Annual Performance Evaluations That Everyone Loves

What is your visceral reaction to the phrase,
annual performance evaluation?

A. They are a high point of the year and I look forward to them.

B. They are a necessary of the process of managing a business, institution, or organization.

C. They are a disruption to the business of our department and most people don’t like them.

D. We’d be better off not doing them at all – they more extra work than they are valuable.

Your answer, if you are like most managers and employees, is likely either B, C, or D. Few people, if anyone, ever selects A as their reaction to hearing, annual performance evaluation.

But it does not have to be that way! If done effectively, both employees and their managers will look forward to the process and are willing participants. It moves from, “we have to do this,” to “we get to do this!” When the organization aligns around something as fundamental as an honest dialog about performance, the future can be so much brighter.

Here’s how an organization can “fix” their performance evaluation process:

1. Develop the Evaluation Cycle. Nothing is worse than someone’s performance evaluation coming due, and the evaluation doesn’t materialize when it was expected. The message a late evaluation communicates to employees is, “You don’t matter.” If a compensation increase is tied to the evaluation, then the employee can read all sorts of things into the process, from the company trying to take money away from him or her to, “the company is in financial trouble – that is why they are delaying my review.”

A best practice is to move to a performance evaluation cycle that consistently happens as scheduled. This best practices extends to zero tolerance for lateness on the part of the managers performing their evaluations, holding the performance discussions on time, and getting all of the paperwork completed and submitted on schedule.

A related best practice is to move to an annual performance evaluation cycle where all employees are administered their evaluations at the same time. Organizations that move to this process receive higher marks from employees than those who use the employee’s anniversary date, since the incidence of late evaluations for this group is quite high. Plus it is less overall work and time to complete an annual cycle, versus the sum of time and effort to stay on schedule with an anniversary cycle. Those who complete less than a year of service prior to the scheduled cycle will have any related compensation increases prorated for the time served.

Based on the nature of the organization’s business year, carve out a 10 week process from start to finish to accommodate the evaluation process. For example, it could be April 1 to June 15, to have changes take effect July 1st. When establishing the timing of annual cycle, consider the organization’s seasonality, workload ebb and flow of departments, and the availability of employees and managers, when establishing the annual cycle.

2. Communicate the Cycle and Stick to it. All employees, as part of their onboarding, ought to know when and how performance evaluations are handled. Reminders issued throughout the performance year by senior management about upcoming evaluations serve to help manager and employee focus on performance relative to established goals and objectives. HR typically issues the schedule, and it should be issued at least 90 days in advance to allow all parties to schedule blocs of time associated with the review process. If some managers are chronically late, then take appropriate action to ensure they will be on time with the process. Don’t allow “executive exemptions” to set a double standard. Recognize that if employees cannot trust their employer to keep its word about a schedule known well in advance, they are not likely to trust the employer about other things.

3. Utilize Self-Assessments. Employees should self-assess their own performance using the same evaluation form as the evaluator. A best practice is to clearly outline how grades are provided, using a standard that is applied consistently across the entire organization. If this process is well publicized and all employees are trained annually, a great deal of integrity will be placed into the process. Make sure that the organization’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are well understood and used as standard metrics against which performance is measured. Evaluating managers should consider their employees’ self-assessments as well as their own observations and performance results throughout the entire year. Good recordkeeping is a must!

4. Let the Employee Lead the Performance Discussion. Issue the completed evaluation to the employee three business days prior to holding the performance discussions to allow the apprisal to be processed fully by the employee. Few things are less effective than trying to hold a performance discussion while the employee is reading his or her evaluation for the first time.

Start the meeting by letting the employee know that its is his or her meeting and he/she can talk about anything her or she would like. This approach allows the employee to address any area(s) he or she wishes, in the order he or she wishes.

If specific areas need to be discussed, and discussion is not initiated by the employee, then the manager can introduce the topic once the employee has completed his or her list of topics.

5. Transition to a Planning Discussion. Once the employee and manager have discussed the content of the evaluation, move the discussion to one about future goals and objectives. The manager should have an idea of specific goal areas, but allow for the employee to introduce additional goals and objectives meaningful to the employee. The approach in this phase is collaborative with mutual agreement on specifics. Goals should tie into the organizational / departmental KPIs, as well as those personal development objectives deemed important to employee. The SMART goal process works well here. Establish the follow-up dates where progress will be discussed.

6. Follow Up as Promised. The performance appraisal process should build trust and help each employee se that he or she is valued. DWYSYWD – doing what you said you would do – is the Number One way managers can build trust and credibility with their staff.

This approach will go a long way towards making performance evaluations a more productive activity in which the interests of the employee and organization are best served.

Boyer Management Group works with employers and job seekers alike to help both become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class talent acquisition and onboarding tools, training and programs, including management/leadership development training, as well as programs for new managers and supervisors. For job seekers, we offer the world’s first assessment to measure an individual’s knowledge and awareness of current and emerging career search best practices, along with the educational programs to support higher ed curriculum, career coaches and individual job seekers. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or
call us at 215-942-0982.


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