What Is an Employee Performance Evaluation?

Employee performance evaluations, or performance reviews, are used by most employers as the most efficient and effective way to offer employees useful and constructive feedback on their performance in the workplace. Most managers struggle with the performance review drafting process, the words are hard to come by and deadlines are especially tight. Given these reasons, most performance reviews are not very effective tools for employees to truly receive the feedback needed to succeed in their roles. In fact, in a recent study, approximately 75% of junior employees have received performance reviews that have left them confused as to whether their managers told them what the manager actually thought about the employee’s performance. A similar percentage of workers felt that their employer’s performance review process was not robust enough and required some enhancements. It remains clear that in today’s job market, employee performance evaluations are disliked by managers and employees.

Performance management in which employers and employees participate yields an appropriate mindset that allows for both parties to accomplish the goals of a performance review. In addition, performance management allows organizations to get a jump start on doing effective performance evaluations. There are many good reasons employers and employees should be advocating for performance evaluations.

Performance reviews provide valuable opportunities for the employer to deliver constructive feedback to make certain that employees are performing to their best potential, which in turn will allow the organization to operate at its best.  During performance reviews, employers can deliver praise to employees for fulfilling their responsibilities in a commendable fashion. Employers can also provide guidance on areas of improvement while also discussing the employee’s future and their potential growth.

In an ideal scenario, both the employer and the employee will gain value from the performance review process.  By having a discussion that allows for reflection on positives and negatives, both parties will gain.  As such, performance reviews must be in-person conversations followed by the presentation of a written review document that explains to the employee those metrics and details most important to the employer and the employee’s progress.

Given the great value performance reviews have the potential of offering to both employers and employees, the performance management industry is continuing to evolve rapidly.  However, the manner in which employers continue to manage their employees has not changed.  Business leaders continue to rely on outdated management practices that have lost their effectiveness and could even pose a challenge to employee productivity.

Useful Phrases for Performance Reviews

The following are examples of some useful phrases to be used for effective performance reviews:

  • The employee has managed to achieve the highest level of performance while accomplishing all his/her objectives.
  • The employee’s specific accomplishments provide strong evidence of success and future growth.
  • The employee has executed the organization’s strategy while exceling in the development of programs.
  • The employee continues to execute on administrative matters and seeks to identify more effective and efficient procedures.
  • Information systems must be designed and developed.
  • Administrative support system must continue to evolve.
  • The employee is well organized, allowing the company to avoid duplication.
  • The employee is enthusiastic, diligent and a true problem solver.
  • The employee expertly employs sound coaching tactics to find a solution to disciplinary matters.
  • The employee could benefit from regular and routine coaching.
  • The employee collaborates well with other team members.
  • The employee is great at sharing ideas and techniques.
  • The employee makes a habit of holding employees accountable for their own projects.
  • The employee’s work product continually exceeds the company’s average output.
  • The employee is a valued contributor who is instrumental to the department’s success.
  • The employee contributes substantially to operation and organizational growth.
  • The employee consistently exceeds his/her job performance goals.

Where Employee Performance Evaluation Fits

In order for the employee performance evaluation process to be successful, the process must include aspects that touch on employee goal setting, regular and routine performance evaluations, required self-performance reviews, and employee recognition programs.  If this process is undertaken with great care and understanding, employees will understand the employer’s expectations and how their individual contributions fit within the larger organization. The more effective performance evaluation processes detail the goals that employee should accomplish. Performance evaluations should be used as communication tools to make certain that employers are effectively communicating with employees.

Goals of Employee Performance Evaluations

For employee performance evaluations to be executed effectively, there are certain goals that should be met.  The employer and employee must be clear with one another about the employer’s expectations for the employee’s goals as well as the desired output from the employee’s work product. As a result, the most effective performance evaluations include sections and language surrounding employee development opportunities as well as ways in which the employee can add to the improvements of the organization.  Like most goals, whether personal or professional, often it is most effect to write down your goals as it will bring you closer to accomplishment.

Goals or other deliverables expected of an employee in a performance evaluation should be negotiated between the employee and the manager so that both are committed to the goal of collectively achieving them. Personal development goals are written in a performance evaluation to further evidence the commitment the organization is willing to make to aid employees to grow their career. Another reason for reducing a performance evaluation to writing is to provide the employer with the required evidence to support the fact that an employee was involved with their employer in understanding all the job requirements and performance expectations.

When employers contemplate an employee’s performance evaluation they should be focusing on setting goals, providing performance feedback, and making sure that there is adequate documentation so that the employee clearly understands the employer’s expectations on work product and output. If an employee’s job performance is not meeting the employer’s standards, the employer could work with the employee to develop and document a performance improvement plan. A performance improvement plan will provide the employee with more detailed goals as well as establish a process for more frequent employee feedback. While the goal of a performance improvement plan is to get the employee back to performing at an acceptable level, continued non-performance by the employee may lead to the employer taking disciplinary action.

In certain instances, employers will resort to a ranking system to compare employee performance. This allows the employer to rate the performance of one employee versus another.  Employer’s will often go to great lengths to ensure that these ranking programs are fair and do not discriminate by establishing defined rating criteria, but in the end the rankings ultimately come down to the manager’s feedback as it relates to employee’s performance. The performance evaluation process aids employers in the event of an employee complaint to demonstrate that there has not been any discrimination in terms of recognition, promotion, or compensation.

While all the documentation included in a performance evaluation is important, documenting an employee’s successes and failures in terms of the goals set is an extremely important component of the evaluation.

Tips for Effective Performance Reviews

One of the keys to providing employees with a performance review is the principle that an employee should not be learning about a positive performance example or negative performance example for the very first time during a formal performance review. The most effective managers will have regular touchpoints with employees to discuss the positive and negatives as it relates to employment. If a manager adheres to this practice, the performance evaluation process should then aim to be simply a re-emphasis of the most critical points discussed with the employee throughout the year.

The employers aim to provide regular and routine feedback to ensure that performance reviews are not reduced to a tedious annual exercise. Employers are encouraged to meet with employees on a quarterly basis. In today’s market, performance evaluations and career development usually occur twice in a given calendar year, this is not as effective as more frequent evaluations.

While performance evaluation components can vary from company to company, it remains that most effective performance evaluations have goal setting as the first step in the process. This will allow an employee to know precisely where they need to be in terms of performance. By having periodic discussions with your employees about their job performance you can focus on the most significant aspect of the employee’s role.

Speaking with employees about their goals and performance is vital, but you must reduce this discussion to writing as it allows the employer and employee to see a shared picture of mutual goals and goes far in terms of allowing the employee to be best positioned for success.  Employers must also present a crystal-clear roadmap and methodology to how employees are evaluated in the performance evaluation process.  Take the time needed to describe clearly what is expected from the employee and explain the components of the performance evaluation process. Make it clear to the employee that he/she plays an important role in the process. Perhaps the performance evaluation will involve a self-evaluation, so you must fully understand the role of the self-evaluation in the performance evaluation process.

Sharing the results of the performance review with an employee is vital to the process. This way, the employer can ensure that there are no surprises for the employee and they will clearly understand the results and expectations. Take enough time to explain to the employee how the employer will continue to assess their performance. The employee should leave the performance review discussion with a clear understanding of all that is required of a fully performing employee.

How to Write a Good Performance Review

For a performance review to be effective it must be written in a manner that makes it beneficial for both the employer and employee. A performance review that balances positive and negative feedback as it relates to an employee’s work product is necessary to help employees evolve in their roles. However, to be effective, the provided feedback must provide specific examples that emphasize both the good and not so good aspects of the employee’s performance.

Once you have provided effective feedback, the performance review should lay out the employee’s performance goals for the current year and should also include talking points on the importance of the employee’s role as a collaborative member of the team. If an employer able, it’s also helpful to provide employees with the objective of the formal evaluation before process begins.  In addition, a good employer will also layout the methodology and frequency of the performance review process.

The most successful employers will address employee issues as soon as the issue arises, so that the employee is not only first made aware of such an issue during the performance review.  This is not to say that each employee behavior, whether positive or negative, doesn’t warrant swift feedback, an employee can choose to make a note and use as a reference point during the next scheduled discussion with the employee.

Employers in a performance review are often encouraged to try to create alternative solutions to the issues raised. Employees generally enjoy learning that their performance has improved and that the employer has noticed.  This allows the employee to continue to grow and demonstrates that the employer is interested in their improvement.

Many employers express frustration in the performance review process when employees do not play an active role and remain silent. Employers must make employees feel comfortable so that they are willing to participate and provide feedback at the issues raised. If an employer can encourage their employees by stating that they appreciate all they do for the company, this will give a boost to morale and lift the employee’s feelings of themselves.  Positive reinforcement can really aid a company as the employees will experience a boost in confidence and more likely perform better.

If you need help understanding employee performance evaluations, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.