1. Strengths: Include 2 – 3 areas of strength, use supporting examples (be specific), identify the positive impact (show the employee how the strength adds value) and then connect the strength to  the relevant organizational competencies (Communication, Teamwork, Accountability, Customer Focus, Results Orientation, etc.).
  2. What’s Next:  What are the one or two areas for growth for this individual?   Refrain from using the terms improvement, get better at, area for development and instead, use “What’s next”.  Identify something that if developed, would have a positive impact on the employee’s future contributions.  Specifically describe what it is you want to have happen and include a talking point or two on the relevance (what’s in it for the employee and the organization).  Make the connection to the related organizational competencies.
  3. New Goals:  Translate “What’s Next” into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound).  Goals should be captured and tracked on a document separate from the annual performance review document.
  4. Recap Previously Set Goals and Objectives: Creating goals in January and reviewing progress the following January is useless.   Goals should be captured on a document separate from the annual performance review form and reviewed and updated every four to six weeks during regularly scheduled one-to-one meetings.

If you must do annual performance reviews rethink the length and complexity of the form - whether on paper or on-line. Many companies are considering or have walked away from the annual review.  Maybe this is on your radar screen - maybe it's just too big of a step right now.  In the interim, if you're going to have your managers fill out annual performance review forms then the least you can do is make the process less menacing by shortening the form and eliminating redundancy.