Your employees look to you for direction on their performance. That means when the time for employee evaluation rolls around, they need to hear from you on what they're doing well--and what they need to improve upon.

Use these 9 smart phrases in employee evaluations to offer positive reinforcement and constructive criticism that helps create an ever-improving team.

1. (Employee) has been responsible for a major increase in (department name) because of...

This phrase is highly effective because it indicates progress and growth as well as the cause and effect relationship between work-related efforts. It also creates an opportunity for you to elaborate on which specific activities proved successful for the employee so he or she has a clear idea of where to focus energy moving forward.

2. I'd like to see (employee) spend more time working on...

Employees want specific, actionable advice on what they can do to improve their daily work. Don't shy away from offering truthful insight into where you see them missing the mark, but remember to include realistic suggestions on how they can approach improvement, too.

3. In the past year, (employee) has mastered (skill) by consistently...

Take the time to compliment your employees if they have truly excelled in a specific aspect of their role since your last employee evaluation. Talk about what you've noticed helped them achieve the accomplishment and encourage them to continue down this path.

4. (Employee's) follow-through could improve within...

If task completion is an issue with an employee, touch on the steps that need to be taken to correct the problem. Be up front about what's working and what's not, and make time for a conversation when you can ask what you can do as a leader to help him or her better tackle the matter.

5. I'm impressed by (employee's) ability to...

Remember to focus on abilities and skills, not personality traits during the bulk of your employee evaluation. Discuss the specific talents that help the employee excel, but leave time to go over the skills that need work as well. Think about what makes you value each individual and spotlight those benefits during your discussion.

6. I see (employee) performing at a substandard level for (task), and I'd like him/her to...

Sometimes an employee's lackluster performance is a result of poor training on the company's behalf. If you notice that a team member needs on-going education in order to improve, create those opportunities and present them during employee evaluation. Rather than just highlighting a negative, you can communicate the value you see in them by making a clear path for improvement.

7. (Employee) doesn't rely on common methods to...

It's always a good idea to make note of employees who take a creative approach within their roles. This special skill can be extremely valuable for any business, so make sure it is documented and rewarded.

8. (Employee) often resists (task) and is struggling to...

Using this language illustrates the employee problem as a struggle, not a failure. Putting the focus on the resistance to change shows that there is the ability to resolve the issue with a change in behavior.

9. (Employee's) high standards are illustrated within...

If you notice a standout quality within your employee that's a common theme throughout his or her work, make note of it. This will help show that you appreciate the consistent, reliable behavior so it likely continues on.

Published on: Feb 26, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.