An employee performance appraisal is an exercise that combines both written and oral elements - whereby managers assess, coach, and provide feedback on employee job performance, including ways steps to enhance or redefine activities as required.

Documenting performance provides a basis for salary planning and promotions. Appraisals are also helpful to staff members in improving their performance and as a channel by through which they can be rewarded and recognized for any appreciable endeavors. Additionally, they can serve a variety of other causes, providing a platform from which companies can clarify and shape responsibilities in accordance with business trends, clear lines of management-employee communication, and instigate a reevaluation of potentially adverse business practices.  Yet, Joel Myers observes in Memphis Business Journal that ' in many organizations, performance appraisals only occur when management is building a case to terminate someone. It's no wonder that the result is a mutual dread of the performance evaluation session—something to be avoided, if at all possible. This is no way to manage and motivate people. Performance appraisal is supposed to be a developmental experience for the employee and a 'teaching moment' for the manager.'

So what exactly comprises a 'good' performance appraisal. In my personal experience working at a reputable Fortune 500 company, I found that the matrices used to appraise me were most effective, in that they not only encouraged me to perform better on my core job duties, but also to hone some core job competencies that would render me  easily adaptable to any other organization if I chose to switch jobs.  These matrices include:

  • Key Performance Indicators - reflective of core job productivity 
  • Standards of Performance - reflective of core job quality
  • Customer Orientation-  core job competency
  • Team Orientation- core job competency
  • Change Orientation - core job competency
  • Integrity - core job competency
  • Development Orientation - core job competency

Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators (also called KPIs) assess whether employees meet pre-defined goals during the appraisal period. An employee, for example, might carry out particular goals like completing an annual report, creating a new filing system, or learning a new software program. There may even be subjective goals such as improving attitude or time management and organizational skills. Key Performance Indicators, if measured numerically, can provide an accurate impression of how well or how poorly an employee in performing in his main job assignment. They allow a manager to establish a basis for taking corrective action, providing coaching, or in the case of satisfactory or exceedingly good results, making suggestions for what steps an employee can take to climb the career ladder. KPI's hence are the bases for direction an employee's career can take - should the indicators be satisfactory, he can forge ahead, if not, he'll need to come up to the benchmarks of performance expected of him. Continual lack of satisfactory key performance can lead to termination of employment.

Standards of Performance

While the main job duties of employees tell them what is to be done, their performance standards provide them with explicit performance expectations for each major task. These are the specific behaviors and actions which define how a job is to be carried out, as well as the outcomes that are expected for satisfactory job performance. They define to an employee what a job 'well done'  looks like. The objective of standards of performance is to set expectations. Some managers are inclined to be as precise as possible, while others use them as talking points with the specific criteria defined in the discussion. Bearing in mind that good performance generally entails more than technical adeptness. One should also expect certain behaviors or attitudes (courteousness, compassion, helpfulness, etc.). It is frequently these behaviors that determine whether performance is acceptable.

Standards of Employee Performance generally are:

  • Position, rather than individual based
  • Measurable, precise indicators of success
  • Determine 'fully satisfactory' performance once training has been completed
  • Defined in terms of quantity, quality, punctuality, cost, safety, and ultimate Outcomes  

Customer Orientation

An employee's Customer Orientation is the first of five core competencies that are critical for a role that he or she is employed in. This particular competency pertains to the employee's skills in identifying and responding to current as well as future customer needs, besides providing excellent services to both internal and external customers.

The behavioral indicators for a sound Customer Orientation include an employee's ability to work with internal and external customers to determine their expectations and shared business objectives, ensure the effective delivery of products or services to customers, identify and resolve customer problems rapidly and effectively, and build and establish ways to measures, track, and sustain a high level of customer satisfaction

Team Orientation

Simply stated, Team Orientation is about working cohesively together with a group of people in order to achieve a goal. Team work is frequently a critical part of a business, as it is often important for colleagues to work well together, trying their best in any given situation. Team orientation implies that people will try to cooperate, contributing their individual skills and providing constructive feedback, despite any personal conflict between individuals.

It has often been the case, that the only way a team can succeed in achieving any predefined objective without any serious issues is by each person demonstrating an attitude of humility while working with others. When working in groups of smart, competitive people, it may be easy to fall into the trap of case of 'too many cooks spoil the broth' and things may get frustrating very quickly as opinions clash and egos are bruised. Tempers can flare, meetings can get heated, however, none of this is healthy if a combined business objective is to be achieved in the larger interest of all. While individual personalities cannot be controlled, if employees were to practice humility and be more accommodating and receptive to others' view points, it is likely that there will be a more positive outcome and a  lasting impact will be left on all and how they perceive each other.

Change Orientation

Change Orientation implies that an employee is able to anticipate and concentrate on seeking more efficient methods of working, is willing to be challenged and challenge others, is open minded, and values diversity of opinion. He or she embraces innovation and new ideas, and is motivated to continually seek improvement on the job and in the workplace.

The positive indicators of an employee's Change Orientation are as follows:

  • Receptivity to new ideas and better ways of working; making suggestions for improvements, accepting change and demonstrating a positive attitude about new working methods. Additionally, the employee puts in significant time and energy to develop his or her skills and knowledge
  • Welcomes changes and new methods and takes positive steps to ensure that the changes bring the desired value to the organization through enhanced operational efficiency.
  • Instigates and drives through continuous improvement in the department working methods and additional services for the benefit of customers.
  • Leverages his knowledge and analysis to anticipate trends and adapt service provision and priorities accordingly. 
  • Creates an environment where change is looked upon as an opportunity for development and improvement.

The negative indicators of Change Orientation include:

  • Resistance to Change
  • Undermining Change
  • Reacting to change with anger and frustration
  • Accepting change critically

Integrity

Integrity in an Employee Appraisal context implies Professional Integrity, whereby an employee is willing to embrace and consistently apply the knowledge, skill, and values of a chosen profession to a specific organization. Integrity may be the most suitable word to ascribe to a person who willingly and consistently demonstrates the social standards and moral values of society. Professional integrity, thus defines the professional who adheres to the guidelines of the mission of a chosen profession or organization under the obligation of a code of ethics. 

Integrity is one of the fundamental qualities that employers look for in the employees that they hire. It is the hallmark of a person who displays strong moral and ethical principles at work.

A person who possesses integrity practices his or her values in interacting with coworkers, customers, and stakeholders. Honesty and trust are central to integrity. honesty and truthfulness are also the basic traits of a person with integrity.

People who demonstrate integrity draw others to them because they can be trusted and depended upon. They have sound principles and can be relied upon to act in honorable ways even when they are not being watched or supervised.

Development Orientation

One of the major objectives of performance appraisals is to provide employees with specific feedback and guidance to enable them to grow and develop. Without a development aspect, performance appraisals would be reduced to a function of a mirror, showing employees their performance but providing little or no help or guidance to do anything about it.

Employee Development is by no means a one-dimensional aspect. In order for a manager's feedback in this areas to have its intended influence, it needs to consider key elements of development and growth. The onus of development lies on both parties, the employer and the employee, where the latter needs to have a vision of where he desires to be in a given time frame and to converse with the manager about this vision and the tools he needs to have and the steps he needs to take to accomplish it. It then falls upon the manager to provide guidance and mentorship to the employee, and set certain bench marks to motivate the employee to work toward achieving his mission. Both, the manager and the employee need to talk in terms such as training, personal goals, career planning, seeking learning opportunities, building skills for negotiation and resolution,, and enhancing the employee's knowledge base. In short, development orientation implies that an employee is significantly responsible for his career development and needs to work closely with his or her manager in this particular area.

Conclusion

In concluding this article, one can shed light on an interesting phenomena about the from both employees and managers to performance appraisals. 

On the part of the employees, the majority of them likely feel that have no control in the situation. Their managers enjoy the liberty to rate and comment upon the various areas of performance that are rather subjective in nature. If an employee is in disagreement, he or she may get a small comments area to express their thoughts while being aware of the fact that if they are excessively critical, the person who has control over their future will still retain it.

Coming to the managers, they dread an appraisal discussion of the employee performance review, anticipating that the discussion will end up in a disgruntled show, with the manager having to convince the employee that that their rating are fair. It is not unusual for managers to assume that employees think that they perform better than they actually do.

So how can negativities associated with Performance Appraisals be resolved. The following tip may be worth considering prior to the appraisals scheduled to take place:

  • Set clear expectations and provide them on the first day of employment
  • Communicate constantly and provide regular feedback. Create a culture where performance discussions become a norm and review meetings are held at frequent intervals.
  • Ask first, inform later. Commence a performance discussion by asking the employee to rate their performance. Allow them to give examples of where they have met expectations or gone above and beyond in their work.
  • Refrain from completing the form until the discussion has taken place. Regularly monitor performance and have examples ready to discuss.
  • Waiting for annual meeting to discuss performance is losing a big chance to be effective with your feedback.