How to Plan & Conduct a Productive Performance Appraisal

by Kenya Lucas
Design and deliver performance appraisals to evaluate and boost employees' productivity levels.

Design and deliver performance appraisals to evaluate and boost employees' productivity levels.

Performance appraisals are invaluable tools. They allow you to link employees’ day-to-day activities to measurable results. Whether you identify high, average or low performers, the knowledge you gain will help you better manage staff – building on their talents and developing skills wherever necessary. Appraisals will also serve as a motivational tool and broaden each worker’s perspective on what your organization values. During the planning process, have a holistic view of job functions and be clear about the areas you need to evaluate. As you conduct a performance appraisal, choose competency ratings that best reflect reality (despite your personal feelings). Also be sure to include open-ended questions to add rich context to your assessments.

Defining Job Functions

The appraisal should include a formal job description. List identifying information such as the employee’s title, the position she reports to and her department. It is also important to include the education that is required, as well as special licenses and certifications. Skills or experience that are needed to conduct the job should also appear in this section. It is appropriate to outline any physical demands. For example: The staff member is expected to occasionally lift or move up to 25 pounds; visual requirements include close, distance, peripheral and color vision along with depth perception. Also state reasonable accommodations your company provides to support disabled individuals.

Choosing Areas to Evaluate

As you plan the appraisal, select job parameters that you want to evaluate. Decide what type of appraisal you will conduct (e.g., probationary, annual or promotional). In addition, determine the appraisal period. It is essential to develop an appraisal key. Nominal categories are best such as: Exceeds (1), Meets (2), Does Not Meet (3) and Not Applicable (N/A). List major areas of responsibility in a table as section headers, detail responsibilities as rows and add columns that reflect your appraisal key scores. For example, a major area is "Organizational/Managerial," with a detailed responsibility as "manages time and other resources to achieve established goals within agreed time frames."

Rating Competencies

You will next gather and review performance data to rate competencies. This is a challenging process for most managers. On one hand, it is difficult to check discrete boxes when employee performance is such a dynamic process. Even if you have a clear sense of where a worker falls, there will be cases where your honesty might translate into offense. It is important to remember that a major goal of performance appraisal is to improve the quality of work. As you verbally communicate findings, do not hesitate to express to the employee that your ultimate aim is to both recognize her strengths and encourage her professional growth. When in doubt, ask a trusted colleague with a close working relationship with your employee to also rate competencies. This will help you to hone in on any assessments that are skewed.

Dealing with Open-Ended Questions

Appraisals should provide as much insight into employee performance as possible. Open-ended questions make it possible to provide narrative responses that elaborate on your ratings. What are your employee’s major strengths, skills and abilities? What accomplishments or new abilities has she demonstrated since her last review? Open-ended questions also allow you to propose solutions. What are specific areas of performance that need improvement? What are professional goals to achieve for the next evaluation period? Allow the staff person to respond to the entirety of the performance appraisal before concluding. Together, your signatures will acknowledge that the appraisal has been received and witnessed.

About the Author

Kenya Lucas has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in “Anthropology & Medicine,” “New Directions for Evaluation,” “Psychology of Women Quarterly” and “Journal of the Grant Professionals Association.” She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Brown University.

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