The Benefits of Qualitative Employee Performance Reviews

Posted by Dave • March 19, 2021 (Last modified July 10, 2023) • 10 min read

Qualitative employee performance reviews are often viewed as an outdated practice. It used to be that an employee would be evaluated on a series of generic competencies that weren’t directly related to their job. Unsurprisingly, they received vague feedback that didn’t quite help them learn how to improve their performance.

With the emergence of modern performance management software, organizations can now conduct quantitative performance reviews. Objective goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are set for each employee and their progress is tracked throughout the review period. When it comes time to evaluate performance, employees receive clear feedback focused specifically on what they’re trying to accomplish every day.

However, you can make the case that qualitative performance reviews still have a place in today’s workplace, provided they supplement a quantitative approach. 

For more information about how to use qualitative reviews within automated HR software, click here to schedule a demo.

What are qualitative performance reviews?

Qualitative performance reviews assess employees on subjective criteria that cannot be precisely measured. Behavioral and leadership competencies like “communication” and “initiative” are qualitative since they don’t have defined outcomes that equate to success.

The opposite of qualitative performance reviews is quantitative reviews, which are based on the specific, measurable goals the employee focuses on throughout the review period.

The role of qualitative performance reviews in modern workplaces

Based on the definition above, most HR professionals tend to prefer quantitative performance reviews over qualitative evaluations. After all, you want to provide employees clear and accurate feedback and goals and KPIs help you do exactly that. However, let’s consider two scenarios where qualitative performance reviews are beneficial. 

Qualitative competencies provide a complete picture of job performance

Measuring performance with objective goals is ideal but simply meeting targets doesn’t mean someone is a top performer. The best employees are all-around great people to work with. Qualitative competencies help discover if an employee does all the little things that make them an excellent team member.

Let’s review a few competencies that can be used to evaluate an employee’s attitude, emotional intelligence, and other behaviors:

  • Empathy – Determine if the employee is considerate of others’ thoughts, feelings, and perspectives.
  • Organizational advocate – Consider if the employee represents the organization with professionalism and believes in the mission and values.
  • Accountability – Evaluate the employee’s ability to take ownership for the results of their work, actions, and decisions.
  • Composure – Assess the employee’s demeanor when faced with stressful and challenging situations.
  • Compromising – Rate the employee’s willingness to negotiate agreements and accept concessions when necessary.

And then there are managers, who need to be effective leaders, in addition to accomplishing their role-specific goals. They have to keep their direct reports on track while providing guidance and support. Here are some leadership competencies that will you help you assess managerial performance:  

  • Mentorship – Discover if the manager provides coaching that helps junior employees learn and grow.
  • Delegation – Review the manager’s ability to assign tasks and projects to the right direct reports. 
  • Supervision – Assess how well the manager monitors their team members to ensure they are efficient and productive. 
  • Approachability – Consider if the manager makes themself available to direct reports and colleagues. 
  • Team building – Evaluate the manager’s capacity to hire, promote, and develop team members. 

Including these behavioral and leadership competencies will round out your performance review forms. Raters will first consider if employees are meeting their goals, then evaluate how they conduct themselves in the workplace. 

Qualitative performance reviews make sense for some roles

While goals support a modern performance management process for most roles, others just don’t have quantifiable outcomes. It’s easy to apply goals and KPIs to your sales, marketing, and customer support teams but success isn’t cut and dry for your office manager or IT staff, for example. Those employees strive to keep the organization running smoothly, rather than accomplish predefined tasks that contribute to revenue. 

Trying to shoehorn goals into their performance reviews will be frustrating for everyone involved. The employee will be asked to focus on arbitrary targets instead of the work that really needs to be done. And their manager will feel uncomfortable assessing their performance on irrelevant factors, in addition to struggling to define their goals in the first place. 

For the roles on your staff where success is ambiguous, it’s completely fine to use qualitative performance reviews. Strive for quantitative performance reviews for most positions but don’t feel like you need to set measurable employee goals when it doesn’t make sense. 

How to make qualitative performance review work

Qualitative performance competencies are looked down upon because they are subjective. For example, an employee might feel like they’re an effective communicator while their manager believes they need to improve in that area. 

However, the right approach prevents inaccurate evaluations. We’ll conclude with some tips for creating a successful performance management process:

  • Include descriptions with competencies – Describe what success looks like for every competency so managers evaluate employees accordingly.
  • Share frequent feedback – Encourage managers to have regular check-ins with employees so there is an on-going conversation about everything performance-related. 
  • Document employee performance – Have managers record examples of an employee’s great work throughout the review period so they have a record to consult when completing reviews. 
  • Allow for self-evaluations – Make employees an active participant in their performance evaluation by having them review themselves. 
  • Conduct 360-degree feedbackCollect feedback from multiple raters so the manager has a variety of perspectives to consider when completing the evaluation. 

Qualitative performance reviews help employees grow and improve, provided they receive accurate feedback. By following the tips above, your team will learn where they’re excelling and where they can improve in every aspect of their jobs. For more information about how to take reviews to the next level, schedule a demo of Trakstar Perform today.

Qualitative Performance Review Examples

What do qualitative performance reviews look like in different industries?


Employee Name: Sarah Thompson
Position: Registered Nurse
Review Period: January 1, 2023 – June 30, 2023

Sarah Thompson has been employed as a Registered Nurse in our healthcare facility for the review period of January 1, 2023, to June 30, 2023. This performance review aims to assess Sarah’s qualitative performance and contributions to our organization during this period.

  1. Patient Care and Clinical Expertise:
    Sarah consistently demonstrates exceptional clinical knowledge and expertise in providing patient care. She is thorough in her assessments, meticulous in documenting patient information, and consistently follows evidence-based practices. Her attention to detail contributes to accurate diagnoses and treatment plans, resulting in positive patient outcomes. Sarah displays compassion, empathy, and exceptional bedside manner, creating a comforting environment for patients under her care.
  2. Teamwork and Collaboration:
    Sarah excels in fostering a collaborative and supportive work environment. She actively participates in interdisciplinary team meetings, providing valuable insights and suggestions for improving patient care. Sarah willingly shares her knowledge and expertise with colleagues and frequently mentors new staff members. Her excellent communication skills enable her to effectively coordinate care with other healthcare professionals, leading to seamless transitions for patients and enhanced teamwork.
  3. Leadership and Initiative:
    Sarah consistently demonstrates leadership qualities and takes initiative in improving departmental processes. She actively seeks opportunities to enhance her skills through continued education and professional development. Sarah’s dedication to staying updated on the latest healthcare advancements and best practices positively impacts the quality of care provided within our organization. She proactively identifies areas for improvement, proposes solutions, and actively participates in quality improvement initiatives.
  4. Professionalism and Ethical Behavior:
    Sarah maintains the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct in her interactions with patients, their families, and colleagues. She consistently upholds patient confidentiality, respects diverse perspectives, and maintains strict adherence to organizational policies and procedures. Sarah’s professional demeanor serves as a role model for others, fostering a positive work culture built on trust, respect, and integrity.
  5. Communication and Patient Education:
    Sarah excels in her communication skills, both with patients and their families. She effectively explains complex medical information in a clear and concise manner, ensuring patients have a comprehensive understanding of their conditions and treatment plans. Sarah actively listens to patients’ concerns and addresses them empathetically, further enhancing the patient experience. Her ability to establish open lines of communication contributes to positive patient feedback and improved patient satisfaction scores.

Sarah Thompson consistently exhibits exceptional performance and embodies the core values of our healthcare organization. Her dedication to providing quality patient care, teamwork, leadership, professionalism, and effective communication make her an invaluable asset to our team. Sarah’s commitment to continuous improvement and her positive impact on patient outcomes make her a standout healthcare professional. We commend Sarah for her outstanding contributions and look forward to her continued success and growth within our organization.


Employee Name: John Anderson Position: Project Manager Review Period: January 1, 2023 – June 30, 2023

Introduction: John Anderson has served as a Project Manager in our construction company during the review period of January 1, 2023, to June 30, 2023. This performance review aims to assess John’s qualitative performance and contributions to our organization during this period.

  1. Project Planning and Execution: John consistently demonstrates exceptional project planning and execution skills. He meticulously develops project timelines, resource allocation plans, and cost estimates. John’s attention to detail ensures that projects are completed within the specified timelines and budgetary constraints. He effectively communicates project goals and objectives to the team and ensures that all stakeholders are aligned. John’s proactive approach to problem-solving and his ability to adapt to changing project requirements contribute to successful project outcomes.
  2. Leadership and Team Management: John excels in leading and managing project teams. He fosters a collaborative work environment by effectively delegating tasks, providing clear direction, and empowering team members to achieve their best. John’s leadership style encourages open communication and idea sharing among team members, enhancing productivity and morale. He readily acknowledges and appreciates the contributions of his team members, boosting their motivation and commitment to project success.
  3. Safety and Compliance: John places a high emphasis on safety and compliance within the construction site. He ensures that all safety protocols and regulations are followed rigorously, minimizing the risk of accidents and injuries. John proactively identifies potential hazards and implements preventive measures to maintain a safe working environment. His commitment to safety sets a positive example for the entire team and reinforces our company’s dedication to maintaining the highest standards of occupational health and safety.
  4. Client Relations and Communication: John consistently demonstrates excellent client relations and communication skills. He establishes strong relationships with clients, actively listening to their needs, and providing timely updates on project progress. John addresses client concerns promptly and effectively, ensuring that their expectations are met or exceeded. His exceptional communication skills enable him to manage and resolve conflicts professionally, maintaining positive working relationships with both clients and subcontractors.
  5. Problem-solving and Adaptability: John showcases remarkable problem-solving skills and adaptability in the face of challenges. He approaches obstacles with a solution-oriented mindset, identifying alternative approaches and implementing effective strategies to overcome hurdles. John remains calm under pressure, making well-informed decisions that align with project objectives. His ability to adapt to changing circumstances and adjust project plans accordingly contributes to successful project completion.

Conclusion: John Anderson consistently delivers exceptional performance as a Project Manager within our construction company. His strong project planning and execution skills, effective leadership, commitment to safety, excellent client relations, and problem-solving abilities make him an invaluable asset to our organization. John’s dedication to delivering projects on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of our clients sets a high standard for the team. We commend John for his outstanding contributions and look forward to his continued success and growth within our organization.



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