Performance Appraisal Planning

There are two key elements which are essential to ensuring effective communication of performance appraisal planning expectations.  They are accurate and current position descriptions, and ongoing two-way communication between the supervisor and the staff member.

Performance Appraisal Planning: Position Descriptions

Performance Appraisal PlanningPosition descriptions form the foundation for several important areas of human resource management including:

  • Planning:  Position descriptions outline the responsibilities and objectives of a work unit to individual positions.  They can help managers pinpoint staffing gaps or identify over-staffing.  They are valuable in making decisions about realigning or changing organizational structures.
  • Recruiting and screening:  Accurate position descriptions provide the basic information about open positions which is required to make a good match between the candidate’s qualifications and the job’s demands.
  • Orientation:  Giving a newly hired staff member a position description to review, and then sitting down and discussing it together, serves as an introduction to the job and provides a framework for performance expectations.
  • Training and development:  Well-written position descriptions identify the education, experience, and skills required.  They can help staff members pinpoint their own growth areas, and help supervisors tailor appropriate training programs.
  • Career ladders:  Accurate position descriptions are a tool in developing upward mobility programs.  A study of position descriptions can reveal the relationships among certain jobs and the knowledge and skills needed to advance from one job to another.
  • Position classification:  Position descriptions make it possible to identify job elements, factors and levels, which in turn makes job classification easier.
  • Performance appraisal process:  Position descriptions provide the link between the job and appropriate performance expectations.  These performance expectations are a critical factor in evaluating staff members’ performance, determining merit pay increases and evaluating possible readiness for promotion.

A position description should give a clear picture of a position.  It should provide enough detail to accurately communicate the key responsibilities of the position. In deciding which duties and responsibilities will be delegated to individual positions, the supervisor should consider the overall design of the job and the skills and motivations of staff members.  Descriptions should be reviewed, by the staff member and supervisor, and revised as necessary prior to the start of the performance evaluation cycle.  Descriptions serve as the primary tool for building a common understanding of job responsibilities and as the starting point for developing performance objectives and standards.

The supervisor should encourage staff member input in the process to help build staff member commitment to the job and performance level.  The performance appraisal planning expectations (standards) for each of the functions/areas of responsibility should be realistic and measurable.

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Performance Appraisal Planning: Developing Goals/Objectives

Clear performance goals make the performance appraisal planning process much easier for both managers and staff members.  They enable supervisors to focus directly on job performance rather than personality.  Staff members and supervisors routinely develop informal performance expectations in answering the questions, “How do we know the job has been done right?” or “How do we measure success?”  Clarifying and communicating these standards by putting them in writing fosters mutual understanding and acceptance.

  • Identify the purpose(s) of the position. This (these) become(s) the performance goal.
  • Examine benefits to be gained, both by the organization and by the staff member.
  • Present the goal to the staff member, and then mutually write the development plan to attain the goal.
Writing the Development Plan
  • Write the goal statement to indicate what is to be attained and any skills to be developed by the staff member.
  • List the action plans to accomplish the goal: Steps to follow, Target dates and checkpoints for review.
Define how you will measure progress.

The method for measuring progress will vary depending on the type of assignment given. Assignments given to management or professional staff members usually require more general results-oriented measurements, while support staff may be more appropriately measured using factors that are concerned with both process and end product.

Performance Appraisal Planning: Definitions of Performance Appraisal Expectations

Performance appraisal planning definitions should be clear, brief, attainable, and measurable. They should be expressed in terms of:

  1. Quality – how well work must be done in terms of accuracy, appearance completeness, thoroughness, precision, and compliance with professional standards which may have been established for an occupation
  2. Quantity – how much work must be completed within a given time period.
  3. Timeliness – when, how soon, within what time period work must be done
  4. Effective use of Resources – assess the cost/benefits or use of resources such as money,  equipment personnel, time.
  5. Manner of Performance – describes specific behaviors that have an impact on outcomes such as cooperation and courtesy (sometimes inappropriately referred to as “attitude”)
  6. Method of Performing work – used if there are rules regarding the methods and  procedures which must be used to accomplish assignments

Performance Appraisal Planning: Avoid Unrealistic Goals

The following guidelines should be considered when writing performance goals with the staff member:

  • Use specific examples of behaviors and of the desired results.
  • Avoid using evaluative terms which do not describe behaviors and/or outcomes, such as “good work” and “bad attitude.”
  • Be wary of using terms such as “always” and “never.”  It may not be realistic to expect that a staff member will always perform perfectly and will never make a mistake.
  • Avoid using numbers in goals unless you actually intend to count the behavior (e.g. attendance, production quantities)
  • Consider the cost/benefit of gathering information about performance.  As with any other type of information – it costs time and money to gather and maintain.
  • Build performance goals which can identify performance above the base line of expected performance.  Staff members want to know how to receive a performance rating which is better than “meets expectations.”

Performance Appraisal Planning: Methods of Verifying Performance

These methods should be determined at the start of the evaluation period and discussed with the staff member.  These may include:

  • Direct observation
  • Reports of others’ observations
  • Written records such as attendance, financial, assignment logs, and status reports
  • Results in the form of tangible products

Performance Appraisal Planning: Record Performance Events

To develop a reliable record of events, it is recommended that the supervisor keep informal notes regarding specific performance events throughout the evaluation period.  The staff member should be informed in advance that samples of performance will be recorded.  Listed below are some performance appraisal planning guidelines to follow when recording events:

  • Record objective facts concerning actual performance as they occur
  • Record only job-related performance, rather than making evaluative statements describing an individual
  • Do not try to record every event; rather, select a representative sample of performance in key areas of responsibility
  • Cross validate reports from others
  • Record both positive and negative performance
  • Maintain records on all staff members – not just those that fall in the extremes