Performance Evaluations

What are performance evaluations?

A performance evaluation is an annual review of an employee’s work performance over the past year. Supervisors and employees participate equally in the review, both taking time to evaluate and document how the employee’s performance has compared to core job standards and expectations. The performance evaluation provides a structured opportunity for supervisors to acknowledge employees’ successes as well as give constructive feedback for areas of improvement. During each annual review, employee and supervisor partner together to set next year’s goals and objectives as well as a professional development plan to build upon the employee’s skills, which ultimately helps strengthen the organization. Setting up a performance evaluation system keeps employees engaged and motivated, as they know that their efforts will be recognized and gain understanding of how their daily responsibilities contribute to achieving the organization’s mission. Additionally, performance evaluations provide objective documentation to help legally support any raises, promotions, demotions, or terminations.

What are the major goals of performance evaluation?

  • Objectively evaluate and discuss employee job performance.
  • Discuss accomplishments and areas for improvement.
  • Set goals for future professional development.
  • Establish next year’s objectives for contributing to the organization’s mission.
  • Discuss expectations for achieving goals and standard job performance.

What are the benefits of performance evaluations?

Supervisors, employees, and the overall organization equally benefit from performance evaluations, some of which include:

Benefits to supervisors

  • Employees are clear about their responsibilities and expectations and are better prepared to perform well.
  • Builds trusting relationship with employee because employee knows work is valued and will be rewarded.
  • Supervisors are able to support employees on improving problem areas before they impact the organization.
  • Supervisors can objectively support decisions to award or not award raises or promotions.
  • Supervisors gain understanding about employee’s potential for greater responsibility and how they can better support work of supervisor.

Benefits to employees

  • Employees are clear about their responsibilities and expectations and are better prepared to perform well.
  • Employees remain motivated through positive feedback and knowledge that efforts will be rewarded.
  • Employees gain opportunities to continue to develop relevant and desired professional skills.
  • Employees find meaning in their work by understanding how their job supports the overall mission.
  • Employees feel comfortable with supervisors and trust their leadership, helping them stay more engaged.

Benefits to organization

  • Increased retention and appropriate promotion of valuable employees, as well as support for terminating non-contributing employees to ensure organization has strong staff to accomplish mission.
  • Highlights tasks or areas of responsibility that are no longer relevant, helping grow organizational efficiency.
  • Helps to legally protect organization’s decisions regarding employee status.
  • A highly motivated, engaged staff fosters a more collaborative environment and potential for innovation.
  • Work remains focused on accomplishing organization’s mission and vision.

How to draft a performance review system?

Performance evaluations consist of a standard review form that is then discussed in the formal annual meeting. Performance evaluation forms can be tailored to fit the needs of the organization both in time available to complete the reviews as well as how the organization prefers to provide feedback to employees. First, though, it is important that there exists a baseline for all performance reviews, meaning that all employees know and understand their annual program goals as well as the standard job requirements.

The way an employee is evaluated and given feedback can include a mere numerical ranking of each objective and core competency and/or a description of the performance, accomplishments, and areas for improvement. It is also helpful to include sections for setting next year’s performance goals and professional development plans. The form should also include a final signature page, which both the supervisor and employee should sign to confirm that each understands and agrees upon the contents within.

A common practice is to require a supervisor to give at least a brief explanation if employee is marked as performing below expectations.

Sample evaluation forms:

Setting core job standards and examples of what each level means

A common aspect for all performance reviews are the core standards against which each employee will be evaluated. Job standards, also known as “competencies,” can be specifically task-oriented or include soft skills such as team work, communication, and ability to problem solve. In the example form linked above the core job standards are a combination of the two types of competencies, for the purpose of reducing the amount of time needed to complete the review.

It is helpful to base job standards and objectives on behaviors or tasks directly related to employee’s job and on the overall values of the organization. Once core standards are finalized, each standard should be explained in further detail to outline what qualifies as unacceptable, acceptable, and outstanding performance.

What kind of training do individuals need?

To first implement a performance evaluation system within an organization it is often helpful to create a training for all employees that sets expectations, clarifies process, and outlines best practices for completing the evaluations. Trainings can be written in the form of manuals and also made into an interactive webinar.

It is also helpful to clearly define the yearly timeline for how and when performance evaluations should be executed. Some organizations may choose to coordinate performance evaluations with the creation of the next year’s budget in order to adjust for any increases in employee salary.

Preparing for the review

Approximately one month before the scheduled annual review meeting, the supervisor and employee should each fill out a performance evaluation form. An optional step would have the supervisor and employee exchange completed forms one week before the meeting.

It is helpful to meet somewhat regularly with employees throughout the year so that employees are aware of their progress and nothing comes as a surprise during the formal review.

During the review

During the review meeting, which should last approximately one hour, go through the entire performance evaluation with employee. Ask the employee for their thoughts about their performance as well as provide your own assessment. If an employee has specific areas for improvement, it is helpful to go through each area one at a time, working on a strategy on how to improve, before you move forward.

During the last quarter of the meeting take time to collaborate with employee to finalize next year’s goals and performance expectations. These include annual objectives, core job standards, and professional development goals. Also note any major changes in job description or level of professional responsibility.

At the conclusion of the meeting, both the supervisor and employee sign the finalized performance evaluation, confirming that both parties agree on the contents within.