Effective Performance Appraisals Part 2


Performance Appraisal Complaints

Common complaints about performance appraisals are that they take too much time, are not consistently applied, do not drive desired results, or don’t add sufficient value.

The following guidelines will help improve the performance appraisal process and eliminate bad appraisal habits:

Clearly defined expectations

(set at the beginning of the appraisal period)

There are two main ways to measure performance: 

1) Establish predefined competencies or work requirements and compare the employee against these criteria. 

2) Establish measurable goals with the employee and check to see if the goals were accomplished.

    • Define and communicate performance standards, goals, and expectations ahead of time.
    • Communicate how employees’ goals and desired behaviors align with business objectives. Show employees how what they do impacts strategy and the customer (Line of sight).
    • Management by objectives (MBO) works well for management and most professional positions. With this process, objectives are jointly defined that if accomplished, demonstrate that the employee has met expectations.  Make sure objectives are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound.
    • Clarify what your department produces. How does it add value for the company and customer (internal and external)?
    • Define how you will measure your department’s successor keep score. Also, define how each employee or various teams will contribute to department results.  Define how you will communicate performance feedback or the score for the company, department and individuals.  How can they check their own performance?
    • Define what behaviors are needed, how you will communicate these expectations and how they will be reinforced.
    • Write and update accurate job descriptions that define the purpose for the job, responsibilities and duties, along with needed knowledge, skills and abilities for each position under your direction. Make sure employees receive a copy early in their career and are informed whenever there are changes.  It is good to update these at least annually.
    • Let employees know ahead of time how their performance will be appraised. Show them the tool and answer any questions.


It is helpful for organizations and each department to define a mission or purpose for existence. This provides everyone with a common vision of expectations with the performance appraisal.

    • Each year, define new company objectives that achieve the purpose and business strategy.
    • Each department should develop objectives that align with the overall company’s objectives and their specific function. A useful technique is to have the President set his or her objectives to accomplish the overall company objectives.  Next, have each department leader set objectives related to their function that support the achievement of the President’s objectives.  These further rolls out with department leaders, asking each employee to set objectives designed to achieve the department’s objectives and each employee’s function.  This process helps align individual performance objectives with the overall business helping execute business strategy.
    • When possible, involve employees in things that affect them. This helps them be more committed to any needed changes and feel that they are part of something important.  If you can’t involve them in what you want them to do, involve them in how they will do it.
    • Define resource requirements and make sure your employees have the help, budget, training and people needed to get their jobs done.
    • Look for methods to continually make improvements in your department. Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) – is an approach to help leaders plan, execute and revise departmental practices.
      • Plan – Department plans a project or work method
      • Do – Team or individual does the project tasks
      • Check – Analyze the results
      • Act – Either standardize or begin the cycle of improvement again with new information


    • Be clear about what you want from others.
    • Let your staff know how they’re doing.
    • Avoid generalities. Be specific in details and examples when giving both positive and constructive feedback.
    • Praise and reward employees on a regular basis.
    • Provide positive and constructive feedback when things happen. A good rule of thumb is any time you are surprised, give feedback.
    • Check for understanding by asking questions and listening.
    • Score – Keep track of employee performance on a regular basis similar to a sports game like basketball. What are the statistics for each of your players?  You need this information to help coach them.  They need the information to get better and keep engaged.
    • Hold regular weekly or monthly discussions to keep involved in what employees are doing.
    • Documentation (who, did what and when) – facts dealing with expectations and observed results. Keep a file on each employee where you enter positive and constructive observations and discussions.
    • Be consistent and fair. Never play favorites.
    • Know what’s going on. Manage by walking around and being physically present when possible.
    • Be upbeat and positive.

Author: Ken Spencer, President and CEO, HR Service, Inc.

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