Employee performance reviews are one of the best ways to keep your staff members on track, reward your best performers, and address substandard workers who need a little encouragement.

However, it's important to understand that there's a right way and a wrong way to craft your comments and deliver the review.

As a CIO, you already know that your time is valuable. To avoid unnecessarily wasting any, consider the following five tips to promptly write an effective performance review:

1. Track employee progress

First, establish an informal log sheet for each staff member, and use it to record comments about how they've performed throughout the year. Make note of any projects they did particularly well on, as well as others where they fell short. This gives you a complete picture of the employee's value to your organisation, and serves as an easily referenced fact sheet at review time.

2. Evaluate performance and nothing else

We're all humans, and as such we develop certain judgments about team members. However, despite the fact that you surely have some employees who you personally like more than others, it's very important not to let any of this bias seep over into the review.

Stick to the facts and leave any judgments or character assessments out. The last thing you want is to damage what may be an already tense business working relationship.

3. Be honest

There are two very good reasons to employ brutal honesty in your reviews. First, you want to clearly and unequivocally point out where the employee is faltering so he or she can make improvements.

Second, if you tend to be soft during reviews, you may find yourself in a dilemma one day should you need to fire an employee yet all of his or her reviews suggest otherwise.

4. Emphasise the positive

Many employees dread performance reviews. However, you can prevent this by ensuring that you accentuate all the positives of each one of your staff members. This can greatly improve company morale. Although you may have to think hard regarding the performance of some team members, all employees provide at least some value to an organisation and should be commended appropriately.

5. Solicit feedback beforehand

Although you may think you know your staff members (and their performance level) better than anyone else, it's still a good idea to seek feedback from your management team. However, you should avoid soliciting informal comments from your team members, as that may seem unprofessional.

If you really want feedback from everyone at your company, consider implementing a 360-review. This requires that each employee performs a self-evaluation and solicits feedback from coworkers and management. If you choose this method, be certain that it is comprehensive and thoroughly documented.

Once the review is complete, make sure the employee signs the review. If it's particularly negative, he or she may not want to. In that case, at least include a line on the review where the employee records his or her initials, stating that he or she declined to sign the review.

This offers proof that the staff member actually received your feedback, and will come in handy in case you need to let a team member go.

How effective are your performance reviews?

Will Allen is a business owner who writes about management, operations, and marketing strategies.