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Performance Appraisals 101

The Performance Appraisal

Like paying taxes and going to the dentist, conducting employee performance appraisals is unavoidable. Simply stated, a performance appraisal is an ongoing review and discussion of an employee’s performance over the previous period, and if used properly can be used to identify and reward talent, while poor performance can be singled out for remedial and corrective action. Employee performance appraisals are based on that worker’s skills at completing their job position rather than the result of any personal characteristics. The performance appraisal is instrumental in assuring career advancement for employees while guaranteeing that the company’s Mission Statement is fully addressed.

The Performance Appraisal Process

There are various types of performance appraisal methods that are geared towards documenting an employee’s progress review however, it should be noted that for optimum effectiveness, the review is conducted as a process rather than an event. Towards that end, when it comes to developing a performance appraisal, industry experts agree that such evaluations work more effectively if conducted in an ongoing fashion. While the performance appraisal process is used to document performance history and its use is instrumental as a benchmark for awarding compensation, the main goal of performance review methods is to provide performance feedback for both employee and employer. To ensure equity among all interviewed employees, using a performance appraisal template assures that all employees are reviewed on an even playing field.

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The Six-Part Process of Performance Evaluation Methods

While there are various types of performance appraisal methods, each should conform to the following six-step process for maximum effectiveness:

  • Performance planning—as they say, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Performance planning is the first step in achieving professional performance appraisal methods with examples that are universally applied to each employee. This planning is designed to establish guidelines and clarify expectations for the staff member. Needless to say, if a worker is unversed as to the company’s expectations, they can hardly be expected to perform up to management’s standards.
  • Performance management—as mentioned, when managers and supervisors conduct performance appraisals on an ongoing basis, the value to both the employer and employee is heightened. As such, team leaders provide feedback to employees as the team moves forward and complete its goals.
  • Performance assessment—prior to conducting an employee performance assessment, the supervisor should gather the material needed to conduct such an appraisal. For instance, any documentation that has been compiled, such as customer or supervisory praises, should be reviewed and balanced against any negative notations to glean an overall sense of the employee’s work since the previous review. This illustrates the advantages of an ongoing performance dialog rather than a one-off, annual affair.
  • Performance review—is the formal session when the supervisor and employee sit down to discuss the latter’s performance since the previous review process. A two-part meeting, the beginning session is used to review the formalized assessment, and the second part of the session will be used to set goals and standards for the next review meeting.
  • Deliver information clearly—remembering that the primary purpose of a performance process is the facilitation of information, regardless of the performance appraisals methods of advantages and disadvantages, the information should be discussed clearly and succinctly so as to leave no doubt as to expectations.
  • Importance of Feedback—the ending of a performance appraisal process signals the beginning of the next review cycle, and the meeting should end on a note of encouragement. Building up employee skills and confidence is an instrumental task of the manager, so the formal performance meeting is an excellent place to begin that positive process.

Performance Appraisal Form

The performance appraisal form provides consistency in evaluating employee performance. This consistency offers the most efficient and fair way of dealing with employee evaluations, which are aimed solely at evaluating the work product of the employee rather than any personal characteristics, serves to level the playing field against any unintended bias.

The typical employee evaluation form contains important information from the last evaluation period, a look at current performance efforts, and a section for goal setting that leads into the next performance appraisal cycle. Additionally, the performance review form provides an evaluation criterion that is clearly spelled out, so the employee is fully cognizant of each expectation and empowered to meet each of those conditions.

Supervisors utilizing a performance appraisal form ward against common appraiser errors that skew an evaluation in one direction or another. Frequent errors that are eliminated with a performance appraisal form include:

  • Halo Effect—occurs when a supervisor rates an employee with the highest marks regardless of their actual job performance. Generally, these appraisers have a hard time asking pointed questions of their employees, so the performance evaluation form takes the onus off the supervisor to be harsh.
  • Horn Effect—is the opposite if the halo effect and will negatively impact an employee’s evaluation. The horn effect manifests itself as the tendency to rank low producing employees in all categories regardless of the staff member’s overall performance.
  • Recency—the old adage, “what have you done for me lately?” comes into play with an evaluation that is based on an employee’s most recent efforts rather than a look at their work throughout the performance appraisal period.

Performance Appraisal Wording

Striking the proper tone is important for supervisors looking to guide their staff members into the next performance appraisal cycle. Best described as a balancing act, the appraiser needs to be able to present criticism and praise in equal measure, should the employee’s performance indicate that need, and do so with the company’s larger goals in mind. As such, selecting the correct performance appraisal wording is a critical aspect of the successful meeting. Essentially an exercise in chastising and encouraging at the same time,

The Performance Appraisal: Direct, Succinct, and Specific

When it comes to writing performance appraisal, the supervisor owes it to the employee and the company to be direct, succinct, and specific in their wording. At no time should the employee feel ambiguous about an entry in their performance appraisal form. The written word is a concrete record that leaves an indelible impression on the employee, and that is what makes the performance appraisal process such a powerful tool in career development and reaching of the organization’s goals.

When crafting the words used on a performance appraisal form, the appraiser is well to remember the power behind each of those phrases. Towards that end, many supervisors look to writing performance appraisal examples to glean appropriate performance appraisal sample wording. These performance review examples provide a clear framework in which supervisors can structure their evaluation whether the evaluation is overwhelmingly positive or negative.

Positive Reinforcement

Unless the employee is a shambling train wreck of a worker, there are positive things that can be said of any employee’s performance, and when seen in black-and-white, those words have a galvanizing effect on their future performance. Couching these successes in terms of how they advanced the company’s goals serves to link the employee with the firm’s success while celebrating the employee’s role in reaching those plateaus.

More than simply slapping the employee on the back, the review should highlight those characteristics of the employee that led to the success. For instance, if teamwork was instrumental in reaching the aforementioned goal, the entry when writing a performance review might note the successful employee’s ability to focus workflow to maximize the team’s overall effectiveness.

Negative Feedback

Unfortunately, occasionally that shambling train wreck of an employee does indeed pull into the station for their performance appraisal review, and the appraiser is advised to prepare for that meeting by drafting performance appraisal questions aimed at getting to the heart of the employee’s poor performance.

Regardless of the uncomfortable aspects of such a meeting, the supervisor owes it to both the company and the employee to be direct and concise in their complaints. Each complaint, however, should be balanced out with actionable goals that, if followed, will guide the employee towards a more productive career path. During each step of the review process, the supervisor should ensure that the employee understands each deficit and corrective measure that is outlined in the brief.

Verbal Follow-up to Performance Appraisal Questions

Using the performance appraisal form as a framework, the appraiser is free to follow-up with verbal clarification, as needed, without the fear of losing control of the meeting and forgetting the goal of transmission of actionable information to the employee. Rather than an onerous task that is to be dreaded, the performance appraisal process becomes a productive tool to reach company goals and develop career talent within the ranks.

Performance Appraisal Phrases

Needless to say, if the appraiser’s staff is comprised of only two hard-working members, finding the words to describe their successes and faults is relatively easy. That being said, however, if the supervisor has a large workforce that they are responsible for, attempting to fill out numerous performance appraisal forms will quickly have them diving for the thesaurus in an attempt to find performance review phrases that don’t trip over each other for their frequency of use.

Whether performance appraisal phrases are negative or positive, they quickly lose their impact when repeated Ad nauseum throughout the document. Words that support and guide are more valuable than those that condemn when it comes to performance appraisal phrases for quality of work.

Writing performance appraisal comments is easy with a little guidance, however. By utilizing a performance appraisal sample, supervisors can write performance review comments that are meaningful, actionable, and fresh throughout the document.

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Finding the Right Phrase is Easy with Performance Appraisal Sample Comments

Face it, having a reservoir of effective phrases at the supervisor’s disposal when drafting performance appraisal forms is both time-effective and efficient. There is no reason that a supervisor needs to figure out fourteen different ways to record that the employee is “punctual.” With the ready availability of proven performance appraisal examples comments, they do not have to.

Acceptable phrasing is the key to effective communication. Drawing from time-tested performance appraisal sample comments is an excellent tool to ensure that the message gets across to the employee in a constructive fashion without appearing dry, canned, and uninspiring.

Acceptable Phrasing for Maximum Communication

Rather than reaching for those old dusty words like “good,” or “excellent” in the performance appraisal meeting, the supervisor should select action-orientated words that have more value and meaning. Towards that end, words like grasps, excels, generates, exhibits, directs, and achieves are far more capable of delivering measurable information to the employee. Use of these types of power words is the difference between flying over a city and exploring its neighborhoods. The employee leaves the meeting with a firm understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their performance during the last appraisal cycle.

To facilitate the flow of information, the employee is encouraged to ask questions throughout the interview with an eye towards a thorough understanding of the work habits that led to success, and which habits are holding back their professional development.

The Self-Performance Appraisal

Nobody likes to be placed under the microscope of inquiry, particularly when the one looking through the microscope is his or her employer. With a lot riding on the outcome of these reviews it’s natural to be nervous, but employees who look at these exercises as an opportunity to develop professionally are the most likely to benefit the most from the effort. Like all aspects of a professional career, for the absolute best outcomes, employee participants should perform due diligence and come to the meeting ready to be actively engaged in the process. Not only will this effort keep their minds off their nervousness, their supervisors will leave the meeting impressed with their level of commitment. As such, the performance appraisal meeting need not be the gut-wrenching exercise that many make it out to be when whispering around the water cooler.[/vc_column_text]

Just Another Day at the Office

The day of the performance appraisal evaluation is really just another day at the office. Indeed, the whole purpose of the review is to look at the cumulative effort of the employee over the past performance cycle to determine ongoing professional goals and responsibilities. Since the meeting is a measure of the performance over the last appraisal cycle, the employee has been building up to this meeting each day they sit down at their desks.

Reviewing self-performance appraisal examples, the nervous employee can anticipate the process by proactively engaging in the conversation to use it as a development tool. Performance appraisal employee comments illustrate that the staff member is taking this opportunity seriously. By anticipating performance review answers, the employee can demonstrate through their performance evaluation answers that they are aware of areas of professional success and failures. Understanding that each day of their career during the last performance cycle has been building up to this meeting, employees can relax knowing that they have done their homework when it comes to preparing for the meeting.

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