Performance Appraisal Process

Reviews are an important element for providing performance feedback and developing a career. Employee performance should be evaluated periodically, regularly, and objectively. When done well, a review is an invaluable conversation between management and employees about expectations, job performance and career development.

Appraisal Criteria. The approach for evaluating the performance of your employees must meet certain criteria. First and foremost, it must relate to the duties and responsibilities as defined in the current job description. It should address those and define the desired outcomes. These outcomes must be stated in measurable, observable and behavioral terms. All expected work output should be measurable in some manner, whether it is production per unit of time, sales goals met or not met, frequency of errors, or other data that characterizes the level of performance. Observable means that the outcomes can also be clearly defined in terms of actions, words, or procedures that the employee will also understand and recognize. Behavioral means that the actions, which resulted in the outcomes, can be changed or improved with training or discipline.

Outcomes. When the appraisal is completed, both the evaluator and the employee should clearly understand what the expectations were and what had been observed. From that, both employee and supervisor need to understand what actions should be taken going forward. The employee may not always agree with the findings, but the basis for any actions must be clearly understood.

The Total Appraisal Process. The appraisal process often fails to achieve the desired results because the formal once-a-year review sometimes simply cannot produce the results that are needed. Evaluation and feedback on performance should be continuous. In particular, bad or poor behavior should be corrected as soon as it is observed. In addition, frequent feedback is the most effective manner for improving performance. Find ways to recognize good behaviors and reward them. The combination of rewarding good behavior and correcting bad behavior as
it occurs will provide the best performance improvement possible. That combined with a full and thorough discussion of the period being reviewed achieves the best of all worlds.

Goal Setting. In the appraisal process it is important to clearly identify the expectations for the employee. This is no longer just related to the specific duties of the job description, but more often, it is now tied to the business goals of the organization and the clearer identification of the employee’s contribution to those goals. You are encouraged to discuss the overall goals of the organization, and the department goals. Making them part of the team that achieves those goals will result in their specific individual goals.

Creating and implementing a structured performance appraisal process is by no means a modest challenge. The process demands additional work and time from management. It also puts additional pressures on employees by establishing specific goals and identifying the behaviors necessary to achieve those goals. And of course, the very nature of the appraisal process puts both employees and managers into situations that many people find uncomfortable. It is often difficult for managers to be both candid and constructive when they are conducting an appraisal session, especially one that involves negative feedback. However, if critical to the success of the individual, this information must be discussed.

More important than the writing of the appraisal is the discussion of its contents in a frank and open two-way conversation. The appraisal process must result in agreement on the fundamental issues of performance and the corrective actions that are needed. It also requires an honest appraisal of the employee’s future and necessary additional actions for career development, education, seminars and conferences to develop or to hone specific skills. It is this area of the process that is most difficult for supervisors, but it is absolutely essential for the success of the process.


As you continue to build your team it is the goal to have all staff members benefit from a Performance Evaluation and Career Development review. The review date should be determined by the employees’ start date and rotating throughout the year:

  • For new employees it is recommended that you provide additional feedback through a
    3-month review (informal discussion reviewing the Performance Evaluation & Career
    Development form but not to be placed in the personnel file) and a 6-month review
    (formal performance evaluation to be placed in the personnel file).
  • For current employees whose positions have changed it is recommended you provide a
    6-month and annual review.

It is to be noted that salary reviews should not be tied to the period of the performance review. In order to have consistency throughout an organization, we have developed a Performance
Evaluation & Career Development form with specific instructions for the overall review, and
have established Performance Rating Descriptions to be followed by each person administering an evaluation.

Schedule the date and time you plan to meet with the employee. A few days prior to the meeting provide the employee with their current Job Description and a Performance Evaluation & Career Development form. Ask the employee to complete the form prior to the scheduled review. For
the greatest success, both the manager and the employee must share in the completion of the appraisal. Include an opportunity for the employee to state his or her responsibilities and accomplishments, and to make a self-appraisal of his or her performance. The documenting of their current responsibilities should of course be linked to their job description.

The Review Meeting & Process

The manager should evaluate the employees’ performance and compare the results with the employee’s self-assessment and then be prepared to discuss the differences. It is usually the case that most employees do realistically understand their strengths and weaknesses. If there are areas where you and the employee disagree on the rating of a particular performance criteria, make sure the discussion is very thorough and arrives at a consensus. If these agreements cannot be resolved in the initial discussion, adjourn the session and set a time to meet again and discuss the area further. Suggest first that the employee examine the area of disagreement and be prepared at the next meeting to support their views. This advice also applies to the evaluator. If these disagreements are not resolved, the value of the performance appraisal is dramatically diminished. In those rare cases where the employee has no clue about his/her relative performance, then it is suggested that the manager be required to do much more coaching and guiding to help the employee get back on track or up-to-speed.

Here are considerations for completing the evaluation form and meeting:

  1. Allow plenty of time for the review. It will usually take between 1 – 2 hours.
  2. Sitting next to the person, or on the same side of the table, has better results than sitting across from each other. Sitting next to each other allows you to both read the
    information at the same time.
  3. Do not read through the review alone. Start with Part I. Have the employee read aloud their specific accomplishments. You may be surprised to hear things you had not noticed or were not aware of. Feel free to comment when they are finished, then proceed to share with the employee the accomplishments you cited.
  4. When you go to Part II, proceed item by item. Let the employee share their evaluation of Item A, then you can share with them your evaluation. Take time to discuss the comments each shared and to talk about why each wrote those remarks.
  5. Part III should be the result of anything that came up during the prior discussions. The Key Performance Goals, Action Plan and Career Development items should be measurable and given timelines.
  6. Part IV is an opportunity for the employee to add any additional information or a place for the supervisor to make notes about things the employee said.
  7. Last, it is important to have both the employee and supervisor sign and date the review document. A copy should be given to the employee and the original filed in the employee file.
  8. The Action Plan and Career Development items should be specific and have established standards for demonstrating completion of the action. Set a timeframe for the action items to be completed and dates should be noted by both supervisor and employee for follow up.

Performance Scale

Use the following scale and definitions to complete Part II – Comparative Evaluation:

Excellent Performance

Works consistently at a superior level in most aspects of position; consistently exceeds goals and expectations. Makes an exceptional or unique contribution to the organization.

Good Performance

Performs beyond expectations in a majority of position duties and responsibilities. Frequently exceeds position expectations. Makes a significant contribution to the overall achievement of organization/department goals.

Satisfactory Performance

Employee performance is good, but still has room for growth/improvement. Employee requires occasional guidance for performance to be completely satisfactory.

Fair Performance

Employee shows potential, but performance is low. Employee may be new to the job or task and is developing. Employee requires frequent guidance.

Needs Improvement

Employee performance is poor and requires significant improvement in the short-term. Employee may actually be doing things that negatively affect others’ performance, or puts organization at risk.

For a rating of Needs Improvement and Fair Performance, a performance improvement plan should be developed and monitored.

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