to come to work, which can have a huge impact on performance.

What Is the Risk of Not Doing Manager Performance Reviews?

When there are so many things to do, it’s easy to justify skipping the performance review process, especially when it comes to managers. There’s a subconscious belief that because a person holds a management position, they must be fully qualified to hold it, so they don’t require as much feedback as other employees.

That’s definitely not the case. There’s a lot at stake if you don’t do manager performance reviews.

The Peter Principle states that people get promoted, and they continue to be promoted until they are technically no longer qualified for the position they hold.

When you don’t review managers, you risk not developing their skills fully. And if their leadership skills are lacking, you can bet that employees will become dissatisfied and subsequently leave the company for another job.

Employee growth and development should continue at all levels, especially when those employees become managers. It ensures managers are qualified for their role, and it helps ensure the impact they have on their direct reports is positive.

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How to Implement a Manager Performance Review

Manager appraisals are different from employee appraisals in a couple of key ways:

  • Manager appraisals focus more on employees' interactions with their manager than on a manager’s operational performance.
  • Manager appraisals assess how effective the manager is at getting work done through others, rather than how they get their own work done.
  • Manager appraisals typically include multiple sources of feedback, which can be helpful in seeing different perspectives.

Because of these distinctions, there are some best practices that can help you establish an effective manager performance appraisal process.

The process you implement should provide HR with the information it needs to assess managerial performance, managers with the knowledge they need to continually improve their management skills and approaches, and employees the opportunity to share their voices.

The following best practices for implementing manager performance reviews will help you to accomplish those objectives.

  • Consider soft skills
  • Create your questions and tailor them to different reviewers
  • Use performance rating scales
  • Determine the cadence
  • Determine who will provide feedback
  • Have an in-person review to go over their performance
  • Use a dedicated performance review solution to manage the process

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Consider soft skills

Management is primarily about interactions, relationships, and engagement, all of which require soft skills that can be challenging to measure.

Collecting information on these critical management skills requires a thoughtful approach for gathering feedback.

As mentioned earlier, multiple sources of feedback is a major benefit of upward reviews. Because of these multiple sources, it’s possible to compare outlier responses. For example, 8 of 10 employees may rate their manager as a 10 when it comes to “communicating in a respectful manner,” but the other 2 employees may rate their manager as a 1. HR may do a deeper dive into what’s behind those ratings in order to find out why the 2 employees responded differently than the others.

Additionally, HR should measure the soft skills that are specific to the manager’s role and type of work. Employees in IT and financial services have different needs for interaction and support from their managers than employees in customer service or marketing.

Create your questions and tailor them to different reviewers

The questions you ask in manager performance appraisals should be unique and specific to a manager’s role. This isn’t just a matter of repurposing your standard employee performance evaluation form and asking employees to use the same form to evaluate their managers.

Carefully considering the types of competencies effective managers need will help you develop an assessment that’s specifically focused on managers and not just general questions that could apply to anyone. This will also provide you with richer input to identify competencies across the organization that need improvement.

It also means asking different questions of supervisors compared to employees, and it might even mean asking different questions of employees, depending on their role and relationship with the managers being reviewed.

Use performance rating scales

While open-ended questions in manager performance appraisals can be useful, not all employees know how to give high-quality feedback. Because of this, you may consider using a performance rating scale to quantitatively measure managers' performance.

While the responses will be based on personal opinions, having them on a scale allows HR to consider collective responses and make comparisons between individual competencies across departments.

For example, a statement like: “My manager gives me actionable feedback on a regular basis” can effectively indicate how communicative a manager might be. A statement like: “My manager gives me opportunities to help me develop in my career” assesses more specific corporate goals related to their managers’ roles in driving employee development.

You could then follow up with open ended questions that give the employee a chance for qualitative responses, like:

  • What would you recommend your manager keep doing?
  • What would you have your manager change?

With a structured process, you can gain quantitative data, in addition to qualitative data, which allows you to gain a more accurate view of performance.

Determine the cadence

Effective performance reviews don’t just happen, and they won’t if you wait until a convenient time to start the process. You must plan ahead and determine how often they’re going to occur, and how you’re going to make it happen.

Frequent reviews are better than infrequent ones. That’s true for both employee and manager performance reviews. How frequent is up to you. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone.

If you choose to do annual reviews, we recommend having at least one additional review at the halfway mark. Supervisors may schedule a series of check-ins with managers that happen every few weeks, every few months, or simply when either the supervisor or the managers feels they are necessary.

No matter what cadence you choose, make a plan and stick to it.

Determine who will provide feedback

Who provides the feedback at a manager performance review isn’t always obvious. A direct supervisor is a good choice, but a fellow manager who works on their team, or even a member of HR might also be good choices.

It’s important to choose someone who is familiar with the manager and their duties, but it’s also important to choose someone who is capable of providing good feedback. Not only is feedback received better when it’s mindfully given, it also provides managers with an opportunity to work on their own feedback skills, as they will eventually be tasked with reviewing their employees.

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Have an in-person review to go over their performance

Although it can be tempting to send the review and let each manager tackle their feedback on their own time, it’s much better to have an in-person review.

Research has shown that face-to-face requests are 34 times more effective than those sent by email. An in-person meeting offers a sense of intimacy, connection, and empathy. Not to mention, it increases engagement and participation by all parties involved.

By having a meeting in-person, you make sure everyone has the opportunity to share their experience and express their opinions. It creates transparency, a sense of trust, and contributes to a positive working environment.

Use a dedicated performance review solution to manage the process

Organizing manager performance reviews can be daunting if you do it by hand using spreadsheets and emails. It’s much easier if you use a dedicated performance review solution to manage the process.

A system like PerformYard allows you to create a system of unique reviews and check-ins with goal management, continuous feedback, analytics, and even employee engagement. It allows you to create an automated system that saves time and effort without compromising on the quality of the review process.

Manager Performance Review Examples

Employees need a nimble performance review system, and so do managers. Every manager has different strengths, different challenges, and manages different types of employees.

Here are some manager performance review examples that will help you navigate the appraisal process based on their management type:

  • High-performing manager
  • Struggling manager
  • New manager
  • Manager who managers difficult employees

High-performing manager

Don’t be tempted to skip performance reviews just because a manager is high performing. Continue assessing performance, as it’s a great way to congratulate managers for a job well-done.

Then, instead of focusing on improvements, let the manager take the lead. What skills do they want to work on and what professional development opportunities do they want to take advantage of? Support their growth as a rising star in your company and they will stick around and continue positively impacting your organization.

Struggling manager

Among manager performance review examples, conducting a review for a struggling manager is perhaps the hardest. It can be made easier when you focus on the job and not the person.

Don't use character judgements and instead focus on job-related specifics. For example, instead of accusing the manager of being bossy or overbearing, you might mention that their team members have expressed the need for more autonomy.

Then, work together to come up with a plan for improvement. Discuss possible professional development opportunities, talk about the possibility of working with a mentor, and iron out a system of check-ins to make sure they’re on track. Even if a performance improvement plan (PIP) is needed, they are likely to be much more motivated to reach their goals when they are involved in the process.

New manager

Consider a 90-day review for those who are new to a managerial role, whether they have been promoted or they are brand-new to your organization.

With a review after just a few months in their new role, managers are able to discuss the challenges they're facing as they're facing them. It gives managers a chance to ask questions, and it gives them the opportunity to focus on their relationship with their supervisor. If employees are providing feedback, they can work on their relationship with their direct reports too, all while they’re fresh in their new position.

Manager who managers difficult employees

Managers who manage difficult employees need a lot of support. You can provide them with frequent support by creating a schedule of check-ins. Whether they occur once a week, once a month, or organically, it gives managers the ability to talk through the challenges they’re facing in regards to their employees.

Focusing on the review process during their reviews can help too. After all, managers also have to review their employees! Make time in their schedule to attend trainings and professional development opportunities that focus on giving negative feedback, how to develop effective PIPs, and team building exercises.

The Importance of Performance Management Software When Conducting a Manager Performance Review

With so many pieces that must fit together in order to create an effective manager performance review system, it’s important to use performance management software.

PerformYard allows you to build an agile process that enables you to support managers, and more importantly, provide managers with the kind of support they actually want. From creating a schedule of reviews, developing upward performance reviews, supporting continuous feedback, and integrating feedback with other systems, PerformYard is an all-in-one solution for all of your performance review needs.

See exactly how PerformYard can make manager performance reviews easier and get a demo today.

Examples & Questions for an Upward Performance Appraisal

What is Upward Feedback?

360 Reviews: Self, Manager, Peer and Upward, Which Ones Do You Really Need?

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