Employee Performance Appraisals: Effective Review Techniques

Sections of this topic

    © Copyright Carter
    McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC
    Adapted from the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business and
    Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision for Nonprofit Staff.

    Strongly Suggested Pre-Reading

    How to Ensure
    Strong Employee Performance Management

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Guidelines to Conduct Employee Performance Appraisals
    Why We Hate the Performance Review
    Numerous Resources About Conducting Employee Performance

    Additional Perspectives on Conducting Employee Performance

    Some Contrary Perspectives on Employee Performance Reviews
    Perspectives on Conducting Employee 360 Degree Performance

    Also consider
    Performance Management
    Related Library Topics

    Guidelines to Conduct Employee Performance

    Yearly performance reviews are critical. Organizations are hard-pressed to
    find good reasons why they can’t dedicate an hour-long meeting once a year to
    ensure the mutual needs of the employee and organization are being met. Performance
    reviews help supervisors feel more honest in their relationships with their
    subordinates and feel better about themselves in their supervisory roles. Subordinates
    are assured clear understanding of what’s expected from them, their own personal
    strengths and areas for development and a solid sense of their relationship
    with their supervisor. Avoiding performance issues ultimately decreases morale,
    decreases the credibility of management, decreases the organization’s overall effectiveness
    and wastes more of management’s time doing what isn’t being done properly. Conduct
    the following activities.

    1. Design a legally valid performance review process

    Patricia King, in her book, Performance Planning and Appraisal, states
    that the law requires that performance appraisals be: job-related and valid;
    based on a thorough analysis of the job; standardized for all employees; not
    biased against any race, color, sex, religion, or nationality; and performed
    by people who have adequate knowledge of the person or job. Be sure to build
    in the process, a route for recourse if an employee feels he or she has been
    dealt with unfairly in an appraisal process, e.g., that the employee can go
    to his or her supervisor’s supervisor. The process should be clearly described
    in a personnel policy.

    2. Design a standard form for performance appraisals

    Include the name of the employee, the date the performance form was completed,
    dates specifying the time interval over which the employee is being evaluated,
    performance dimensions (include responsibilities from the job description, any
    assigned goals from the strategic plan, along with needed skills, such as communication,
    administration, etc.), a rating system (e.g., poor, average, good, excellent),
    space for commentary for each dimension, a final section for overall commentary,
    a final section for action plans to address improvements and lines for signatures
    of the supervisor and employee. Signatures may specify that the employee
    accepts the appraisal or has seen it, depending on the wording on the form.

    3. Schedule the first performance review for six months after the employee
    starts employment

    Schedule another six months later, and then every year on the employee’s anniversary

    4. Initiate the performance review process and upcoming meeting

    Tell the employee that you’re initiating a scheduled performance review. Remind
    them of what’s involved in the process. Schedule a meeting about two weeks out.

    5. Have the employee suggest any updates to the job description and provide
    written input to the appraisal

    Have them record their input concurrent to your recording theirs. Have
    them record their input on their own sheets (their feedback will be combined
    on the official form later on in the process). You and the employee can exchange
    your written feedback in the upcoming review meeting. (Note that by
    now, employees should have received the job descriptions and goals well in advance
    of the review, i.e., a year before. The employee should also be familiar with
    the performance appraisal procedure and form.)

    6. Document your input — reference the job description and performance

    Be sure you are familiar with the job requirements and have sufficient contact
    with the employee to be making valid judgments. Don’t comment on the employee’s
    race, sex, religion, nationality, handicap, or veteran status. Record major
    accomplishments exhibited strengths and weaknesses according to the dimensions
    on the appraisal form, and suggest actions and training or development to improve
    performance. Use examples of behaviors wherever you can in the appraisal to
    help avoid counting on hearsay. Always address behaviors, not characteristics
    of personalities. The best way to follow this guideline is to consider what
    you saw with your eyes. Be sure to address only the behaviors of that employee,
    rather than the behaviors of other employees.

    7. Hold the performance appraisal meeting

    State the meeting’s goals of exchanging feedback and coming to action plans,
    where necessary. In the meeting, let the employee speak first and give their
    input. Respond with your own input. Then discuss areas where you disagree. Attempt
    to avoid defensiveness; admitting how you feel at the present time, helps a
    great deal. Discuss behaviors, not personalities. Avoid final terms such as
    “always,” “never,” etc. Encourage participation and be supportive.
    Come to terms on actions, where possible. Try to end the meeting on a positive

    8. Update and finalize the performance appraisal form

    Add agreed-to commentary onto the form. Note that if the employee wants to
    attach written input to the final form, he or she should be able to do so.
    The supervisor signs the form and asks the employee to sign it. The form and
    its action plans are reviewed every few months, usually during one-on-one meetings
    with the employee.

    9. Nothing should be surprising to the employee during the appraisal meeting

    Any performance issues should have been addressed as soon as those issues occurred.
    So nothing should be a surprise to the employee later on in the actual performance
    appraisal meeting. Surprises will appear to the employee as if the supervisor
    has not been doing his/her job and/or that the supervisor is not being fair.
    It is OK to mention the issues in the meeting, but the employee should have
    heard about them before.

    Why We Hate the Performance Review

    © Copyright Sheri Mazurek

    Most employees in companies today are all too familiar with the concept of
    performance review. Just the mention of this often dreaded occurrence of
    discussion with one’s supervisor where they get to critique every move
    you’ve made during the year while you sit ideally by is sure to send negative
    feelings throughout the minds of employees everywhere. The performance
    review generally has a similar effect on managers and supervisors as well. So
    why is this performance review so dreaded and loathed by many? A few of the
    reasons are listed below.

    Employees – Why They Hate the Performance Review Process

    They have no control over the situation. Managers get to provide ratings and
    comments on multiple areas of performance that are most often subjective in
    nature. If an employee disagrees, they might get a small “employee comments”
    area to provide their rebuttal all the while knowing that if they push too much
    the person controlling their future still has control.

    Review sheets are completed before the actual discussion occurs. Therefore
    bringing up comments has little effect on the actual rating which is most often
    tied to their annual increase which is usually only a few cents different from
    the person with the next highest or lowest rating.

    Employees are often forced to write a self-evaluation prior to the meeting
    as well. Unfortunately, these usually only serve as an annoyance to employees because
    the majority of the time it is ignored by the supervisor anyway.

    Managers – Why They Hate the Performance Review Process

    Managers often dread the discussion of the employee performance review assuming
    the discussion will turn into a battle with the manager left to convince the
    employee that their ratings are accurate. Managers usually assume employees
    think they perform better than they actually do.

    Managers are busy with tasks and goals of their own. Taking the time to thoroughly
    review a whole year’s worth of performance is time-consuming. They often
    rush through the forms because the HR department has a deadline they are struggling
    to meet.

    The forms are too complicated, long, short, or don’t cover what is really
    important to success in this department.

    So, What’s the Answer to Overcoming Negativity Around the Performance

    Here are a few tips to get you started:

    1. Set clear expectations. Provide them on the first day of employment.
    2. Provide feedback all year. Create a culture where performance discussions
      are a regular part of the workday day and review meetings are held at frequent
      intervals such as monthly.
    3. Ask first, tell later. Begin a performance discussion by asking the employee
      to rate their performance. Have them provide examples of where they have met
      and exceeded the expectations.
    4. Do not complete the form until you have the discussions.
      Do monitor performance all year and have examples ready to discuss.
    5. Guarantee no surprises at the annual meeting. If you are waiting for an annual
      meeting to discuss performance, you lose your chance to be effective.

    Numerous Resources About Conducting Employee
    Performance Reviews

    Additional Perspectives on Conducting Employee
    Performance Appraisals

    10 Key Tips for Effective Employee Performance Reviews
    from Among Publicly Available Assessments

    How to Evaluate and Appraise employee performance (also with free

    Performance Appraisal Solution

    for performance appraisal discussions – Part I

    performance appraisal discussions – Part II

    performance appraisal discussions – Part III

    Performance Appraisals: A Quick Guide For Managers
    Beyond Constructive Criticism–Methods to Evaluating Performance
    Performance Appraisals: Are You Playing Games?

    Some Contrary Perspectives on Employee
    Performance Reviews

    Appraisal Lessons from 13 Years in the Trenches
    Evaluation Program Sample

    A Cost-Benefit
    The case for Scrapping Performance Appraisals

    Once You Scrap
    Performance Appraisals

    We Hate the Performance Review

    Appraisal – Free HR Employment Policy and training pack for download

    Review Rushed?

    Perspectives on Conducting Employee 360 Degree
    Performance Reviews

    360 Degree Feedback Survey Software Deployment Tips & Resources:
    How to Guide

    Bouncing Back from a Negative 360-Degree Review
    – Your Guide to 360 Information and Resources

    – Your Guide to 360 Information and Resources

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Employee Performance Appraisals

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which
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    Leadership Blog

    Supervision Blog

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