Your First-Aid Kit for Performance Management Pain Part 2: Quality of Appraisals & Feedback

first-aidA few weeks back, we announced the Top 5 Performance management headaches according to a recent survey we conducted.

Just to recap, the top five were:

  1. Timely submissions of appraisals.
  2. Quality of reviews & feedback.
  3. Consistency in performance ratings.
  4. Alignment of organizational & team goals with employee performance.
  5. Engaging managers & employees in ongoing performance management.

These are extremely common and valid pains in HR’s you-know-what – so we decided to create dedicated posts to share some solutions we have come up with over the years to address these issues.

We posted the first already (Your First-Aid Kit for Performance Management Pain Part 1: Timely Submission of Appraisals) and now it’s time to tackle pain #2.

Performance Management Pain #2 – Quality of Reviews and Feedback

This headache is so big that it can be broken down into two separate topics: 1) the quality of appraisal formats/content, and 2) the quality of final feedback and comments provided in the appraisal. Each is worth discussing and we have some great tips to address both of them!

1. Quality of Reviews

If employees and managers do not see the value of appraisals, they are less likely to put effort and thought into completing them. It is important that the appraisal process, forms, content and expectations are relevant to employees and reflect the values and culture of the company. Appraisals are meant to help the organization to reach its goals and should be conceived with that in mind.

 So how does HR tackle improving the quality of its appraisal forms? Here are a few places to start:

  • Ask! Ask employees and managers what they think of the current reviews and use that feedback to make appraisal forms as relevant as possible.
  • Trim: We are big believers that simple is always better. Analyze your appraisal content and format and ensure that only the most relevant and necessary items are included. This means allowing employees to see only the goals and skills that are relevant to their team and roles, and condensing the content into as few sections as needed. This keeps the content spot on for employees and avoids the likelihood of managers becoming worn out when they are completing the forms.
  • Centralize: Nothing is worse than multiple versions of appraisal forms being circulated and used throughout the organization. It is important that everyone follows a relatively similar format so appraisals are consistent throughout the company. Once appraisal formats are established, master copies should be centralized for use either on a company intranet, portal, or in a performance management system like emPerform.

Be sure to check out this great resource for determining which appraisal types exist and the benefits of each: Which Performance Appraisal Style Suits Your Organization?

 2. Quality of Feedback

There is something very official about feedback added to performance reviews. These comments justify ratings, summarize observations, provide coaching, and often suggest improvements. Feedback can be extremely tough – to give and to get. Either managers are scared to provide honest feedback, or they don’t take the time needed to construct helpful feedback based on behavior.

Getting managers and employees to provide honest, helpful and effective comments and feedback in performance appraisals is much easier when they have a little assistance. Comment samples and writing assistant tools are extremely helpful. When you define your content or ratings, consider fleshing out sample comments for each rating. Then send these along to managers and/or employees with the performance reviews so they have somewhere to start with their comments.


Example of Writing Assistant Comments for a common job competency and rating scale:

Description Someone who holds him or herself and colleagues accountable to a high standard of performance and professionalism, and who works to achieve positive company results in an timely, ethical, and effective manner.
Observable Behavior Determines objectives, seeks advice when needed, assigns priorities and delegates work. Monitors progress of goals to ensure projects are completed. Accepts responsibility for failures and mistakes and conforms to established rule systems.
Outstanding Frequently delivers work early. Generates enthusiasm among colleagues for the completion of group objectives.  Commits to exceeding clients’ and the organizations’ expectations for quality, service, and professionalism and encourages colleagues to do the same. Helps to redefine strategic areas of responsibility and performance within the organization and influences colleagues to follow a more effective system.
Exceeds Expectations Always submits projects on time. Follows through on commitments to others. Consistently meets clients’ and the organization’s expectations for quality, service, and professionalism. Sets enhanced objectives and goals for self and others and follows through on own initiative.
Meets Expectations Submits projects in a timely manner. Works with others to complete established objectives. Presents a calm and professional image to the client and organization. Sets personal goals and objectives that meet the needs of the organization and maintains responsibility for achieving these objectives.
Needs Improvement Has missed some project deadlines. Is less willing to commit effort to the needs of others’ goals. Compromises on work quality to meet due dates. Lacks awareness of the required standard for projects and professionalism or does not hold self accountable for achievement of objectives.
Unacceptable Consistently late on project deadlines. Defers responsibility regarding commitments to others. Produces work or behaves in a manner that does not meet the organization’s expectations for quality, service, and professionalism. Does not set achievable goals for self or others; blames others for own failures to achieve these goals.
Ways to Improve Set achievable goals and then follow through. Ask questions and provide feedback to clarify mutual expectations. Seek advice on tasks to ensure your work conforms to the organizational standard.

Here are some other dynamite resources for helping managers increase the quality of performance feedback:

If you would like to learn about emPerform’s built-in Writing Assistant tool and library of sample content, contact us.

emPerform Writing Assistant
emPerform’s helpful writing assistant provides users with a detailed overview of the behaviors for each competency or goal and suggests comments.