Inspiring Employee Performance: An Expert on Performance Review Best Practices

Meredith Wholley
5 min readAug 31, 2022


This article is Part 1 in a three-part series with Erin Riska, SHRM-CP and HRCI -PHR, Performance Management Strategic Advisor to ClearCompany. Find Part 2 here.

Riska is the founder of Search & Rescue, LLC, a concierge consulting company offering integrated talent services, including performance management program design, recruitment process outsourcing, career coaching, and job-search strategy and support. A longtime people operations professional, Erin offers over 15 years of experience in human resources, performance management, talent acquisition, and training and development, working in partnership with companies, HR and people leaders, and candidates alike.In 2020, we saw the traditional workplace upended. Entire companies went remote and a record number of Americans left the workforce. At many companies, performance reviews were modified or canceled altogether as they navigated the uncertainty.

At the same time, new research tells us more about effective performance management, best practices for performance reviews, and which methods resonate most with employees. This disruption offers companies and HR teams an opportunity to reimagine their performance review processes and put modern, effective processes in place. Today, we’re getting performance review tips from people operations expert Erin Riska. Riska is an expert on best practices for conducting effective reviews that drive real performance improvements. She has partnered with the experts at ClearCompany to create a full suite of new performance review content designed to support employee development and optimize performance within the context of 2022 workplace dynamics.

Keep reading to learn more about her fresh approach to performance reviews as part of a successful performance management system. Then, download five performance review templates to try for conducting better employee reviews.

Reviews for New Hires Spark Engagement

Employee onboarding is a critical time to focus on engagement for long-term retention. Employees who had an effective onboarding experience were 70% more likely to be at their job three years later. Whether employees are new to the company or received a promotion, it’s important to check in to see how they’re adjusting to new roles.

Establishing a continuous feedback cadence during onboarding is a great way to spark engagement right away — it can reduce turnover by up to 15 percent. Riska points out that this review type helps managers identify strengths and weaknesses early on, too.

“Early and ongoing evaluation of new employees offers managers the opportunity to identify areas of relative strength and struggle and create a customized approach to coaching in response to each,” she said. The benefits of new-hire performance reviews are clear. Employees feel heard and valued in their new role, and managers can better support employees from the start.

Performance Review Rating Scales

We’re used to getting the opportunity to “rate” things in our everyday lives — we rate businesses, Amazon purchases, the shows we stream, customer service, and more. We’re asked to rate doctors’ appointments, grocery shopping trips, and food deliveries. Whether it’s out of five stars, on a scale of 1–10, or a satisfaction rating, rating scales are ubiquitous.

So, it’s no surprise that effective employee performance reviews can include a rating scale, too. You may be inclined to use a traditional five-point scale, but Riska says that that scale may result in an unintended consequence.

“Because it includes a mid-point, this scale is susceptible to Central Tendency, wherein managers evaluate all employees more or less the same.” This can lead to further declines in performance for underperforming employees and a lack of appropriate recognition for top performers.

Did you know? The central tendency bias may lead to managers rating at or near the midpoint of a scale and rarely rating employees at the top or bottom of the scale.

Instead, Riska recommends a three- or four-point scale to rate employees. For some roles, like the staff of a restaurant, a three-point rating scale fits the bill:

  • Does not meet expectations
  • Meets expectations
  • Exceeds expectations

For a team of HR generalists, a four-point scale may be better suited:

  • Ineffective
  • Effective
  • Excellent
  • Extraordinary

Rating employee performance is subjective. So, using a rating scale is a helpful tool to work against unconscious bias and rate employees’ performance equitably. But don’t neglect to train managers and employees on how to apply rating scales fairly.

According to Riska, “These [biases] can be avoided by providing managers with tools and training designed to ensure cohesion around a company-wide strategy for scoring, rather than leaving each to assess their team members in a more decentralized fashion according to their preconceived notions or personal preferences.”

There are many other types of rating scales you can employ for performance appraisals, and ClearCompany supports them all. Riska recommends using the same rating scale across similar roles and, if possible, the entire company.

Managers Need Effective Reviews, Too

62% of department managers are expected to search for a new job in the first half of 2022 — especially if they haven’t received any management training. As Riska points out, organizations sometimes forget that managers are employees, too, and they need support just the same.

“While the importance of setting others up for success — and holding them to the agreed-upon standards thereof — is well understood as being among the most important elements of people leadership, we often lose sight of just how much people leaders need and benefit from these same things,” says Riska.

“While the importance of setting others up for success is well understood as being among the most important elements of people leadership, we often lose sight of just how much people leaders need and benefit from these same things.”

- Erin Riska, Performance Management Strategic Advisor to ClearCompany

Riska recommends at least twice-yearly performance evaluations for managers. The semi-annual meeting can be a time to evaluate goal progress and set a plan of action for the remainder of the year. The annual performance review is for reflecting on the previous year, setting goals for the year ahead, and discussing long-term career goals.

A successful performance management strategy includes regular feedback, utilizes goal-setting, promotes fair evaluations, and takes managers into account, too. Evaluate what’s important, keep reviews impartial, and set a new standard for effective performance reviews with our pre-built performance reviews, created by the experts at ClearCompany in collaboration with longtime people operations expert Erin Riska.

This article was originally published on the ClearCompany blog by Melanie Baravik.



Meredith Wholley

As a Digital Marketing and Events Manager for ClearCompany, Meredith coordinates best-practice content and brand-awareness events with HR practitioners.