Powerful and Effective Feedback: Excelling in the Craft of Performance Appraisals

WRITTEN December 11, 2023 Author: Patricia McCormack

As the year draws to a close, many companies will be conducting their yearly performance evaluations. It is crucial for an organization to assess an employee’s performance, highlighting their strengths and areas for improvement.

These annual performance reviews, also called “performance assessments,” “employee appraisals,” or “employee evaluations,” are set up to help people think about their work and set goals to get better. The essential component to any useful evaluation is FEEDBACK.

The Power of Effective Feedback:

Providing both positive and negative feedback is crucial for employees to enhance their strengths and address their weaknesses.

Concentrating solely on strengths may lead individuals to believe they have no room for improvement. On the flip side, solely highlighting weaknesses can elevate stress levels and impede learning.

For a successful evaluation which fosters professional growth work on giving timely, frequent, specific, clear, and positive feedback. Let’s dig into the significance of those pieces.


Giving feedback right away is like playing the right note in a song – it makes everything better. So, holding feedback until the end of the year review, for a project from six months ago, may not be very useful. Providing feedback quickly enables employees to use it right away, make changes, and improve their performance.


Giving feedback often encourages continuous improvement. Instead of a yearly review, think about having regular check-ins. This lets you have ongoing talks about progress, challenges, and opportunities for development, creating a feedback loop that helps people succeed.


Vague feedback is not helpful. Being specific is important because it brings clarity and direction. It helps employees know what they’re doing well and where they can improve. Instead of just saying “Good job,” explain what was commendable. Also, let them know how it contributed to the group’s overall goals..


Clarity is the key to effective communication. Clear feedback leaves no room for misinterpretation, ensuring that employees understand the expectations and areas for improvement. It helps align individual goals with organizational objectives, promoting a sense of purpose and direction.


Positive feedback motivates. Constructive criticism is important for growth. Acknowledging and appreciating accomplishments creates a positive work environment. This positivity reinforces good behavior, encourages a growth mindset, and boosts morale.

Using SMART Goals in Performance Evaluations:

One way to enhance the efficiency of feedback is by using the SMART goal format. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This framework provides a structured approach to goal setting, helping to make expectations clear and actionable.

SpecificTo make the goal and expected outcomes clear, it is important to set specific targets. Instead of a vague aim, such as “improve performance,” specify a clear target like “increase sales by 15% within the next quarter.” Specific goals provide a clear path to success.
MeasurableSet clear criteria to measure progress. Using specific metrics helps employees track their accomplishments and provides a basis for evaluation. For instance, in sales, measurable indicators could be the number of deals closed or revenue generated.
AchievableMake goals challenging but achievable. Setting unrealistic expectations can demotivate employees. Assess the individual’s skills, resources, and capacity to ensure the goal is doable with effort and commitment.
RelevantLinking goals to broader organizational objectives is crucial as it ensures that a goal contributes meaningfully to the overall success of the team or company. This, in turn, helps individuals understand the purpose behind their tasks.
Time-BoundSet a clear timeline for goal completion. By establishing deadlines, it creates a sense of urgency and helps individuals prioritize their efforts. Additionally, it enables periodic evaluation and adjustment of strategies if necessary.

IC Quick Tip

Understanding Motivational Factors

Ultimately, motivation helps people achieve their goals. People are motivated by different factors. Recognizing this will help tailor feedback to resonate with them. Some common motivational factors include:

Recognition: Acknowledging and valuing accomplishments, regardless of size, will make people feel recognized and successful. This makes them feel seen and proud of their achievements. Providing positive feedback that focuses on specific strengths can help them continue these actions in the future.

Personal Development: Many people are motivated by chances for personal and professional growth. Giving feedback that demonstrates how reaching specific goals will improve skills and advance their career can be helpful.

Intrinsic Satisfaction: People feel good when they do work they truly enjoy. Specifically, this means setting and reaching goals aligned with their passions and values.

Ultimately, the goal is to improve your organization. Using an effective approach will drive your people towards a successful completion of their goals. Master the art of performance evaluations and help to build a culture of continuous improvement, engagement, and achievement.

Strive to include timely, frequent, specific, clear, and positive observations in your performance evaluations. Most importantly, the goal is to establish a strong framework for both individual and organizational success.

This information is from the Leadership and Management curriculum and the Writing Performance Evaluations Module. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.
Photo by Christina Morillo

Other Resources for Effective Feedback:

The Secret To Giving Great Feedback | The Way We Work – A TED Series

Strategies for More Inclusive and Effective Feedback | SHRM

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