Quarterly Performance Review: The Definitive Guide

Fév 24, 2022 | Employee Engagement, Performance Management, Professional Development

Many companies are rethinking their performance review process. They want to improve on it with a quarterly performance review.

Disliking annual reviews, some companies have tried getting rid of reviews altogether. However, ratings still exist, as HBR points out. Employees just don’t know how management rates them—or have a voice in the process. That’s hardly fair, now, is it? 

A quarterly performance review is a great compromise. It’s a happy medium between annual reviews, and no reviews. They allow evaluation to become a more normal part of an employee’s routine. This means they feel less intimidating than an annual review. At the same time, they deliver even more valuable feedback.

For these reasons, some companies have made them standard practice.

Are you considering switching to quarterly performance reviews? Let’s explore how to get maximum results from them—and what to avoid.


1. Switch to A Quarterly Performance Review

2. Common Quarterly Performance Review Mistakes

3. Go the Extra Mile During Your Quarterly Performance Review

4. Help People Prepare for A Quarterly Performance Review

5. Real-World Quarterly Performance Review Examples

Switch to A Quarterly Performance Review

Just 14% of employees believe their performance reviews catalyze improvement. One-third of the time, they do more harm than good, says Gallup. This signifies the need for a major overhaul.

Quarterly reviews deliver many benefits over annual reviews. It might sound like they would take more time and effort. After all, they’re held four times a year. But that actually makes them easier than annual reviews. The milestones and events you’ll be discussing will be fresh in your mind.

With a quarterly review, you can more accurately look back on the review period. That means employees will receive more detailed and relevant feedback. Plus, managers will feel less stressed about preparing for them. They’ll have more candid conversations because they’ll remember key details.

According to HBR, quarterly reviews more closely parallel organizations’ cycles of work. Projects have shorter timeframes than in past years. This also supports the case for more frequent reviews.

But do quarterly reviews truly lead to enhanced performance and engagement? Absolutely, when done well. Frequent feedback conversations dramatically boost engagement. Employees are 2.7 times more likely to be engaged with frequent feedback, Gallup found.

This comes as no surprise. Among Millennials, 87% rate career development as highly important to them. It follows that managers should have routine developmental conversations. Quarterly performance reviews boost satisfaction and loyalty by supporting employees’ growth. 

Common Quarterly Performance Review Mistakes

Despite all these benefits, you could run into a few pitfalls if you’re not careful. Let’s look at how to steer clear of them now.

Making subjective evaluations

Employees need to be evaluated based on a clear set of standards. Use a shared resource that documents the reasons behind the input you gave. A performance management system makes this information readily available. In turn, this boosts transparency and employees’ confidence in the process.

It also helps them to gauge their own progress in between reviews. Meanwhile, performance evaluation tools can guide managers to use the right criteria. 

Not setting quarterly performance review goals

Quarterly goals tend to be more relevant. Often, annual goals become obsolete by the second or third quarter. (As we mentioned, projects today often have a tighter turnaround. Individual goals should have a similar timeframe.) In turn, evaluating progress toward quarterly goals will be more accurate.

It’s a lot harder to reflect on progress over an entire year.

Not considering shifts in goals

Don’t remain rigidly focused on one set of goals if the situation has changed. Nowadays, goals can easily shift during a given quarter. Particularly in a time of disruption, agile goals are essential. Prior to the review, reflect on whether that has occurred.

Have goals changed at the individual or team level? Consider whether employees have adapted accordingly. Reward them, rather than penalizing them, for doing so!

Making comments that don’t pertain to quarterly performance review goals

Tie everything back to a goal. Off-topic statements can arguably be discriminatory. They may signal that you’re rating the employee on things that should have no bearing on the review. In some cases, they can even signify bias.

For example, comments about not “keeping up with the times” can sound ageist. Likewise, praising employees for being available 24/7 can stigmatize those who are not. Plus, it encourages burnout and doesn’t pertain to goals.

Presuming you’ll remember everything

Yes, you’ll have a better recollection of more recent events. But keeping a log of employee accomplishments and challenges remains vital. Don’t leave it to your memory—write it down!

Now you know what to avoid in quarterly performance reviews. Let’s consider how to go above and beyond to make them a success.

Go the Extra Mile During Your Quarterly Performance Review

Woman and man coworkers discussing quarterly performance review
Credit: Kampus Production/Pexels

By fostering equity and showing empathy, you’ll dramatically enhance your reviews. And by creating a feedback-sharing culture, you’ll nurture employees’ success all year round.

Promote Equity in the Quarterly Performance Review Process

What’s the number-one way to enhance your review process? Support managers in promoting fairness.

First, create a well-structured review with performance evaluation software. 

Ensuring managers are using the right criteria promotes fairness. Further, it can help avoid common types of bias. Managers will be less likely to succumb to recency bias or the halos and horns effect, for instance. Instead, they’ll better understand how employees have performed throughout the quarter.

Second, add checks and balances to the process to catch bias. 

Employee meeting to discuss quarterly performance review
Credit: Tiger Lily/Pexels

At Facebook, managers meet and discuss employees’ competencies. This helps ensure they’re all using the same standards. If a manager rates an employee too harshly or highly, this meeting provides a reality check. Through the conversation, they each articulate the rationale for their ratings.

Other managers add their own observations. This process helps each manager arrive at the most accurate ratings. Further, employees write and discuss peer reviews with one another. This provides another avenue through which to receive valuable input.

Through this system, honest feedback gets results. “We’ve found that people who receive assessments in the bottom 10% have a 36% chance of making it into the top half within a year,” write Facebook’s Lori Goler, Janelle Gale, and Adam Grant in HBR. 

Third, analyze performance review ratings for fairness. 

Use an HR dashboard that reveals any bias so you can address it. Such modules compare different managers’ rating styles to detect such issues. With today’s detailed analytics, there’s no excuse for letting bias persist!

Incorporate Empathy

Build empathy into the performance review process. Eighty-two percent of employees want to know their manager sees them as people, Gartner found. They want to know you truly wish to see them grow and thrive. Convey concern for their wellbeing and personal goals in these ways:

  • Check in with them about progress toward wellness goals. 
  • Help them find solutions to challenges like time-management struggles. 
  • Show your commitment to helping them achieve career goals. 
  • Ask about what energizes them in their work. Then, give them opportunities to do more of those things.

By taking these steps, you’ll gain their trust and loyalty. As a result, you’ll have more forthright conversations.

Create A Feedback-Sharing Culture

Finally, create a culture of sharing frequent feedback. In addition to the formal review, give informal feedback often. Employees who receive daily feedback are 3.6 times more likely to feel motivated to do excellent work. Encourage managers to have frequent one-on-ones with employees.

They should also check in every day with feedback, if possible. (Adobe has found that more frequent reviews encourage even more frequent feedback, says HBR.)

Further, ask employees plenty of questions. Holding quarterly performance reviews gives you the chance to gain valuable feedback. Plus, you’ll gain more insights into their strengths, weaknesses, and efforts. 

Colleague explaining quarterly performance review to another
Credit: Tiger Lily/Pexels

Additionally, you can improve your process by giving employees pointers, too.

Help People Prepare for A Quarterly Performance Review

Quarterly performance reviews are a two-way street. Managers aren’t the only ones who need to prepare—employees do too. Give them guidance on how to get ready for the review. This will alleviate anxiety by giving them agency in the process. Moreover, it will help both managers and employees get more from the process. 

Leading up to a review, urge employees to take these steps:

Reflect on your distinct contributions

In an ideal world, your boss would clearly remember every accomplishment. However, that’s not how the real world works.

“The idea is to show how your contributions are unique to you and valuable for the company,” says Carol Cohen, senior vice president of Cognizant, in The Wall Street Journal. “Focus on your achievements that grew revenue, cut costs or transformed a process.”

Focus on results rather than relationships and rapport

“Research indicates that people tend to think that their overly friendly coworkers don’t accomplish as much as their other colleagues,” writes HBR. Yes, being a team player has its place. But you really need to emphasize concrete results.

Highlight interpersonal accomplishments, like mentoring others to success or leading a team effort. Get specific!

Brush up on your boss’s (and organization’s) goals

This will help you speak to how you helped accomplish them. Plus, you’ll impress your boss with your ability to set great new goals. (You might be setting new goals collaboratively in this meeting or shortly after.) Consider how you might fit into new initiatives that you’ve heard about.

Get peer feedback prior to your review

Completing a self-evaluation is a good idea, too. However, you may not perceive yourself as others do. Men tend to rate their own performance more highly than women, research shows. Get a well-rounded array of opinions on your performance. Coworkers might recall times when you really came through for them!

Taking these steps will give employees an active role in the process. They’ll go into the next quarter feeling empowered to succeed.

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Real-World Quarterly Performance Review Examples

Want to convince your leadership to get on board with quarterly reviews? Share some real-world examples of how organizations are using them. These two major companies have found great success with quarterly performance reviews.


Deloitte’s managers complete performance reviews at least four times per year. They consider these assessments “performance snapshots.” Managers hold them either after a project or once per quarter. To launch the conversation, they answer a short list of predetermined questions. These conversations centre on insights gained from frequent feedback and check-ins.

They use data strategically to assess performance, write Jeff Orlando and Erica Bank of Deloitte. Plus, they use frequent pulse surveys to check engagement. Managers find this quarterly conversation feels more natural and less forced. 

“They’re about goals and strengths, not just about past performance,” Orlando and Bank told SHRM. “We’re likely to say something like, ‘Of course, you did a great job, but did you really like it? What kind of work inspires you?’ When people work on projects that excite them, they become more engaged and perform better.

That benefits all of us—our teams, our clients, and our organization.”


At Adobe, managers have quarterly in-depth feedback conversations. They’ve made the process informal, omitting the written review. Adobe’s “Check In” process has even become a valuable recruitment tool. It draws in promising candidates who want more frequent developmental conversations.

And managers deliver input routinely outside of these conversations as well. Importantly, the company found managers needed guidance on how to talk to employees. Role-playing exercises helped them learn to improve check-ins, writes Gallup. Consider holding workshops to help your managers practice these skills.

Now you have a strong grasp of how to maximize the results of your reviews. Your quarterly reviews will deliver accurate, well-informed insights. Better still, employees will feel like active participants in the process. As a result, trust between managers and employees will grow.

For these reasons, well-delivered quarterly reviews will play a key role in boosting morale and engagement. Coach managers every step of the way to ensure success!

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