How to evaluate employee performance

May 26, 2022
min read

Feedback is everything – and a workplace where feedback is encouraged and celebrated is a strong indicator of professional growth for employees and a great place to work. 

Regular employee evaluations help employees better understand what is expected of them, gives them proper recognition for their contributions, and ultimately allows them to progress in their career. Thoughtful, constructive feedback is key, and we’re breaking down how to do it in this blog. 

What is a performance evaluation?

An employee performance review, also known as a performance evaluation or appraisal, is a formal evaluation of an employee’s work in a given time period. In a performance review, managers evaluate the employee’s overall performance, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and offer them feedback to help them set goals and improve.

Why is it so important?

Performance evaluations serve a number of purposes that shape individual performance and overall company culture. Simply put, your people can’t do great work individually or together without being recognized for their contributions, knowing what’s expected of them, and understanding how they can grow at your company. Feedback keeps us motivated and without checking in and prioritizing your employees’ growth, you’re risking a healthy workforce and the overall success of your business.

How to effectively deliver one: a checklist

To effectively evaluate your people formally, you’ll need to have some sort of standard evaluation framework in place. Here’s a step-by-step guide: 

Set clear performance standards

For every employee who holds the same position, it’s important you set clear performance standards of what is expected to be accomplished in that role. Standards should be achievable and directly relate back to the job description. 

Have specific, attainable goals

Unlike performance standards which apply to multiple workers in the same position, you should also work with the employee to set goals that are specific to them and what they wish to accomplish in a given time period. Goals are relevant to the strengths and weaknesses of the individual employee and can help them improve their current skills or develop new ones. 

Create a performance profile

Having a clear idea of the “must have” qualities and characteristics you require for a role is the first step in hiring and retaining top talent. While performance reviews should have a standard structure, meaning other employees in the same role and level are assessed the same way, standardized job descriptions can be extremely ineffective in holding onto the right people. Instead, you should create a performance profile that consists of specific objectives that the employee should be able to successfully complete in different stages of their growth. 

Prepare for the meeting ahead of time

Performance reviews are pivotal milestones in the development of your people, so it’s important they are taken seriously and properly prepared for ahead of time. Review your documentation and make note of discussion points to guide your conversation. And remember, focus on positive elements of the employee’s performance with feedback on how to improve weak points. 

Be transparent with criticism

When you do need to give criticism, be transparent and straightforward with your feedback. Don’t try to sugarcoat or downplay the situation, as this can create confusion for the employee. Give clear examples and then provide helpful, specific advice on how the employee can grow and improve in their role. 

Don’t compare them to other employees

Remember, you’re evaluating each individual employee against a set of standard performance metrics, not their peers. It’s not helpful to compare employees. In fact, it can be harmful and lead to unhealthy competition and resentment among staff. Focus on the evaluation framework and constructive feedback. 

Know the difference between personality and performance

You’re evaluating how well your employee performs their job, not their personality traits. When you pass judgements about the employee’s personality, they can feel attacked and the conversation can turn hostile. Criticism isn’t personal – always tie it back to their work. 

Be understanding and listen

Give the employee an opportunity to talk. Performance reviews shouldn’t be a one-sided conversation where the manager gives feedback and the employee merely sits and listens. Instead, a productive employee evaluation should be a conversation between the two of you where you allow the employee to discuss the workplace, their managers’ performance, and reflect on their own career growth.

Ask questions

To ensure your conversation is productive during the evaluation, it can help to come prepared with specific questions you’d like to discuss. Questions like “what do you hope to achieve this upcoming quarter/year?” and “what resources or support do you need to reach your goals?” are great starting points. 

Give feedback throughout the year

While performance evaluations have traditionally been annual reviews, more companies are moving toward quarterly, monthly or even weekly feedback. In fact, some organizations have started prioritizing regular, casual one-on-one check-ins. 

One thing’s for sure though – at no point should a performance review be a total shock. Real-time feedback drives high performance through flexibility, accuracy, and consistent engagement, and is a catalyst for building trust. To better understand real-time feedback and how you can adopt it as a people leader, check out our ebook, 10X your team’s performance with real-time feedback.

Can I use software for reviews?

Pro tip: integrating performance management software into the mix is a must in providing effective employee feedback. Think flexible review structures, custom review templates, and 360 degree reviews – everything you need to build a culture of high performance at your company. 

Get started with Humi

To learn more about how you can build a culture of high performance and adopt a feedback culture at your company with Humi, connect with our team

Learn more with Humi

For insight into relevant and raw people challenges, and the tools you need to continuously shape the future of work, subscribe to Think with Humi – your number one people newsletter written by a real HR expert and Humi’s Director of People Operations, Andrea Bartlett.

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