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How to Conduct Employee Performance Appraisals (Performance Reviews)

© 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 Reviews
---Additional Perspectives on Conducting Employee Performance Appraisals
---Some Contrary Perspectives on Employee Performance Reviews
---Perspectives on Conducting Employee 360 Degree Performance Reviews

Also consider
Employee Performance Management
Related Library Topics

Guidelines to Conduct Employee Performance Appraisals

Yearly performance reviews are critical. Organization's 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 supervisoral 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 credibility of management, decreases the organization's overall effectiveness and wastes more of management's time to do 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, 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 communications, 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 either specify that the employee accepts the appraisal or has seen it, depending on 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 date.

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 the 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 each of 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 goals

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, or a 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 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 note.

8. Update and finalize the performance appraisal form

Add agreed-to commentary on to the form. Note that if the employee wants to add 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 the 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 mind’s 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 in 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.

Reviews 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 annoyance to employees because the majority of the time it is ignored by the supervisor any way.

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 Appraisal?

Here’s 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 work 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 annual meeting to discuss performance, you lost 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
Selecting from Among Publicly Available Assessments
How to Evaluate and Appraise employee performance (also with free template)
The Performance Appraisal Solution
Preparing for performance appraisal discussions - Part I
Conducting performance appraisal discussions - Part II
Concluding 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

Performance Appraisal Lessons from 13 Years in the Trenches
Evaluation Program Sample Reports
A Cost-Benefit Case for Scrapping Performance Appraisals
Once You Scrap Performance Appraisals
Why We Hate the Performance Review
Performance Appraisal - Free HR Employment Policy and training pack for download
Performance 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 have posts related to Employee Performance Appraisals. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog.

Library's Career Management Blog
Library's Human Resources Blog
Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog

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