Performance Appraisal

The most effective organizations work to establish a culture of development, where people at all levels are encouraged to help others develop their skills. Providing positive and constructive feedback is a critical component.

It is the manager’s role and responsibility to give feedback to others. They are responsible for managing employees’ job performance, holding them accountable for completing their assigned tasks, and coaching or counseling them to overcome barriers or improve performance.  Feedback should be given with the intention of praising positive behavior and performance, ensuring that the employee understands the expectations, or identifying areas of development.

Leaders must be willing to provide both praise and constructive feedback to others, regardless of reporting lines.  All employees should be willing and able to do the same. If a peer, another employee, or even a senior leader is engaging in behaviors which are detrimental to patrons/customers, other employees, or the organization, we need to let them know the impact of their behavior.

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Performance appraisal is a process and a means of setting goals, measuring and enhancing individual and organizational performance. It also fosters professional and career development on behalf of ordinary staff members.

An effective performance appraisal process has the following characteristics:

  • A connection to organizational and departmental mission and goals.
  • Clearly defined expectations of performance
  • A focus on performance as well as professional development
  • Ongoing process versus an annual event
  • Consistent and timely usage and completion
  • A focus more on future direction than past performance
  • Involves staff member in the process

Performance Appraisal Benefits of Giving Positive and Constructive Feedback

  • Clarify expectations; assure the individual is on the right track
  • Assess and discuss the relevance of goals and their measures
  • Improve communication between individuals, particularly supervisor and employee
  • Opportunity to learn about ourselves and how we interact with others
  • Opportunity to develop ourselves and be the best we can be
  • Assist in making “early corrections”
  • No surprises later

The Performance Appraisal Process is a comprehensive approach to staff supervision/coaching. Performance appraisal process is a collective reflection leading toward improved delivery of performance and services through increased professional competency. This process applies to both teams (a group of staff members assigned to work on and complete a project) as well as the individual staff member.  The same guidelines for assigning, ensuring understanding, and providing follow-up of projects should be used with both the team and the individual staff member.

Performance Appraisal Process: The Steps

The performance appraisal process also serves as a tool to assist staff members struggling in roles or alignment with goals.  The process also meets all legal requirements. Each of the following steps is vital to the overall success of both you as the supervisor/coach and your staff member(s)/team.

  1. Performance Appraisal Planning: the creation of the position description and performance expectations/standards
  2. Performance Management: counseling and coaching through out the performance period
  3. Performance Appraisal Method: preparing for and conducting the formal review.
  4. Performance Appraisal Reward Process: determining actual merit awards based on performance
  5. Performance Appraisal Feedback: And following up with a review of the position description and re-evaluation of performance expectations/standards for the upcoming year

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Performance Appraisal Expectations

Performance expectations describe the behaviors, specific skills, knowledge, or techniques (within the general competency category) that an employee needs to apply to achieve the desired job objectives. Performance standards form the framework by which performance will be evaluated.

At the beginning of the performance appraisal period, the supervisor and the employee should discuss the performance expectations upon which the employee will be evaluated. If the employee has input in developing the standard, the supervisor can expect fewer disagreements or disappointments later.

Review the definitions of each performance expectation.

Performance Appraisal Sample Rating Levels

Recording examples of demonstrated performance during the appraisal period will assist the supervisor in selecting the appropriate rating for each expectation. This commentary will enable the employee to understand why the performance was rated as it was. At the end of the performance evaluation period, the supervisor shall consider the employee’s performance and select the rating level that most accurately describes how well the employee typically performed in each area of responsibility. The supervisor may request input from the employee.

Where an employee’s cumulative performance meets the expectations described, the appropriate employee rating is “Successfully performs to standard.”  An employee with this rating may also have performed exceeding levels periodically during the evaluation period.

Employee’s whose performance is rated as “Consistently exceeds expectations” must have demonstrated cumulative performance reflecting that they have surpassed the standards routinely.  Specific examples of what determined the rating should be reflected in the comments.

Employee’s whose performance is rated as “Not consistently performing to standard” in two or more of the expectation areas will have demonstrated cumulative performance reflecting that performance falls below standard about as much as performance is successful.  Specific examples of both successful and below standard performance should be reflected in the comments.

An employee who is rated as “Consistently falls below standard” in two or more of the expectation areas will typically have received coaching during the review period and may be on formal reprimand.

Performance on each standard should be examined and evaluated separately. Do not attempt to determine an overall rating across all standards at this time.

Performance Appraisal Goals

There is no restriction on the number of goals or objectives that the supervisor and the employee may develop for the next evaluation period. Identify as many as you need, but make sure the workload is realistic.

Good performance goals meet the following SMART criteria:

S = Specific
State clearly what is to be accomplished in concrete terms that can be easily observed and mutually understood.

M = Measurable
Objectives should be quantifiable, stating exactly what the criteria for success is, how that success will be tracked and measured, and whether the measurement tools are available.

A = Attainable
Can the result be realistically achieved? (Is the process used workable and within the employee’s control? Are the needed resources available? Is the time frame reasonable? Is the objective a “reachable” stretch?)

R = Realistic
Based upon the employee’s knowledge of the job, the objective should be linked vertically to the organization’s goals, as well as being difficult, yet feasible.

T = Time Bound
Each objective should have a clearly defined time frame.

Studies have shown that good planning gets good results. Following are several alternative methods to develop performance goals:

  • The supervisor and employee together may develop the objectives; or
  • The supervisor and employee may develop the objectives separately, then meet and make modifications; or,
  • The supervisor develops the objectives and reviews them with the employee.

Allow for flexibility when writing performance goals. They will need to be adjusted when work priorities change.

Although writing goals will take time, if it is done jointly, it can be a worthwhile step toward improving job performance. There is little chance that an employee who is involved in a joint process will be in the dark about where the employee stands, or that the employee will forget he/she is a principal participant in his/her own development and is responsible for it.

The supervisor should monitor projects and assignments on a continual basis. This allows the supervisor to identify unacceptable performance when it occurs and provide assistance to address such performance rather than waiting until the annual review.

The supervisor should meet with the employee and review goals at least once during the evaluation period, and preferably quarterly, to discuss performance-to-date. This interim review should include a discussion about whether the stated work assignments or priorities have changed or should change. If so, the supervisor should record those changes and provide a copy to the employee. Any training and development suggestions for employees should directly support goals and objectives.  This is an opportunity for the supervisor to list specific suggestions as to how the employee may achieve some of their goals, sources of specific training, names of helpful contacts, etc.

Performance Appraisal Common Rater Errors

Halo Effect: The tendency to rate a person who is exceptionally strong in one area high in all other areas. One factor has undue influence on the other ratings.

Horns Effect: This is the opposite of the Halo Effect-a tendency to rate a person who is especially weak in one factor low on all other factors.

Central Tendency: Tendency to avoid both high and low extremes, lumping all ratings in the middle category.

Leniency: This occurs when the rater gives all high ratings or a disproportionate amount of high ratings.

Severity: The opposite of Leniency-a tendency to give all low ratings or a disproportionate number of low ratings.

Similar-to-Me: Some raters have a tendency to give persons who are similar to them higher ratings on the basis of biographical backgrounds, attitudes, etc.

Contrast Effect: The tendency of raters to evaluate persons relative to each other, rather than on the basis of individual performance evaluation criteria.

Communicating with the Employee

The supervisor must consider all aspects of the employee’s performance, including the relative importance of each of the objectives, and compose a statement that most accurately describes the overall performance during the evaluation period.

The focus is on job performance-not the personality traits of the employee. Develop a statement based on how well the employee performed in relation to the competencies and performance objectives, the relative weight given to each objective, and any other relevant accomplishments.

If the employee receives less than a satisfactory evaluation, the supervisor should meet with the employee within thirty (30) days of the evaluation to review, in detail, the alleged deficiencies.  If appropriate, the supervisor should contact the Office of Human Resources to begin setting up an Improvement Plan.

When new employees are progressing satisfactorily through their initial appointment to a new or promotional position, but may not yet have had the opportunity to demonstrate all of their skills, we would not normally recommend and Improvement Plan, as this would unduly penalize them for a natural and appropriate learning curve.

During the Evaluation Period

  • A fundamental component of successful evaluation is regular communication between the supervisor and the employee. Building work relationships is essential to achieving desired results. Regular two-way communication between the employee and supervisor helps build this relationship.
  • Brief discussions should take place whenever appropriate. Formal sessions should be scheduled at least once during the evaluation period, and preferably quarterly, to discuss what is going well and what can be improved.
  • Use these sessions to describe rather than evaluate performance. Inquire about any changes in the work situation since the previous discussion. Determine if there are any obstacles blocking success. Ask about resources that the employee may need to accomplish their objectives. Acknowledge accomplishments during this period. Discuss new priorities in the department so the employee can re-focus efforts, if appropriate. Modify plans in response to changes.
  • It is important for both parties (supervisor and employee) to maintain open communication in order to keep each other informed of work progress and work together to resolve problems when they occur. It is far better to resolve problems when they are small, before they become “disasters.”
  • A key principle that encourages employees to accept constructive criticism is to be “hard on the problem, and soft on the person.” The focus should be on correcting the problem or behavior, not on punishing the employee. The performance evaluation is an assessment of performance and should not be punitive. The performance evaluation should not be the place where the employee first hears about disciplinary action.
  • A useful motto for the performance appraisal should be “no surprises.” Through this approach, you can reduce the likelihood of the employee becoming emotional during the review.
  • Strive to provide continual feedback concerning expectations and performance. When things are going well discuss how and why this is so. When things are not going well discuss what needs to be done to make them right. When an employee is not doing things properly, get together and plan what needs to be done to correct the matter. If there is a performance gap, help the employee understand the cause and the action necessary for correction. Support plans for professional development.
  • By providing feedback on a continual and timely basis throughout the evaluation period, the supervisor establishes the groundwork for indicating that there is a performance problem.

Annual Review

  • Schedule a meeting with the employee. (Although a self-assessment is not required, including it may provide the employee with a greater sense of participation in the process.) During the meeting, review the evaluation and facilitate an open exchange of information concerning expectations and results. Resolve any disagreements on factual matters. Determine the reasons for different views relative to subjective assessments and resolve them if at all possible. Be open and make every effort to respond in a positive manner.
  • The annual review is a good time for the supervisor to review the position description with the employee and determine if the work described is current, or if the job duties have changed. The position description may need to be revised and a copy sent the Office of Human Resources. Analyze the issues and attempt to view them from both sides. Listen carefully to the employee and try to understand their perspective. Give the same attention you would expect from your own supervisor.
  • The performance appraisal is complete when the supervisor has determined-through paraphrasing and feedback, as well as nonverbal communication-that the content and issues have been successfully communicated, that concerns from both parties have been expressed, and that the employee understands and agrees to their goals and objectives for the upcoming period.