Do Managers Have Enough Insight to Assess Their Employees?

By: Brian Westfall on February 2, 2017

In order for employee performance reviews to be effective, managers have to think critically about how well each of their employees are doing relative to predetermined goals and objectives.

This raises the question: Do your managers have enough insight, given their busy schedules and limited perspective, to do this important analysis?

To find out, Software Advice surveyed nearly 300 U.S. employees about both the quantity and quality of interactions with their manager, as they relate to aspects of performance management.

The results of the survey are presented below, along with tips to improve manager-employee relations and your performance appraisal process overall.

Key Findings

  • Thirty-seven percent of employees say they have regular one-on-one meetings with their manager once a month or less.

  • Thirty-one percent of employees find one-on-one meetings with their manager minimally or not at all productive.

  • Nearly one in five employees (19 percent) are minimally or not at all confident that their managers have enough information to adequately assess their job performance.

  • Half of employees say their department coworkers—not their managers—have the most insight into their job performance, other than themselves.

A Third of Workers Meet With Their Manager Once a Month or Less

Roll your eyes if you must, but meetings matter. They help managers get regular one-on-one time with their direct reports to understand how they’re performing.

Unfortunately, many employees say they aren’t getting the face time they need. Nearly a third of employees in our survey (31 percent) only have regular one-on-one meetings with their manager once a month, once a quarter or once a year.

An additional 6 percent say they don’t regularly meet with their manager at all.

Frequency of Regular One-on-One Meetings With Manager


Meetings open up avenues for proactive feedback and give both parties a chance to discuss where they stand in regard to shifting goals and priorities—all important aspects of performance management.

Gallup states that employees who meet with their managers regularly are three times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t.

Simply put, if your managers aren’t meeting with their direct reports regularly, they need to start.

How often these one-on-one meetings should occur is going to depend on a variety of factors, including team size, worker autonomy and task complexity, but a best practice is to aim for 30 minutes with each worker, once a week.

The important thing here is that these meetings are regular. That means scheduling them in advance, in the same time slot and avoiding cancelling them as much as possible.

Effectiveness of One-on-One Meetings With Manager Varies Widely

We asked employees who met with their manager regularly the following question:

“How productive do you find your one-on-one meetings with your manager, in terms of understanding your goals and objectives and gaining insight into your performance?”

Seventy percent responded that they found their meetings “very” or “moderately” productive, while 31 percent (error due to rounding) found them “minimally” or “not at all” productive.

Degree to Which Employees Find One-on-One Meetings With Manager Productive


It’s important for managers to regularly meet with their subordinates, but these meetings need to be effective. If the managers at your company are struggling to make meetings with their direct reports meaningful, here are some tips:

  • Set expectations early. What do employees want to discuss? What should managers understand by the end of the meeting? Define expectations or talking points for these meetings beforehand, so each party has time to prepare.

  • Be present. Managers should arrive to meetings on time and avoid any distractions such as text messages or emails. They’re there to talk a little, but listen more.

  • Don’t be afraid to be negative. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 92 percent of employees agree that negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance. Managers shouldn’t shy away from being negative if it’s the truth.

  • End with gratitude and a plan. At the end of the meeting, managers should thank employees for their time and feedback, then give them specific follow-up actions to address what’s been discussed.

Lastly, managers should keep updated notes on these meetings so they have something substantial to work with besides their memory come review time.

1 in 5 Workers Lack Confidence That Manager Can Assess Performance

Eighty-one percent of employees in our survey say they are “very” or “moderately” confident that their manager has enough information to adequately review their job performance, while 19 percent say they are “minimally” or “not at all” confident.

Employee Confidence That Managers Have Enough Information for Performance Review


The performance review process relies on workers trusting that their managers have enough information to do a fair assessment. Otherwise, any results may be viewed as unsupported, or worse, unfair.

To ensure employee confidence in your performance appraisal process, managers should use both qualitative (interactions with the worker in question) and quantitative (performance metrics) data to support their grades and feedback.

Vagueness is the enemy here, as managers should point to specific instances and numbers that support why each worker got the review they did.

It’s also important that workers are given the chance to provide feedback of their own—to address concerns, provide counter evidence or simply to vent frustration. Performance review software can take care of this process automatically, notifying workers when their assessment is complete to review and comment on.

Coworkers, Not Managers, Have Most Insight Into Job Performance

No matter how often your managers meet with their direct reports or how many spreadsheets of performance data they have at their disposal, their performance assessment still only represents a single point of view.

That’s a problem, especially when workers say that their manager isn’t even the person with the most insight into their job performance.

In fact, 50 percent of employees say their department coworkers, not their manager, have the most insight into their daily job performance.

Group With Greatest Insight Into Employee Performance


This result demonstrates the importance of incorporating multiple viewpoints into any performance review to gain a more comprehensive picture and eliminate bias.

If your organization isn’t asking for performance feedback from coworkers or customers that interact with your employees every day, it needs to. 360 degree feedback tools become invaluable in this regard. With them, managers can:

  • Save time making feedback surveys using preset templates and question banks

  • Send surveys to appropriate parties with a few clicks

  • Monitor feedback progress at a glance and send reminders as needed

  • Automatically receive confidential and anonymous responses

  • View real-time aggregated stats in a dashboard to identify trends

With the right tools and information, managers can have enough insight to properly assess their employees. However, as our results show, it’s a team effort.


For this report, Software Advice conducted a survey and received 278 responses from workers in the U.S. The age and gender demographics of the respondents are as follows:

Respondents, by Age


Respondents, by Gender


_The detailed methodology for this report can be found here.

If you have comments or would like to obtain access to any of the charts above, please contact