The Best Employee Performance Review Templates [Free Download]

The Best Employee Performance Review Templates [Free Download]

Why might you want to use an employee evaluation form or checklist when conducting an employee performance review?

Because performance reviews are rarely fun for anyone. It doesn’t matter what side of the desk you’re sitting on, there’s likely some measure of angst.

Sure, employees may feel that they’re the one in the hot seat—and okay, to some extent they are—but managers and leaders are doing a fair amount of squirming as well.

And what happens when you’re uncomfortable about doing something? You’ll often rush through and maybe not do the best of job because you just want it to be over.

Enter the employee evaluation form.

The advantages of a simple employee review form are at least twofold.

  1. First, you have a simple form to document and track employee performance between reviews.
  2. Second, you have a checklist on hand while conducting the review.

Of course, what you can do with an employee review template or form will largely depend on the form itself but generally speaking, you should get at least the above 2 benefits from a form or template.

Another benefit to using a form, whether it’s created based on a template or not, is you can have your employee sign off on it at the end of the review. Having a formal acknowledgment of the process and what was discussed and agreed upon is important for a few reasons.

An employee review form will allow you to:

  1. Have a paper trail that will provide back up for any future decisions Human Resources must make about an employee, such as disciplinary actions or ending their employment with you.
  2. Keep accurate records.
  3. Identify employees who are in need of improvement.
  4. Identify staff who should be rewarded.

Having the paper trail mentioned in point 1 may be more important than you think.

If you take the step to terminate an employee and they feel it’s been done without just cause, you may find yourself in the midst of a legal battle—a wrongful dismissal suit.

If that happens, your position is far more defensible when you have a fully documented paper trail of the issues you’ve had with the employee. Documents they themselves have signed off on.

Effective Reviews with an Employee Evaluation Form

If you want to keep your employees motivated—and you should—while helping them maintain a focus on career planning, performance reviews are essential.

With the help of one of our downloaded employee reviews templates, whether or not you customize it to your specific needs, you are on the right track in aligning their individual goals with the overall goals of the organization.

This isn’t some general or broad exercise. With the help of a template, you can laser focus on key areas and clearly communicate expectations.

To help facilitate that I’ve put together a shortlist of 3 different templates in a variety of Word, Excel, and PDF format. All are free for you to download and use, plus you have the option of customizing them as you see fit. All the advance work is done, you so there is little work involved for you.

These free employee evaluation forms range in complexity from simple and basic to offering more options. Pick the one that makes the most sense for you and your needs.

Key takeaway:

  1. 3 free employee review templates
  2. Available in a selection of Word, PDF, and Excel
  3. Fully customizable
  4. Printable

Simple Performance Review Template – Excel [Download]

Let’s start with the Simple Performance Review Template.

The template starts off with blank cells to fill in pertinent employee info such as their name, position, department, employee ID, and the name of the reviewer.

Simple Performance Review Template

This form will in no way assist you with an in-depth interview, but it will provide you with an overview of an employee’s performance and what weaknesses should be addressed.

You’re also provided with an area to include the date of the employees’ last review as well as the current date.

The first key segment of the template is:

  › Characteristics

Listed under this is the following:

  • Works to Full Potential
  • Quality of Work
  • Work Consistency
  • Communication
  • Independent Work
  • Takes Initiative
  • Group Work
  • Productivity
  • Creativity
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Coworker Relations
  • Client Relations
  • Technical Skills
  • Dependability
  • Punctuality
  • Attendance

Beside each of these is an area to chose one of the following options:

  • Unsatisfactory
  • Satisfactory
  • Good
  • Excellent

Perhaps you’ve got a start-up and to-date you haven’t had enough staff to worry about performance reviews. So for you and any in a situation where breaking down these performance evaluation templates would be helpful, I’ll do just that.

I’ll address some of the above bullet points individually, and you can decide whether they have a place on your own template, or if you would rather have something that fits your specific needs in their place.

Frankly, I think most of these would suit any employee in any industry, but here it goes. Having said that, I’m not going to detail each and every point. Instead, I’ll do a little cherry-picking and just highlight a few.

  › Works to Full Potential

If you have an employee who is falling in the unsatisfactory or maybe just edging into the satisfactory area, finding out why is to your benefit. Especially if you know they’re capable of more.

  • Are they underperforming because they don’t understand an aspect of their job? Then you know extra training is necessary.
  • Are they underperforming simply because they aren’t motivated to do better? Then you need to create a better company culture, perhaps with a rewards or recognition program.

How To Create A Better Work Culture

One way to develop a better work culture is to offer your employees some type of student loan repayment perk.

It’s an attractive benefit that millennial graduates are looking for.

In an employee-benefits study, it was discovered that 53% of them would remain in an organization for an additional five years if their employers offered this perk.

Therefore, in order to meet the shift in demand that is seen with millennial employees, the U.S government has made it more attractive for you to make contributions towards your employees’ student loans.

Under the Employer Participation in Repayment Act of 2019, payments that employers make towards the repayment of a qualified education loan go tax-free. is a student loan repayment company that offers this perk.

The company has a software platform that handles your employees’ student debt. That includes managing the contributions that you make.

By aligning with and meeting the needs of your staff, you improve your company’s work culture.

And this is just one possible solution.

By identifying the underlying issue, you can begin to develop a strategy that will help your organization in the long run.

  › Works Consistency

This could mean a few different things.

  • Is your employee working consistently at their assigned task?
  • Is the level of their work consistent?
  • Are they consistent when it comes to aligning themselves with organizational values and behaviors?
  • Are they working consistently at maintaining a positive work environment?

Whichever one of those you chose to monitor and review, and it could be one or all if you’re finding their consistency unsatisfactory, why?

For example, if the issue is a lack of consistency when it comes to the quality of their work, you need to find out why.

Are they distracted by something happening in their personal lives?

If there something happening in the office that is pulling them in too many directions and impacting their job performance?

Finding out the cause can help both of you.

  › Communication

Without communication, everything falls apart.

Without proper communication:

  • Deadlines can be missed
  • Productivity can suffer
  • Work environments can become tense
  • Overall organizational goals are harder to achieve

Employees and leaders must learn to effectively communicate with each other., or they face the possibility of having to deal with one or more of the above.

Proper communication includes active listening and feedback.

Is your employee a good communicator? If not, how can you help them improve? There is an abundance of HR training and development in the area of communication.

Don’t have the budget for that? Here are some simple steps you to help an employee with their communication skills.

  1. Make sure you convey why these skills are important. Using the bullet list above, make sure they understand the negative impact poor communication can have on the organization as a whole.
  2. Tell them that they should express their feelings and ideas when necessary. Do they have an idea on how to improve a process? Speak up.
  3. Impress upon them the need for remaining calm when dealing with problems. Allowing anger and frustration to enter into a conversation only makes things worse. Unfortunately, this is something we all struggle with.
  4. Show them the importance of always choosing their words carefully and tactfully.
  5. Help them realize that their body language often says more than words.

Employee Evaluation Form – PDF & Word [Download PDF or Word]

These employee review templates are much more complex and offer an excellent guideline for conducting a more comprehensive type of review.

We have a PDF employee evaluation form:

Employee Evaluation Form -PDF

And a Word employee evaluation form:

Employee Evaluation Form - Word

Using the included sections will enable you to set measurable objectives for individual employees and a place to weigh and evaluate them at a later date.

There is a complete section to be used for skills assessment, a section for employees to use for self-evaluation, and another for them to use to evaluate their manager.

Lastly, the form provides a section for a professional development plan.

As with the above Simple Performance Review Template, this can be customized as needed.

Let’s look at these sections in a bit more detail.

  › Measurable Objectives

Unlike the first employee review form I listed above, this one lists objectives instead of characteristics or soft skill, touchy-feely issues such as communication, honesty, and integrity.

The example on the template shows several objectives for the first 6 months of a calendar year.

The first two are:

  • Generate leads
  • Customer retention

The goals for each are 3,000 leads and a 2% improvement of current customer retention levels.

And both of those are weighted against the employees’ overall score. In this case, both are at 25%. You then have a place to mark how your employee scored and leave comments. Either praise or suggestions on how to improve.

Remember, this is simply a template and you have the opportunity to make whatever changes you want. Since there is a good chance you’re not looking for staff to generate leads or improve customer retention, you would just change those fields to something relevant to your specific company or industry.

Let’s move on to the second section of this performance evaluation template.

  › Other Areas of Assessment

The form has the following listed:

  • Job Knowledge
  • Planning and Problem Solving
  • Productivity
  • Communication Skills
  • Teamwork
  • Management Skills

The objective here is to create a list—or simply use what’s provided—of short term career development goals. Short term being 6 to 12 months. Or, if you prefer, long term goals or a mix of both. What you’re setting out to do is create a learning and development path. You should also discuss and notate any associated action plans you’d like to put in place with regards to increased responsibilities and or opportunities.

Once you have decided on your list of skills to be assessed, you also assign them a weight. For example, using Job Knowledge above, you could assign a weight of 15% toward their total employee performance score.

  › Employee Self Assessment

As the section title indicates, this is the place for the employee to list their own:

  • Performance competencies
  • Areas for growth and improvement

The objective here is for them to summarize their performance over the period and would be specific to their jobs. In the example used in this employee review form the employee is in a customer service role, so their competencies would focus on that, plus perhaps things like results orientation and teamwork.

There is no weight assigned in this section.

  › Manager’s Assessment of Employee

Now it’s the manager’s turn.

Using the same assessment list, the manager now summarizes how they feel the employee performed over the period.

Everything in this section is exactly the same, it’s simply from the employer’s perspective.

Are you both in agreement?

  › Assessment of Management Skills

This section is for an employee who also has management responsibilities. It’s a spot for you to add a summary of your own performance—and how competent you’ve been—and then have a few people who report to you add their comments in regard to your performance as well.

Here, you are looking for how well you feel you have done in specific areas.

This is a manager’s self assessment of:

  • Performance Management
  • Employee Development
  • Resource Utilization
  • Leadership

Keep it real. Writing an evaluation of your own performance can be illuminating. You’re looking for insights not only into your leadership style but also to help you identify any potential opportunities for growth.

If you identify any strengths, own them. Be proud of them. Record them!

For leaders especially, here is a quick list of self assessment questions you might want to consider:

  • Do you lead by example or by words?
  • Do you look for common ground when confronted with various opposing opinions?
  • Do you have a clear vision of where I want my team to go, and am I able to communicate that to them effectively?
  • Do you take the time to help members of your team when problem-solving is necessary?
  • Are you able to say, “I don’t have an answer to that question?”
  • Have you made sure your staff knows they are always welcome to share opinions and tell you what they really feel and think?
  • Do you encourage your team to tell you what they in order to get their job done?
  • Do you ask for feedback from your team when it comes to your own performance?

Once you’ve bared your soul with the answers to the above, you know ask a few of the people who report to you to provide an assessment.

This employee review template provides space for the comments of two employees to add their thoughts on the same four points you had to address.

  • Performance Management
  • Employee Development
  • Resource Utilization
  • Leadership

I’m sure it will be interesting to see how if they share your own assessment of yourself.

  › Professional Development Plan

This is the last section of this employee evaluation form.

Now is the time for you to set things up for the future of your employee’s role. Identify any areas where they can develop and what kind of training is going to be necessary for them to achieve that.

This template lists the following areas, but of course, you can change them as need be.

  • Industry Knowledge
  • Company Knowledge
  • Job Knowledge
  • Skills

Annual Performance Review Template – Excel [Download]

We’re cycling back to another simplified form with this one.

This performance review template begins with a spot for basic employee information and other pertinent information.

Annual Performance Review Template

From there, you are provided with sections for the following:

  • Current Responsibilities
  • Performance Assessment
  • Comments and Approval

The first and the last are fairly self-explanatory, so let’s just spend some time on the second.

It’s further broken down into sub-sections that asks for the following:

  • Evaluate performance and achieved goals
  • Discuss areas of excellence within performance
  • Discuss areas of improvement
  • Develop future goals with set expectations

  › Evaluate Performance

The first requires you to evaluate performance. Okay, but what are the steps to go about that?

Here are some key points to give attention to:

  • Does the employee get the job done, and done to the standards you require?
  • How would you rate the quality of their work?
  • Are they able to problem solve when faced with issues?
  • To what extent are they consistently improving?
  • Do they deal with your customers? Are you getting positive or negative feedback from them?
  • Are you a sales based organization? To what extent are they helping drive revenue?
  • How do they respond to feedback, be it positive or negative?
  • Do they take ownership of whatever tasks are assigned to them?
  • Do they complete those tasks on time and within set budgets?

These are just a few of the many performance issues you might choose to evaluate within your organization.

  › Performance Excellence

The next section deals with performance excellence.

What is performance excellence anyway?

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the term comes from the Baldridge Glossary in 2002. The term makes reference to a type of performance management that helps an organization achieve three specific outcomes.

  1. The ability to deliver constantly improving value to stakeholders and customers alike, thus leading directly to organizational sustainability.
  2. An overall improvement in organizational effectiveness and capabilities.
  3. Continued learning at both personal and organizational levels.

  › Areas of Improvement

The third section is for areas of improvement. And unless you have perfect employees there will be things they can and should improve.

There are a lot of things you could focus on in this area, and ultimately it should depend on what your employee really needs help on.

Is there specific function of their job, some learned function that they’re having difficulties in? Then obviously, that’s where your focus should be.

If not, here is a list of some of the areas where you might want to see some improvement:

  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Communication (Including listening skills)
  • Customer service
  • Conflict management and resolution
  • Written communication
  • Goal setting

  › Future Goals & Expectations

You’ve heard of SMART goals, right? SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. And these are just the type of goals you want to use as part of your employee evaluations.

Why? Because they allow you to measure performance toward set goals. With a SMART goal you are able to both:

  • Effectively formulate
  • Achieve goals

That’s exactly what you want to do, right?

Here’s an example of a non-specific or general goal as opposed to a SMART goal.

Non-specific: Close more sales.

SMART goal: Improve your close rate by 25% (specific and measurable), which is up slightly from your increase of 20% last year (attainable), before your next annual review (timely).

Employee Evaluations are Critical

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), performance reviews or evaluations are critical. While often not fun, as mentioned at the outset, they are an essential communication tool.

And with the help of one of the free employee evaluation forms linked to above, you can conduct an appraisal that’s simple or a bit more complex.

The point is, you need to conduct one. Because ultimately, both you and your employees will benefit from it. And it will help keep your organization on track.