October 1, 2021

Best Practices: Performance Reviews Formats

As discussed here, performance reviews, or employee evaluations, are an important tool for supervisors and managers to strengthen employees’ performance and acknowledge high achievers. Continuing our best practices discussion for effective performance reviews we provide the following tips on performance review formats. 

The two major styles in writing reviews are a narrative style and a rating system. The narrative requires the manager or supervisor to write out comments about the employee and the job performance in response to a broad question. The rating system “grades” the employee on various factors. Many companies find a combination of narrative and ratings to be effective. How much of each kind will be used is a decision left up to management. Each has advantages and disadvantages. For example, narratives such as “describe employee’s performance in regard to quality” provokes the supervisor or manager to write their own thoughts about the performance. If periodic discussions are conducted throughout the year with the employee are documented and specific, this will be easier for the supervisor to do. These thoughts tend to be job specific, obviously, and relate to the company’s performance standards.

The downside is that many supervisors will feel unsure about how to express themselves or what to write about. In the ratings section, the supervisor may find it easier to check a box or circle a number; but the information tends to be generic and less specific. The employee must be able to relate to the information in a review, to correct behavior or continue doing a good job.

Oftentimes a company will utilize a format that asks for a rating and then provides space for a written explanation or substantiation of the rating. It is essential that the rationalization be specific and factual, so the employee understands what is being discussed. Typically, employee review forms end with an overall rating of the employee’s performance. This can be extremely helpful in summarizing the other aspects of the review to a conclusion. The employee then leaves the review process with a clear understanding of their overall performance regarding the standards of the job. Managers and supervisors must be aware, though, that the entire review should point logically to this conclusion. If the overall rating does not make sense when compared to other ratings and comments, confusion results. This is to be avoided as it may lead to the employee finding other reasons for the rating (e.g., discrimination, favoritism, etc.).

It is important to keep in mind, however, that even though both the supervisor and employee expect a review to include a “rating” of the employee, this is not the only purpose for an employee evaluation. Another key component is to engage in a dialogue with the employee to assist the employee in improving performance and developing their skills.

The evaluation form and procedure can also incorporate the “team” concept. Since very few employees work entirely independent of others, the supervisor may want to include a rating or narrative on the team as a whole. This also fosters an incentive for everyone in the work group to do their part so that the “team” is successful.

Any form used should be provided to the employee. Sometimes employees are asked to do a “self-evaluation” which can identify whether the supervisor and employee are focusing on the same issues. In any event, the employee should know the criteria for the review so that they can engage in a discussion with the supervisor.