Performance Appraisal

How to Conduct Effective Performance Appraisals

Performance appraisals come in many shapes and sizes and go by various names (e.g, performance evaluations, employee evaluations, performance reviews). However, the core of any such program is an opportunity for a manager and an employee to meet and discuss organizational priorities, talk about current performance on the job, and set performance goals for the employee. Ideally, it will be an ongoing process—one in which both the manager and employee will participate.

Why Are Performance Evaluations Important?

Performance appraisals are important because:

  • Employees are often more engaged in their jobs—and, therefore, perform better—when they understand what is expected, how to achieve performance goals, and how their performance is tied to the success of the business.
  • Clear expectations and performance standards, along with achievable goals, will help increase retention and improve morale.
  • They provide a framework in which employers can apply uniform performance standards,
  • They allow employers to align the employee’s goals with the organization’s business objectives.
  • They serve as a medium in which employees can receive and give honest feedback
  •  They allow employees to see that their employer and supervisor care about their development. 

Employers must take care in developing and implementing a performance evaluation program. If an employment decision is ever challenged, the employer should be able to rely on performance evaluations to support its decisions. A manager’s inability to conduct a fair and honest assessment of an employee could come back to haunt an employer. Therefore, training supervisors and managers on how to conduct a well-prepared, effective appraisal is important. One key to performance appraisals is consistency—and training will help ensure that they are consistent.


In addition to being consistent, the reviews should:

  • Use objective, job-related data that support ratings.
  • Document both positive and negative accomplishments, using examples.
  • List specific ways for the employee to improve.
  • Include specific compliments for positive outcomes.
  • Focus on outcomes over which the employee has control.

Before the review even occurs, employees should be able to anticipate what will occur because managers should be giving regular feedback in between reviews. There should be no surprises at appraisal time. If there is a performance issue, the manager should address and document it as soon as possible.


Some common mistakes in appraisals include:

  • Limited focus. This happens when a supervisor focuses only on recent performance instead of evaluating the entire performance period. In addition, one positive or negative event shouldn’t overshadow all other performance during the review period.
  • Bias. This happens when the appraisal is influenced by the reviewer's own prejudices—such as race, national origin, gender, or appearance—or by non-job-related factors, such as personality, participation in employee after-work programs, or physical appearance. In addition, employers should be sure their programs comply with other laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994.
  • Too strict/too lenient. Some reviewers might believe the performance standards are too low and, therefore, refuse to give high ratings, while others insist on giving everyone a high score.
Performance Appraisal Resources to Help You

BLR has created dozens of resources to help HR professionals develop and implement and effective performance evaluation program. The resources include legal analysis, checklists, sample policies, and more.

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