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Employee Evaluations

Please consider these points while filling in the employee evaluation forms, and also consider these points when you meet with your employees to discuss the evaluation.

  1. Provide more feedback to the employee. Make an effort to provide comments to ALL job elements. Remember that the evaluation form is not simply a "scoring" instrument.
  2. Mention what the employee did well.
  3. Tell the employee how he/she can improve their rating on each job element.
  4. Try and provide positive feedback to employees where they have done a good job.
  5. At the very least, in the comments section, document what tasks they have worked on or completed during the evaluation period.
  6. Spend some time working on the evaluation (make an effort to do a good job with the evaluation).
  7. Please include the following criteria when evaluation employees and document as appropriate: {consistency,
  8. Evaluate how the employee assisted others in the department. This would include efforts at working as a team, sharing technical knowledge with another employee, teaching/showing another employee how to do a particular task.
  9. Remember how much time and effort selecting, hiring and training this one employee took.
  10. Consider how much time and effort it will take selecting, hiring and training a replacement will take.

For supervisors, evaluate how the supervisor has helped the employee increase job knowledge and job skills. Dialog is the important activity.

The employee's job is to help the supervisor accomplish goals. Together, goals may be achieved. The supervisor provides tools and equipment and the goal while the employee does the work. When the employee is not getting the work done, this is direct result of the supervisor's not doing his part.

The unfortunate reality is that nothing can be done to guarantee that an employee will not sue, no matter how progressive an employer's practices. What can be done, however, at minimal expense and inconvenience, is to establish and enforce some fairly simple guidelines in perhaps the most important aspect of "preventative management," that is, in obtaining and documenting honest performance evaluations of your work force.

Without question, the easiest way to show the EEOC or an employee's lawyer that an employee has been treated fairly is to have a personnel file full of honest, comprehensive performance reviews. Conversely, nothing hinders an efficient resolution of a claim more than to have a file full of "fair" to "excellent" reviews, when management actually believes that the employee was "unsatisfactory." The contents of an employee's file are critical; this cannot be stressed enough.

For example, one company used to rate its employees on a scale of one-to-ten, with one being the lowest rating. In defending a discrimination suit for this client, lawyers found that supervisors had in fact used the following scale: "eight" was unacceptable; "nine" was average; "ten" was very good. No one received scores less than seven. Then, not surprisingly, supervisors wrote notes on the sides of the forms like "10 plus" or "11." This client's scale was meaningless. Even though successfully defended in the discrimination suit, the evaluation process was completely rebuilt. First, instead of using "undefined" numbers, the evaluation forms were changed to reflect a more meaningful one-to-four scale, using the corresponding words "unsatisfactory," "average," "good," and "superior." Also, the evaluation forms clearly noted that management expected 60% of the work force to be "average," and the rest to fall within a "bell-shaped" curve.

Of utmost importance was the training program developed for its evaluators, in which the importance of honest and complete evaluations was stressed. As part of the training process, the client's Human Resources Director developed a "wish list" for performance reviews of employees, which was shared with the evaluators. During the training, the evaluators are expected to:

  1. Provide a meaningful comment for each objective job category. In other words, more than just a simple phrase like, "he types fast," or "he needs to be more organized." Thus, for example, a comment should say, "he always finishes his work promptly and accurately," or, "she needs to be more careful in avoiding typos."
  2. If the comment refers to a performance problem, there should be specific examples of the problem. For example, instead of a simple, "he needs to be more organized," the comment should state what problems have occurred as a result of his current disorganization, and how the employee can be more organized.
  3. There should be no insulting remarks on the evaluation, such as calling an employee names or belittling his position. Instead, any comments must be tied to job performance or actual job requirements.
  4. Every comment provided on the review, good or bad, should not be a surprise to the employee when the review is given by an evaluator. Train the evaluators to give more than just an annual, written review. Stress that the evaluation process should be informal and ongoing, so that the eventual annual review does not cause unfortunate surprises.
  5. Of course, any actual ratings must be honest: good or bad. If this client's Human Resources Director believes that an evaluator has not been honest with a written evaluation, she will have a personal conference with the evaluator, and change the written review accordingly -- of course, before the evaluation is given to an employee.
  6. There should be suggestions for future development. This may include constructive criticism on ways to improve, or if necessary, a written warning that failure to improve may lead to dismissal. Ordinarily, a time frame should be given for expected improvement.
  7. Evaluators are told to sign the evaluation forms after giving a review, including the date and time the review was given. (A space has been provided for this on the revamped evaluation forms.) Employees should be invited to write a response to an unfavorable review. Not only does an employee then believe she has participated in the process, but these responses can make a great record for future litigation purposes, as it shows that the employee was aware of the perceived problems.

Well documented, honest evaluations make a "progressive discipline" policy much easier to implement. Small problems are caught early and an employee is given the chance to correct them. Any employee appreciates that chance. Conversely, simply "going through the motions" of a progressive discipline policy, in order to "document" a termination, merely causes the employee to feel apprehensive about his job, and will actually increase the chance of a lawsuit.

Once an employer has established a policy of progressive discipline, supervisory personnel must be retrained in the process to ensure consistent and fair handling of disciplinary problems. The key to a progressive discipline policy is consistency. If it is used with some employees, but not others, the employer is susceptible to post-termination claims of discriminatory treatment.

Where progressive discipline policies are used, all actions taken under the policy should be documented. An employee who is terminated after failing to comply with requirements or commitments established under a progressive discipline policy should not be surprised. If it works as it should, the employee should be very aware of the potential consequences of failure.

The cardinal rule of "preventative management" is that a termination of employment should never be a surprise. In the hundreds of depositions from plaintiffs suing their former employers, one common theme has emerged: In the vast majority of cases, plaintiffs say under oath that they believe they were performing well -- and that no one ever told them their work performance was unsatisfactory. Thus, they testify that their termination had to be for some unlawful, i.e. "discriminatory," reason. Of course, even the most carefully implemented performance reviews and discipline procedures will not prevent all employment-related lawsuits. What an employer should see happen, however, is that non-performing employees will not be surprised when they are let go, thus decreasing the odds that they will seek out an attorney because they believe they "have been treated unfairly."

And, when a former or current employee sues anyway, the employer will have a written record that will allow it to successfully handle EEOC complaints and defend lawsuits, at greatly reduced inconvenience to the employer's business and a significant decrease in litigation costs. The best result, however, may be that the ongoing review system -- that allows for honest, meaningful communication -- actually improves employee morale and makes for better job performance. All at minimal risk.

There is no set of rules that determines what should or should not be included in an evaluation. The evaluation process can be formal or informal, it can reflect input from only the supervisor, or include information from staff members' peers or external (to the organization) colleagues. It can be based on staff job descriptions, annual work plans, or the organization's strategic plan. The executive director, possibly with the assistance of the personnel committee, should establish a format that will allow for an exchange of information and strengthen staff effectiveness. In general, employees sign the evaluation to indicate acknowledgment of review, but not agreement with the evaluation. A staff evaluation process may include an opportunity for the person being reviewed to respond in writing to any points of disagreement.

Staff evaluations should address the following questions:

Try this Form:
American Proteins, Cuthbert Division Employee Evaluation
Probationary Review Merit Review Transfer Review Promotion Other _________________
Employee Employment or Transfer Date: Department
Jobs the employee has worked on:
Appraisal Date Appraisal Time period Most recent earlier review:

Job requirements

 Performance Level [circled number reflects status]

well below




well above

does not meet




repeatedly exceeds

01. Quantity of Work

Output level consistent with jpb expectations and performance standards






02 Quality of Work

Reviews completed assignments for accuracy and completness

Achieves results consistent with known job expectations and performance standards.

Extent to which employee can be counted upon to carry out assignments to completion.






03 Knowledge of required skill or procedure

Information and understanding of job, equipment possessed by employee

Underst6ands skills and procedures to perform designated tasks






04 Interest or attitude toward work

Extent to which employee is a self starter in attaining objectives of the job.

Attends work as scheduled. Amount of interest and enthusiasm shown in work.






05 Ability to work with others

Extent to which employee effectively interacts with others in the performance of his/her job.






06 Adherence to Company rules and Safety rules

Familiar with Employee Manual. Reads bulletin board, MSDS files.






07 Punctuality/Regular daily attendance Problem No problem Comments __________________
08 Appearance Problem No problem Comments __________________












Employee's comments:
Employee:_________________________________________________ Date: _________________________

Signature indicates only that the evaluation has been reviewed and that the employee has received a copy. It does not signif concurrence or agreement.
Plant Manager _______________________________ Date: Human Resouce Manager ____________________________________ Date:

Key Ideas for reference:
Work quality Dependability Initiative Flexibility Skill building Job knowledge Punctuality Supervisory ability General comments on performance: Goals for the coming year:

Initiative Planning Communications Cooperation & Teamwork Leadership

Performance Level Guidelines.

Level 5 - Consistently Exceeds Job Requirements WELL ABOVE

Performance at this level is at the maximum and always beyond acceptable requirements for the position. Duties and responsibilities are not only excellently met, but consistently exceeded. Performance repeatedly well above expectations. The employee should be informed of the strengths and accomplishments which have been observed as well as potential for growth.

Level 4 - Meets and Usually Exceeds Job Requirements ABOVE

Performance at this level is above average in acceptable requirements for the position. Duties and responsibilities are well met and usually exceeded. Performance occasionally above expectations. The employee should be informed of the strengths and accomplishments observed and ways to continue to improve upon them.

Level 3 - Consistently Meets Job Requirements MEETS

Performance at this level is at the average of acceptable requirements for the position. Duties and responsibilities are met consistently and in a satisfactory and acceptable manner. Performance consistently meets expectations. The employee should be informed of ways in which performance could exceed expectations.

Level 2 - Inconsistent in Meeting Job Requirements BELOW

Performance at this level is at the minimum of acceptable requirements for the position. Duties and responsibilities are marginally met. Performance occasionally below expectations. The employee should be counseled concerning the specific steps to be taken to meet expectations.

Level 1 - Does Note Meet Job Requirements WELL BELOW

Performance at this level is below the minimum of acceptable requirements for the position. Duties and responsibilities are not met in an acceptable manner. Performance is repeatedly below expectation. The employee should be counseled regarding specific steps to be taken to evidence improvement.

What are employee's strengths? Please provide specific examples of employee's major achievements during the review period. How can this employee improve his/her performance?

What training or learning experience would help this employee improve his/her performance?

What goals should this employee reach between now and the end of the next review period?


Growth and Development (consider for present position only). List the employees strengths and developmental needs: Develop an action plan (when appropriate specify dates and times):

Giving a performance review is a lot like going to the dentist - although everyone knows that it's important, no one likes to do it. As a result, managers tend to put them off until the last possible moment - if they do them at all. In fact, James Hackett of the Bunker Hill Group (Peabody, Mass.) reported at the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) recent annual conference in Chicago that only 50% of all performance appraisals are ever conducted. And half of that 50% are not completed on time.

The value of a review deferred. As has been widely reported here and elsewhere, the impact of delayed - or nonexistent - performance management appraisals in a pay-for-performance environment ranges from bad to worse. In a complete feedback vacuum, for example, employees have no idea of how they can add value to the business and/or the bottom line; efforts on the company's behalf are not recognized (and therefore are not likely to recur); pay and promotion decisions are not based on any known/accepted criteria, so may appear unfair or, at best, arbitrary; and morale is likely to be low or nonexistent.

Performing a "generic" performance review is no guarantee of corporate and employee satisfaction, either. Consider this litany of complaints regarding the annual appraisal process, from the May 1996 Training article, "Performance Appraisal: Can We 'Manage' Away the Curse?," by Chris Lee:

"A once-a-year 'event' doesn't improve performance";

"It's too time-consuming for the benefits it provides";

"Employees have no say in the process"; and

"Ratings are ill-defined and inconsistently applied."

To top it all off, Lee notes that "fear (on the employee's part) and loathing (on the manager's part) seem inevitable when salary and promotional decisions rest on one individual's judgment of another."

What can an HR/compensation manager do? Get out of the annual performance review rut and develop an ongoing approach to performance management. More important, design a system that moves away from a manager-directed, top-down appraisal to one that is shared - if not driven - by employees.

This is crucial to an effective pay-for-performance appraisal system, particularly in a downsized environment where fewer managers are responsible for more employees- and the prospect of more anything, especially performance management, is overwhelming. Last, but certainly not least, strive to keep money separate from the process as much as possible.

A sampling of the approaches companies are taking to meet these challenges, from the Bulletin to Management: Three steps to success. Household International's old system consisted of a once-a-year "report and rebuttal" meeting. Now, the company follows these steps:

1. The planning process. Employees establish their own action plans and work with their supervisors to set measurable goals, then seek guidance from supervisors to help them reach their objectives.

2. The coaching process. Employees monitor performance with their managers throughout the year with continual coaching. A formal interim review is held halfway through the year. Key: Employees are measured against established objectives, not unspoken expectations.

3. The reviewing process. Supervisors review employee performance and receive feedback on the help they are giving employees.

Expanding employee involvement. Amoco Corp.'s performance appraisal system has been a work in progress, changing as a result of restructuring at the company that left many managers with as many as 20 or 30 employees (6 is a oft recommended limit) reporting directly to them. A manager with 25 reports must spend roughly 12.7 hours per employee for each performance management cycle during the year, which adds up to about a month a year.

To address this, Amoco has shifted more accountability for the process to employees. For starters, employees and their managers agree on quantifiable objectives for which the employee is held accountable. Plus, employees are asked to identify coworkers who will provide performance feedback at the end of the year.

Choosing goals that make business sense. Sears Roebuck & Co. uses individual goal setting, which includes a statement of three or four priorities that are under the control of the employee and clearly linked to the company's strategy. Employees propose their priorities, goals, and measures, and then have them approved by their managers. Key: Priorities are intended to be reviewed and revised throughout the year, thus linking measurable individual accountability and shifting business strategies.

Taking a "formless" approach. Allstate Insurance Co. has its personnel write their own reviews - using any format they want - to limit the demands on managers' time. The only requirement is that each employee must have three performance-related conversations a year with his or her manager.

Note well: Whatever you decide to do, do it often. This is particularly important when pay is on the line. As Lee so aptly put it in the Training magazine article, "A performance management system that requires several reviews throughout the year is one way to make sure that employees' focus is on the feedback rather than on translating their 'exceeds expectations' rating into dollars. Mini-reviews that check an individual's progress against goals can disconnect money from development issues.

"Other techniques include removing ratings from the appraisal process so that merit increases [and other payouts, PFP hastens to add] are a separate managerial decision, or separating the due dates for reviews and salary decisions by several months."

Is there an easier way? Consider the following "best of all possible worlds" approach". I advocate a performance management process which is a normal part of every employee's working relationship with the person to whom he/she reports. They jointly review the performance on a regular basis, decide what could be improved (including better work environment, better management support, as well as improvement in the subject's work methods), and then plan how to achieve those improvements.

"No pseudoscientific ratings, no pretense at objectivity. Just good management and good communication."

Sadly, most managers are either unwilling or unable to provide this level of performance feedback. However, they can begin to lay the groundwork for this in a number of ways, including but not limited to the following (from the AMACOM book, Super motivation, by Dean Spitzer):

"It's 'pay now or pay later,'" according to Jerry Sterner, a consultant with Kepner-Tregoe, Inc. (Princeton, N.J.), in the Training article. "You can put effort into laying out clear expectations, measurements, feedback, and consequences, or nurse everyone along and put out fires all year long, and then start it all over again the next year."

Have you been afraid to discipline or fire a problem employee because you worry about the possible legal repercussions? Do you sometimes avoid corrective action because you don't know how to handle the situation, or it makes you feel uncomfortable? Have you warned an employee countless times about poor performance and have yet to see improvement? :

The following are actual excerpts taken from "employee performance

reports" of (British) Royal Navy and Marine Officers.

"His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity."

"I would not allow this officer to breed."

"This officer is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a

definitely won't be."

"Since my last report, he has reached rock bottom and has started

to dig."

"The only ship I would recommend this man for is citizenship."

"Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap."

"When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change

whichever foot was previously in there."

"He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle."

"This young lady has delusions of adequacy."

"She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them."

"This Officer should go far -- and the sooner he starts, the better."

And my personal favorite...

"This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot."