A meaningful performance review requires preparation, analysis of the employee's performance and honest feedback on performance. The review should provide feedback on the areas in which the employee excels and the areas that need improvement.
An accurate performance review requires firsthand knowledge of the employee's work. Managers usually have a general idea of how each employee performs, but taking some time to review work or observe the employee in action helps gather information. This allows the manager to give specific examples and get an accurate gauge of what the employee does on a daily basis.
Performance reviews often have a scale or rating system in addition to lines for comments. The manager should take time to give an honest rating for each category. Comments add understanding to the ratings. A meaningful review is personalized based on that employee's actions. With specific comments, the employee gains a better understanding of what she is doing well and what she needs to improve.
Negative feedback should come in the form of constructive criticism. Instead of just stating what the employee does wrong, giving ways to improve makes the review more meaningful. Closing with a positive comment leaves the employee feeling appreciated and motivated to improve.
The review process becomes more meaningful when the manager sits down with the employee to discuss the items in the review. This gives the employee a chance to ask questions and contribute feedback.