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What is an employee evaluation?

Employee evaluations (or appraisals) are meetings between an employee and their supervisor that allow the parties to discuss the employee’s performance. While it is not a legal requirement to carry out such appraisals, they are generally used to:

  • determine whether targets have been achieved

  • make decisions about the employee’s future work

  • make career planning decisions

  • assess whether an employee will receive a bonus and/or pay increase

What is the purpose of performance evaluations?

Performance evaluation is the process of evaluating how effective an employee is in fulfilling their objectives and responsibilities according to the requirements of their role. Evaluations are important because they highlight opportunities for professional development

Performance appraisals generally involve an assessment of the employee’s performance against their key objectives. The employee’s key objectives should be set and agreed to between the employee and the manager, and the employee’s performance should be tracked against them.

Key objectives are a great way to measure an employee’s performance by setting out what an employee wishes to achieve within a given time period. They are useful for employees and managers as they allow them to measure specific, achievable, and realistic goals in a timely manner. They can also be helpful for managers to use to assess whether the employee has reached their targets and whether a promotion is necessary.

Such key performance indicators can focus on a variety of things, including:

  • productivity -  for example, the manager and employee may set a target for how many sales the employee should aim to reach by the end of the next quarter, such as three more sales at the end of the week. 

  • efficiency - eg whether the employee is doing their job well and in a timely manner

  • education - if the employee requires training for a particular part of their role, this can be a consideration for making promotions. For example, an employee may be required to complete a management training course if they want to become a manager in the future

  • time management - this is a skill that the manager can support an employee with by, for example, holding discussions on how to prioritise work effectively to help the employee manage their time better

When should I carry out an employee evaluation?

It is up to an employer to decide how often employee evaluations should be held. Generally, evaluations should take place at least once a year, but employers may choose to hold them more frequently (eg every 6 months). This is the ‘review period’. 

Evaluations often also take place after an employee’s probation period, to assess the employee’s performance during this initial period. The outcome of such an evaluation should be clearly communicated in a Probation letter.

Employee appraisals should also be supplemented with regular one-on-ones (ie meetings) between the employee and their line manager.

Employee appraisals involve discussions around an employee's day-to-day duties, work habits, and expectations. Often, an employee’s self-appraisal is discussed during an evaluation carried out when considering a promotion.

Who should be involved in the appraisal process?

Appraisals will generally involve the employee and their line manager (also known as the ‘reporting manager’). The reporting manager’s manager (also known as the ‘review manager’) should also be involved in the appraisal process to: 

  • monitor actions

  • check the consistency of comments

  • gain upward information

  • act as a line of appeal to ensure the fairness and credibility of the appraisal

How are employee evaluations carried out?

Employee evaluations should be conducted in a quiet area, free from distractions and other colleagues. This ensures that both the employee and the manager feel comfortable discussing matters and ensures confidentiality. 

The reporting manager (ie the person conducting the evaluation) should come prepared with specific feedback, notes, and any points they wish to address to make sure that the meeting stays on track. With this, the manager guarantees that critical points are not missed. 

Remember to keep the evaluation as an open, two-way conversation rather than a lecture, as this gives the employee a chance to discuss their self-assessment and to raise any concerns. If the employee is reserved, the manager can ease the conversation by asking open-ended questions. For example, ‘How are you finding the role so far?’ or ‘What do you enjoy the most about being in this role?’

What types of employee evaluations are there?

While there are a number of employee evaluations, the most common are:

  • self-assessments - giving an opportunity for the employee to document their perspective on their performance, actions, choices, and room for improvement. These showcase to the manager how the employee views themselves in relation to a team and how they think they fit in the business

  • performance reviews - a formal assessment allowing the manager to evaluate the employee’s work performance. This can act as a regular review, carried out on a recurring basis (eg monthly or quarterly) depending on the role and the business’ expectations

  • evaluations for promotion purposes - an assessment of the employee’s potential and suitability for promotion. Factors that may be considered when evaluating the potential for a promotion may include the employee’s attitude to work, punctuality, ability to meet deadlines, willingness to progress in the business, and whether they are a team player

What is included in an employee evaluation?

Depending on the type of employee evaluation, a variety of things may be discussed and recorded, including:

  • the employee’s key objectives for the review period

  • the employee’s areas of strength and areas for improvement

  • whether the employee would benefit from further training or development

  • any interests the employee may have in other roles, areas and/or departments of the business 

  • a rating of the employee’s performance (eg outstanding performance, standard, below standard, or unsatisfactory) and the reasoning behind this

  • an assessment of the employee’s potential for promotion, detailing roles the employee may be suitable for with or without additional training or development action

How should a manager evaluate performance?

While there is no set standard for how an employee’s performance should be evaluated, it is important that businesses have a clear and fair approach towards appraisals to avoid potential conflicts (eg allegations of discrimination). Having a set Employee performance review form helps managers review every employee against consistent business standards, keeping everyone on a level playing field.

When conducting an employee evaluation, managers might use the following considerations and practices:

  • performance standards - these set out the expectations of the employee as they perform their role. These standards should typically apply to all employees in the same position, to be fair

  • tracking performance - keeping a file designated to each employee is a great way to record their accomplishments and any incidents

  • individual goals - having agreed-upon individual goals allows the employee’s performance to be tracked and assessed against these in an objective and fair manner

  • strengths and weaknesses - the employee’s specific strengths and weaknesses should be assessed against their individual goals. Avoid comparing an employee’s performance with that of others in the workplace

  • being honest with constructive criticism - provide clear examples of situations where an employee has done well and where they can improve, to help the employee with their personal and professional development

  • training and/or further development actions - consider any training and/or development opportunities the employee could benefit from. Such training may be offered to help the employee improve their weaknesses or to help enhance their skills and knowledge

  • career development - this sets out what areas the employee shows an interest in and how they may develop their career going forward

  • asking specific questions - focusing on specific questions can help managers understand an employee's performance and feedback, for example, what are the employee’s long and short term goals?

  • employee questions or concerns - during the appraisal, the employee should be encouraged to share any questions or concerns they may have about their role or career progression

Appraisal outcomes

Once the employee evaluation has been completed, it is generally signed off by the reporting line manager before the reviewing manager will review and sign off the appraisal.

The outcome of the appraisal and the evaluation report should be made available for the employee to review. They can then express their views on the appraisal they have received; in particular, whether they feel it is a fair assessment of their work (eg regarding their performance or suitability for promotion). Employees should sign the completed evaluation report as evidence of their review.

The completed and signed employee evaluation will then typically be kept as a record of the employee’s development and progress.

After an appraisal has been conducted and the employee evaluation form has been signed, the reporting manager and the employee should typically meet to discuss the appraisal outcome. This is an opportunity for both parties to discuss the appraisal, provide feedback, and raise any concerns or questions.

The appraisal outcome generally determines the next steps of an employee's journey at the business. This may be:

  • discussing the performance rating or other appraisal outcome (eg suitability for promotion) - this helps the manager highlight rewards for good performers and can give an indication of where (and why) poor performers aren’t achieving so highly

  • filling in competency gaps - this will highlight areas where the employee can develop further skills that can help them grow in their role and allows both parties to discuss future objectives 

  • identifying potential growth opportunities - the employee may wish to work in other areas of the business that they are interested in, and the appraisal may set out what steps they need to take to reach that goal

What if an employee disagrees with an appraisal outcome?

Following the outcome of an appraisal, employees may disagree with the manager’s comments and/or the result of their appraisal. If this is the case, the employee should follow their employer’s appeals process or other available mechanisms to address and record their concerns. The employee may, for example: 

  • make a request to the manager to submit a rebuttal or a reply

  • escalate their concerns to a higher level (eg the HR department or senior management) and express why they disagree with the appraisal outcome

  • ask for a follow-up meeting with their line manager to discuss and address their concerns. If HR is involved then they may be present during the meeting

Employers should be open to receiving rebuttals from an employee as this shows that the business is willing to take on feedback. 

If an employee disputes some smaller issues in their evaluation but is otherwise satisfied with the appraisal, the employer may wish to make and keep records of the disputed areas.

It is important to bear in mind that employee appraisals do not form part of a disciplinary process and should not be used by an employer to impose disciplinary sanctions. Rather, employee evaluations should be an open forum allowing the employee and their line manager to talk about performance at work. However, issues relating to the employee’s performance may at times be dealt with by reference to past employee appraisals (eg if an employer starts an employee improvement process).


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