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Understanding the employee evaluation process

Last updated

27 June 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

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It’s no secret that many employees and managers are uneasy about the evaluation process. While it may be challenging to provide or receive constructive feedback, the process is still essential, especially since it's the best way to provide improvement and development feedback to employees. 

In fact, many employees even believe that constructive feedback is effective in improving their performance as long as it’s delivered properly and balanced with positive feedback. That’s why, as a manager or employer, it’s critical to understand the employee evaluation process and the best way to conduct it if you want to get the most out of the process.

What is an employee evaluation or performance review?

An employee evaluation, also referred to as a performance review, is a way to review and evaluate the performance of an employee by a supervisor or manager. 

This periodic review helps assess an employee's progress, go over ways the employee needs to improve, acknowledge accomplishments, set new goals, and help achieve a company's objectives. 

What is the purpose of an employee evaluation?

When it comes to an employee evaluation, there are numerous criteria the process measures. For instance, the evaluation can:

  • Measure the progress of goals. The evaluation helps managers and employees understand how far they’ve come and what else they need to do to achieve their objectives.

  • Recognize employee performance. This can be critical to job satisfaction since job recognition is often considered a top motivator for employees to produce their top work. 

  • Set expectations for the future. Employees can set goals and understand their priorities as a result. 

  • Provide support for those employees who are underachieving. When a manager can see an employee is struggling, an employee evaluation is one of the best ways to suggest further training or additional resources to get them the help they need.

  • Be a good time to inform the employee about critical decisions (such as pay raise, promotions, or other types of benefits the employee may be now able to get) 

  • Provide managers with legally valid proof to terminate an employee (especially if they can show the employee has a documented history of underperforming)

  • Evaluate new hires and the onboarding practices. This allows managers to understand how effective the process actually is. 

  • Assist managers in determining which employees are solid candidates for upward mobility

How is employee performance measured and managed?

You can use various metrics to evaluate an employee's performance. However, some of the more critical points that should be considered when performing these evaluations are the following:

  • The employee's work quality

  • The employee's work execution and their ability to delegate, prioritize, and manage time effectively to get their work done

  • The employee's punctuality and reliability

  • The employee's attitude and behavior toward their work, team, and organization

  • The employee's learning agility, such as how they perform duties or learn new skills

  • The employee's customer and peer feedback

  • The employee's goal and objective achievement

What are the benefits of performance evaluations?

Performing regular employee evaluations can provide both the company and the employees with several benefits, including the following:

Help discover the problem areas

Figuring out the problem areas during an evaluation can address issues that prevent the employee from fulfilling their duties and help them figure out what needs improvement. You may uncover several factors during this discussion, including lack of training, tools, or processes the employee needs to be successful.

Improve motivation

Employees who are given regular feedback, praise for doing good work, and opportunities to improve, rather than being disciplined, are better employees who are highly motivated to succeed. Employees naturally desire to know how they’re doing and whether or not they’re meeting their manager’s expectations. An employee evaluation is one way to meet their needs.

Create better employees

The employee evaluation process can not only help managers acknowledge an employee's individual strengths and weaknesses, but it can also allow them to figure out how these employees fit into their future plans and goals. 

Furthermore, an evaluation can help managers see how employees complement each other, such as whether one person's strengths balance out another person's weaknesses. This can ultimately help the organization build a team that together can meet the organization's overall goals. 

Allow for better communication

An employee evaluation can help an employer and their employee to improve communications and build trust. Not only can the employer receive feedback about how they’re doing, but it can allow them to get to know their employee and find ways to help them improve. 

These evaluations can also enable the employee to talk to their managers about their issues and find ways to become more efficient in the future.

The different methods of evaluating employees

There are several different methods that organizations can use when evaluating, or rating/assessing, an employee’s performance. The more popular methods include the following:

The job performance rating scale

The job performance scale directs employers to score their employees in different areas with ratings ranging between one and five. While the ratings will depend on the company's own definitions, in general, a one rating usually means an employee's performance is unsatisfactory, while a five rating indicates exceptional performance. 

In many cases, employers use this rating to determine an overall rating summary for the employee’s performance for the year. Sometimes these ratings are also tied to compensation or incentive plans.

Competency-based behavioral assessment

A competency-based behavioral assessment refers to the measure of the observable behaviors that successful performers demonstrate while working at a job. These behaviors tend to result from various abilities, motivations, traits, knowledge, and skills an employee has—also known as soft skills. 

Leaders are often assessed against competency-based behaviors such as leadership, teamwork, accountability and innovation. A rating system can also be attached to the measure of competency-based behaviors.

360-degree appraisals

With a 360-degree appraisal, an employee will get anonymous feedback from four stages of appraisal: self-evaluation, subordinates, peer reviews, and manager feedback. 

Surveys are the primary tool used in this employee evaluation and provide an image of past performance through ratings and open-ended feedback. This is one of the most preferred methods of providing feedback to an employee. 

In this manner, the feedback is combined from all sources to deliver a full “360” view of the employee’s performance. It’s also one of the most time-intensive methods. 

30-60-90 day review

This evaluation refers to a 30, 60, and 90-day plan based on objectives set for new employees and the ability to achieve their goals and demonstrate skills they reported to have when joining the organization. 

This review is used to measure an employee's assimilation and demonstrated skillset in those first three months. Usually, the 30/60/90-day review will coincide with a probationary or introductory period for the employee.

A peer review

The peer review is typically part of a larger 360-degree review process. Peers will answer questions and rate their colleagues based on specific criteria related to the work they perform together. 

These reviews must be confidential for peers to feel comfortable participating.  Managers will typically combine feedback into patterns and trends before providing feedback to the employee. 

Employee self-evaluation

An employee self-evaluation is the process of an employee assessing their own performance in the workplace. Employers may require these evaluations regularly and have employees list their achievements and share their professional progress since their last review. The assessment may also require the employee to review their strengths and weaknesses and look at how to improve their overall performance. 

Using this type of self-evaluation can be a great way to encourage employees to be more self-aware and reflective while also motivating employees to improve their work product. 

How to write an employee evaluation

To perform an employee evaluation, managers or employers may want to consider the following steps to prepare and deliver an effective evaluation.

Review the employee's job description

First, managers or employers need to find a current copy of an employee's job description and review its requirements. This can provide them with context for what they’ll need to watch out for when examining the individual's performance and whether they’re meeting the requirements of the position. 

Next, they’ll need to consider how the person is doing compared to this description, where they exceed expectations, and where they’re lacking.

Highlight areas of improvement

If there are previous evaluations, managers should find those evaluations and remind themselves how the employee has performed in the past. They should specifically look for the areas where they suggested improvements and consider how the employee has progressed in the last year. If they have improved, the manager should highlight those areas and be as specific as possible when discussing them. 

In addition, if the employee completed any training sessions, earned any work certifications, or acquired any new skills, include those in the evaluation.

Compare strengths and weaknesses

Use the previous evaluations to create a list of the employee's strengths and weaknesses. Managers can first look at the employee's strengths and write about their areas of specialty or key accomplishments or even include their positive attributes. From there, managers should make a list of the employee's weaknesses and what’s stopping them from reaching their goals. 

Finally, consider opportunities that can help the employee excel within their position. Much of this information will come from the manager’s observed behaviors, peer and customer feedback, and the employee’s own self-evaluation.

Recommend actionable goals

When done correctly, an employee evaluation can help employees increase their potential, make necessary improvements, understand their strengths and how to deploy them, and allow them to make a plan for themselves for the year ahead. 

That is why when managers or employers create this evaluation, they should ensure that they provide actionable goals that the employee can try to meet. However, they need to ensure that the goals will be beneficial to not only the employee but the organization as a whole. 

Provide constructive and positive feedback

When preparing this evaluation, strive to provide both positive feedback and constructive feedback about areas where the employee needs to improve. Feedback should always be balanced. There’s no such thing as a perfect employee, and in most cases, there’s always something that they can improve on.  

Likewise, an evaluation shouldn’t be solely focused on constructive criticism but should also address what the employee did well. A balanced approach is necessary for motivation and engagement.

Welcome employee input

During an employee evaluation, it’s vital to provide an employee with details about their job performance and discuss areas where they need to improve. However, ensuring the employees have ample opportunity to respond to their reviews and offer input on the comments is also critical. 

By engaging with these employees through the evaluation, they’ll likely feel more invested in the evaluation process and more willing to make progress in the future to reach their goals. 

Tips for evaluating employees

Regular evaluations can help employees better understand their job duties and ensure they’re completing their tasks properly. They can also improve communication and give employees the proper recognition they deserve. 

However, to ensure you’re completing the evaluation properly and measuring your employee's performance accurately, consider the following tips when performing an evaluation:

  • Keep notes and records of any incidents or notable accomplishments related to the employee that occur throughout the year. This way, when it comes to review time, you can have a better picture of what they’ve accomplished or what they need to work on.  Managers can typically only remember back about 90 days, so having this ongoing record for each employee will provide a more balanced feedback session.

  • Be honest and specific with feedback. Provide employees with clear instructions and examples of things they need to work on to improve their performance.  Likewise, have specific examples of their strengths and accomplishments.  Avoid using phrases such as “you did a great job this year.” Instead, let them know exactly what they did that impressed you.  

  • Use standard and objective templates that help you assess and rate employees with data rather than just feeling. Objective reviews are typically better accepted and understood by employees.

  • Set expectations, goals, and measures at the beginning of the year so employees are clear on what performance measures they must meet to be successful. Employees should never be surprised by the feedback they receive during the evaluation process.

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