About eight years ago, Bob Fleming, of Classic Remodeling & Construction, in Johns Island, S.C., decided that it was time to make his employee review system more disciplined.

“We weren’t good about scheduling reviews, and employees were going too long without getting any feedback,” he says.

So Fleming implemented a strict review schedule: New employees would receive evaluations at 90 days, 180 days, and then annually thereafter.

Finally taking the time to listen to his staff, Fleming was surprised by some of the things he heard. “I learned that my communication with employees wasn’t great,” he says. “I had my hand in too many things, and I had to learn to step back and let people do their jobs.”

Fleming uses several forms when reviewing employees, including self- and peer-evaluation forms, but it’s the form shown below — in which employees and managers voice their praise, concerns, and goals — that has opened up the most useful dialogue between management and employees.

A. Start/Stop/Continue

In these sections, employees and management break their comments into three categories of things that they'd like to see the other either start, stop, or continue doing — a model that Classic Remodeling & Construction owner Bob Fleming credits to fellow remodeler Bill Weidmann, of Weidmann & Associates, in Roswell, Ga.

"This is a way to open up an honest dialogue about what they do well and what their challenges are," Fleming says. By improving communication between employees and management, it also helps to improve teamwork and morale.

B. Goal-Oriented

Here employees list their goals for the coming year. Fleming encourages them to include professional goals as well as personal goals, such as paying off credit card debt or buying a house.

"Usually employees who are really stable in their personal life are more stable at work as well," he says. Employees not only list their goals but also map out the steps necessary to achieve those goals, as well as objective ways by which success or failure will be measured at year's end.

C. Taking Action

The Actions section is filled out by the reviewing manager at the completion of the review. It's here that any final decisions regarding salary, benefits, and position are outlined. Once the form is completed, be sure to obtain the employee's signature indicating that they have read and understand all comments and actions outlined on the form. If for any reason you should need it down the road (for example, during layoffs), proper documentation of employee performance is essential.