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A performance review focusing on key strengths can be part of a longer review that includes areas needing improvement, or it can be done on its own. Before starting a review of key strengths for an employee or a co-worker, reflect on their activity during the review period, and jot down the words that first come to mind. For example, if the first word that comes to mind is "punctual," this could be indicative of his ethics as someone who is always on time, his leadership skills as someone who wants to set a good example for other employees, his dedication to quality of work, or his initiative based on a desire for advancement. To determine what key strengths his punctuality demonstrates, compare this with his other qualities and achievements before finalizing your review.
Failing to use the right words when describing an employee's strengths could undermine the entire review and leave the employee feeling misunderstood rather than appreciated, so choose your words carefully.
Importance of Identifying Key Strengths
Most employees want to know how well they are performing and appreciate positive feedback. While it's certainly important to discuss areas needing improvement too, validating key strengths builds goodwill, which may be needed later. Additionally, when it is time to discuss less-positive aspects of an employee's work or behavior, that task will be much easier if you have previously discussed key strengths.
Quality of Work
When you want to describe how well an employee finishes tasks, use words like: accuracy, thorough, productivity, goal achievement. Phrases to use when describing quality of work strengths can also include:
- consistently meets productivity goals
- uses her time effectively
- maintains her work area in a neat and orderly manner
- seeks out additional work during slow periods
- prioritizes her work to meet goal objectives.
When employees communicate well with co-workers and management, put emphasis on their strengths by using words like: teamwork, active listening, empathy, cooperative, and persuasive. When they communicate well with customers, you might say they are customer-focused or customer-oriented. More phrases include:
- demonstrates care and compassion in customer interactions
- shows courtesy and respect
- actively involves customers in problem resolutions
- frequently asks if there is more she can do to help
- anticipates customer needs.
To emphasize an employee's leadership qualities, try using words like: responsive, delegating, accessible and collaborative. Phrases to consider including are:
- demonstrates commitment to team objectives
- works with co-workers to achieve team goals
- consistently provides constructive feedback
- always offers to help co-workers who need assistance
- encourages cooperation with co-workers.
An employee whose strengths include a good disposition could be described as: dedicated, loyal, reliable, flexible and energetic. Phrases to include for someone with a good attitude may be:
- always looking to find solutions in the midst of challenges
- consistently mindful of others
- a source of inspiration to fellow employees
- demonstrates self-awareness
- demonstrates humility
- able to analyze different points of view and suggest win-win resolutions.
Self-starters can be described with words like: innovative, originality, career planning, problem solving, pursues opportunities and advancement. Phrases you may want to use include:
- actively solves problems and sees them through to a successful resolution
- goes above and beyond job requirements
- anticipates problems and moves proactively to address them
- always willing to take on additional responsibilities
- always willing to take appropriate action even when no direction is given.
When an employee demonstrates that her key strengths include strong ethics, try using: honesty, fair, professional and integrity. Phrases to include may be:
- maintains confidentiality of all proprietary and protected information
- does not access, disclose or share information except as necessary for her job
- maintains her professionalism even during difficult situations
- a trusted team member who has earned the respect of her colleagues
- exemplifies professionalism in all of her duties.
- Harvard Business School: Performance Appraisals With More Gain, Less Pain -- Evaluate This! The New Performance Review
- University of California: Employee Performance Appraisal Form
- University of California Berkeley: Performance Appraisal
- University of Michigan Medicine: Performance Evaluation Rating Descriptions
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has been a hiring manager and recruiter for several companies and advises small businesses on technology. He has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles on careers and small business trends for newspapers, magazines and online publications including About.com, Re/Max and American Express.
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