Performance Appraisal: Making Employee Performance Ratings Work

employee performance

Are you required, as part of performance appraisal process, to evaluate employee performance against a rating system? Do you find evaluating and rating employee performance errrr a bit of a challenge???

I’ve trained and coached hundreds of managers in how to make their performance appraisal system work, and one of the most challenging aspects for many managers is rating employee performance (for, I guess, fairly obvious reasons!)

Of course there are the ‘pros and cons’ of rating systems, but putting those aside, if the appraisal system in your organisation requires you to rate your employee’s performance then (obvious statement alert) you need to know how to rate their performance fairly, objectively and accurately. Here are 5 tips for making employee performance ratings work

1. Get clarity on what you are rating employee performance against

It is impossible to fairly, objectively and accurately rate employee performance unless you and your employee have clear agreement on what effective performance in the job looks like. A typical performance rating is ‘Fully Satisfactory’ meaning ‘the employee has performed to the standards required’. One of the most effective ways of describing what ‘standards required’ means is by using performance objectives. Why? Simply because performance objectives are written descriptions of what effective performance in the job looks like so, in effect, they describe the ‘standards required’

(Read more on performance objectives here)

2. Gather enough evidence of actual employee performance

We monitor performance against performance objectives in order to improve employee performance and to enable us to give effective performance feedback to our employees. Effective monitoring also provides us managers with the ‘evidence’ (samples and examples of actual performance) we need in order to rate employee performance

We need to ensure they:

• collect enough evidence

• collect balanced evidence – evidence of performance across the whole job

(You can see a planned approach to collecting evidence, using monitoring methods, in this Example Monitoring Plan)

3. Interpret the evidence objectively

Managers need to interpret the evidence of performance they have collected through applying monitoring methods. This step is about ensuring objectivity

Questions for you to consider are:

• Is the evidence complete?

• Has anything beyond the employee’s control prevented them from meeting the performance objectives or standards?

• Are there any additional factors I need to consider?

4. Apply the rating criteria accurately

Most performance appraisal rating systems detail the criteria for meeting the ratings. For example;

‘Exceptional Performance’: Overall the staff member has delivered significantly more than the defined requirements of the job and has done consistently and measurably better than his/her objectives demand’

It’s important that managers fully understand the criteria as laid out (and I’ve met many managers who don’t). If we are unclear they need to know where to go to get advice

5. Involve the employee

In the same way that we would help our employee prepare for the appraisal meeting we need to help employees to assess their performance against the performance ratings (possibly using points 1. to 4. above). This means that during the appraisal meeting the manager and the employee can agree the relevant performance rating, using accurate evidence

Employee Performance Ratings Summary

Performance ratings are probably the most contentious element of the appraisal system. Using the steps above can help to ensure managers, and employees, ratings of their performance are fair, objective and accurate

I guess you don’t need me to underline the importance and use of performance objectives in evaluating and rating performance? In my video ‘Motivating Your Staff with Powerful Performance Objectives’ I teach managers how to write objectives, how to communicate those objectives and how to gain their staff’s commitment to achieving those objectives. Take a look at the video details and find out how to watch a preview session from the video HERE


management trainingJoan Henshaw is the author of the ’10 Minute Management’ series of books and videos. Read about these practical, step-by-step guides HERE and videos HERE

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