How to Create a Performance Appraisal Instrument

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A difficult but necessary process.
A difficult but necessary process. (Image: Group of business people working together in the office. image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com)

Performance appraisals are a common and powerful tool in business. They allow an employer to offer feedback to an employee, and let them know how they can improve and where their skills are strongest. An appraisal can let a good employee know that they're appreciated and a difficult employee a path for how to improve. However, designing an appraisal can be a challenging process for even the best managers. A fair appraisal will offer the best value to both yourself and your employees and make your business run that much better.

Write a list of the important qualities you want your employees to be ranked on. Begin with general qualities that you will want ranked across all departments, and then decide if there are any specific requirements you would like workers in individual departments to be ranked on. Narrow the list down to just the most important qualities that directly affect both the employee's ability to do the job and the effect that employee has on the rest of the workplace. Develop a clear, concise definition of each quality so the manager will understand what you mean.

Choose a numerical scale you would like to apply to these qualities. An even numbered scale will require the manager to choose definitively, while an odd-numbered scale will allow them to choose a "middle of the road" ranking if necessary. A smaller range of numbers will require more of a decision, while a larger range will allow for more nuance.

Add a space underneath each numerical scale to ensure the manager is able to provide an explanation to the employee as to why each number on the scale was chosen. This explanation will allow the employee and yourself to understand the reasoning behind each decision and will allow you to refer to it if the appraisal is appealed by the employee.

Design an area for the employee to respond to the appraisal or to offer general comments about the company. There should be an opportunity for the employee to offer feedback to the company and address any issues or incidents that the appraisal may discuss. Employees often feel judged by the process, and this will allow you to balance the amount of power and also collect valuable feedback.

Test the appraisal either by conducting a mock appraisal and meeting or by asking others in your same rank to look it over. Ask especially for any areas that could be clearer to the manager. Time how long it takes to conduct the appraisal. If it is on a computer, time how long it takes for the page to load and for answers to be saved.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember, appraisals can be difficult for both the manager and the employee. Work to streamline the process as much as possible for both sides.
  • If you are already using survey software, consider designing the appraisal online.
  • Make sure instructions are clear, and managers understand they are filling out a legal document that may be used in a court of law.

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