Skip to page navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites. / Policy / Performance Management / Performance Management Cycle
Skip to main content

Communication Skills

Performance Management Competencies: Communication Skills

Excellent communication skills are essential for good performance management. They are important competencies used in the entire performance management process, from planning and communicating work expectations to recognizing employees for their successful achievements. To communicate effectively with employees, performance managers must:


Establishing an effective working relationship with each employee takes time and effort. The best managers make certain each employee feels connected and valued. Competent managers individualize their efforts to communicate with employees, recognize employees' strengths, and support their development. According to Buckingham and Coffman, in their book, Break All the Rules, "...helping an employee excel lies in the details: the details of his particular recognition needs, of his relationship needs, of his goals, and of his talents/non-talents." It is clear that to keep talented and productive employees, managers must clarify expectations, give employees the opportunity to do their best, recognize and praise them, and encourage individuals to develop their skills. These actions help build good working relationships.

Continuous Feedback and Coaching

Successful performance managers develop a routine that includes frequent, in-depth discussions about performance with employees, as often as once a quarter, according to a Gallup survey. The routine should remain simple and the informal conversation should center on how both the employee and supervisor view the employee's performance and development. The meetings should focus on the future and on what "could be" as well as on the past. Asking specific questions to help the employee along can be important. Such questions might include:

  • What have you accomplished?
  • How did you measure accomplishments?
  • What do you want to accomplish in the next few months?
  • What measurements might you use for those accomplishments?
  • What has to be done?
  • How can I help?

These types of open-ended questions are key to engaging employees in assessing their performance and giving them appropriate feedback. Feedback should include the manager's observations, as well as a variety of performance data. Managers need to be clear on the purpose of this feedback-to inform, enlighten, and suggest improvements where needed.

Employees Participate in the Process

As part of these ongoing planning and development meetings, managers should involve employees in the performance assessment and planning dialog. Not only is it important for employees to keep track of their own performance, it also is important for them to take responsibility for learning and developing. As Dorothy Leeds emphasizes in Smart Questions, "People remember best those things they discover, learn, and experience themselves."


Praising and recognizing employees involves another important communication skill. For some managers, giving praise and recognition is difficult. Yet various studies indicate that employees value personalized, spur of the moment recognition for their contributions. To be effective in recognizing employees, managers need to:

  • deliver recognition in an open, public way;
  • tailor recognition to the unique needs of individuals;
  • recognize close to the time of the achievement; and
  • establish a clear connection between accomplishments and recognition.

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, "Recognition is so easy to do and so inexpensive to distribute, there is simply no excuse for not doing it...Recognition signifies someone noticed and someone cares." At the same time, recognition communicates what the organization values, that is, what great performance looks like.

Control Panel