A performance appraisal is the periodic assessment of an employee’s job performance as measured by the competency expectations set out by the organization.
The performance assessment often includes both the core competencies required by the organization and also the competencies specific to the employee’s job.
The appraiser, often a supervisor or manager, will provide the employee with constructive, actionable feedback based on the assessment. This in turn provides the employee with the direction needed to improve and develop in their job.
Based on the type of feedback, a performance appraisal is also an opportunity for the organization to recognize employee achievements and future potential.
The purpose of a performance appraisal is two-fold: It helps the organization to determine the value and productivity that employees contribute, and it also helps employees to develop in their own roles.
Employee assessments can make a difference in the performance of an organization. They provide insight into how employees are contributing and enable organizations to:
Performance appraisals are meant to provide a positive outcome for employees. The insights gained from assessing and discussing an employee’s performance can help:
Conducting a performance review with an employee requires skill and training on the part of the appraiser. The negative perception that is often associated with the performance appraisal is due in part to a feeling of being criticized during the process.
A performance appraisal is meant to be the complete opposite. Often, the culprit is in the way the appraisal is conducted via the use of language.
The way the sender of a message uses language determines how the other person interprets the message once received. This can include tone of voice, choice of words, or even body language.
Because a performance appraisal is meant to provide constructive feedback, it is crucial that appropriate language and behavior are used in the process.
Human Resources (HR) are the support system for managers and supervisors to be trained in tactfully handling the appraisal process.
Let’s take a look at one example of a Manager speaking to an employee during a performance appraisal. Below are three versions of the same example.
Compare the difference in language and behavior and how it can change the end-result:
“We can start the review by looking at how each project went for you this quarter. Does that sound OK?
First, every project you have worked on in the last four months has met the expected deadline and were all within their budgets. I see one project here was even early. They were all implemented successfully.
Well done. You have succeeded in the criteria expected of a Project Manager here at ABC Company.
Let’s take a look at a few areas where you might be able to develop your project management skills further.
In Project A, B, and C, a few team members expressed that they were unsure what to begin working on in the first few meetings and felt that they were engaging in their tasks a bit late.
When they tried to express this in later meetings, they felt there was hostility towards them. For upcoming Projects D, E, and F, is there anything that can be done to get team members up and running more quickly?
Could more detailed task planning be completed prior to the project kick-off?”
This example removes the errors from the first example and puts them in a more constructive light.
“Let’s talk about some of the problems.
You are never proactive when it comes to the start of a new project. Things are left too late and there are often complaints.
I have heard that your attitude has been less than positive during project meetings.
You seem to have things going on at home right now, but they shouldn’t be intruding on your work.”
This example is extreme, but it conveys most of the errors that can occur in a performance review.
“I wanted to talk to you today about your performance during the last quarter.
Looking at the completed project schedules and project debriefs here, I see that each of the five projects was kicked off late.
Team members reported having trouble getting the resources and information they needed to start and complete their tasks. Each project was delivered a week or more late and had considerable budget creep.
Project A was over by $7000. Project B was over by $9,000, for example. These budget overages were not authorized.
I think we really have potential to turn this around and I really want to see you succeed.
The role of Project Manager requires you to kick-off projects on-time, make sure your team members have the resources they need, and it’s crucial that any budget issues or delays are discussed with myself or the other Manager.
For the upcoming projects this month, I’d like you to draft a project plan one week prior to any project kick-off. We can go over it together and figure out where the gaps might be.
Did you have any suggestions on how you might be able to improve the punctuality of your projects or effectiveness of how they are run?”
This example deals with an employee who seems to be struggling. The appraiser unfortunately has a lot of negative feedback to work through, but has successfully done so using appropriate language, tone and examples:
“I don’t think we have too much to talk about today as everything seems just fine.
Your projects are always done on time and within budget. I’m sure you made the right decisions with your team to achieve all of that.
You and I definitely think alike when it comes to project management.
Keep up the great work.”
This example appears like a perfect performance appraisal, but it’s actually an example of how to inappropriate:
There are many ways an organization can conduct a performance appraisal, owing to the countless different methods and strategies available.
In addition, each organization may have their own unique philosophy making an impact on the way the performance assessment is designed and conducted.
A performance review is often done annually or semi-annually at the minimum, but some organizations do them more often.
There are some common and modern appraisal methods that many organizations gravitate towards, including:
In a self-evaluation assessment, employees first conduct their performance assessment on their own against a set list of criteria.
The pro is that the method helps employees prepare for their own performance assessment and it creates more dialogue in the official performance interview.
The con is that the process is subjective, and employees may struggle with either rating themselves too high or too low.
A Yes or No checklist is provided against a series of traits. If the supervisor believes the employee has exhibited a trait, a YES is ticked.
If they feel the employee has not exhibited the trait, a NO is ticked off. If they are unsure, it can be left blank.
The pro is the simplicity of the format and its focus on actual work-relate tasks and behaviors (ie. no generalizing).
The con is that there is no detailed analysis or detail on how the employee is actually doing, nor does it discuss goals.
This type of review includes not just the direct feedback from the manager and employee, but also from other team members and sources.
The review also includes character and leadership capabilities.
The pro is that it provides a bigger picture of an employee’s performance.
The con is that it runs the risk of taking in broad generalizations from outside sources who many not know how to provide constructive feedback.
A ratings scale is a common method of appraisal. It uses a set of pre-determined criteria that a manager uses to evaluate an employee against.
Each set of criteria is weighted so that a measured score can be calculated at the end of the review.
The pro is that the method can consider a wide variety of criteria, from specific job tasks to behavioral traits. The results can also be balanced thanks to the weighting system. This means that if an employee is not strong in a particularly minor area, it will not negatively impact the overall score.
The con of this method is the possible misunderstanding of what is a good result and what is a poor result; managers need to be clear in explaining the rating system.
This type of assessment is a newer method that is gaining in popularity. It involves the employee and manager agreeing to a set of attainable performance goals that the employee will strive to achieve over a given period of time.
At the next review period, the goals and how they have been met are reviewed, whilst new goals are created.
The pro of this method is that it creates dialogue between the employee and employer and is empowering in terms of personal career development.
The con is that it risks overlooking organizational performance competencies that should be considered.