Conventional wisdom says that there’s no such thing as a perfect employee performance appraisal form. And with so many sorry examples of appraisal forms around, conventional wisdom might almost seem correct.
It’s not. There is an ideal model for the employee performance appraisal form. And getting the form right is essential to effective employee performance management, since the appraisal form is the lightning rod that not only attracts everyone’s attention, but also focuses organizational energy on the issues of highest priority. An ideal form has five key components that cover 1.) organizational competencies, 2.) job competencies, 3.)key responsibilities, 4.) goals and major projects and 5.) individual achievements and accomplishments.
Organizational & Job Competencies
The first two sections of the employee performance appraisal form focus on the “how” of the job, the way the individual goes about accomplishing his results. Here we identify and assess competencies – the behavioral elements of the job. To start, top management should identify a small number, usually about a half-dozen or so, of the competencies expected from every member of the organization, regardless of the individual’s job or level in the company. Since they apply to all, these universal or organization-wide cultural competencies might include attributes such as:
• Customer Focus
• Communication Skills
• Learning and Continuous Improvement
• Team Player
• Interpersonal Skills
The other behavioral element of an employee performance appraisal assessed in a perfect form is job-specific competencies. The talents and skills required for success as a professional individual contributor like a programmer or accountant or engineer aren’t identical to those needed for success in a leadership job.
In professionals’ jobs, such skills as analytical thinking and achievement orientation might be indispensable, while in the leadership jobs greater emphasis might be placed on developing and retraining talent and people management and command skills. Of course there will be overlaps — technical skills and decision making are competencies important in both job families. But the ideal employee performance appraisal form will allow for the identification of those competencies that have a high correlation with job success in the specific position the employee holds. Safety is sure to be present on an appraisal form for an operator’s position; relationship building better be assessed if the employee works in the sales department.
Organizational competencies and job-specific competencies are the first two elements of an exemplary employee performance appraisal form. That covers the HOW component of the job. Now let’s look at the WHAT component — the results the person actually accomplishes. Again, there are two major components: Key job responsibilities and goals and major projects.
Key Job Responsibilities
The third element, key job responsibilities, represents the major aspects of an individual’s job – the big rocks of the position that ideally would be listed in a well-written job description. Got obsolete job descriptions? No problem. Just provide space in this part of the employee performance appraisal form for the manager and employee to identify in simple verb/noun form the most important responsibilities or accountabilities of the job incumbent: Assess patients, assure customer satisfaction, train operators, develop marketing plans, sell shoes, etc.
Few jobs have more than a half-dozen key job responsibilities. If you come up with more, you’re probably listing minor tasks and duties that are performed in order to accomplish a key responsibility.
Goals & Major Projects
Goals and major projects represent the other half of those elements that cover the results aspect of a job. Goals are big deals. They go well beyond the key job responsibilities listed in the position description; well beyond the predictable cheaper/faster/better expectations.
In truth, real goals are transformational – they are visionary and long-term. They transform the nature of the position itself. “Keeping the network up and running,” for example, is a well-stated key job responsibility. In comparison, “Developing a system that eliminates network failures,” is a formidable goal that will totally alter the nature of a network administrator’s job.
Many people in an organization also take on special projects or assignments over the course of a year in addition to their specific job description duties. Too often their contributions are unheralded in their annual appraisal. The goals and major projects part of the form is also the place for the assessment and recognition of these contributions.
Achievements & Accomplishments
The final element of an ideal employee performance appraisal form is the one that research suggests is the most important: A brief enumeration of the individual’s most important achievements and accomplishments. Ever since the original GE studies in the early 1950s, researchers confirm that growth and development result more from building on a person’s unique strengths than from attempts to shore up deficiencies.
There’s your perfect form: two sections that deal with organizational and job-specific competencies, two more that concentrate on key job responsibilities and goals, and a final summary of the most important things the individual did to further the organization’s mission, vision and values. When you’ve got those elements in your form, you’ve developed a perfect employee performance appraisal form.
Dick Grote has been a management consultant for almost thirty years, specializing exclusively in the field of employee performance appraisal and management. As a consultant, he has created employee performance management systems for several hundred of the world’s best known and most respected companies, including Texas Instruments, JCPenney, Miller Brewing Company, American Airlines, Macy’s, Raytheon, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and Herman Miller. His company, Grote Consulting, specializes in employee performance appraisal, employee improvement and talent management. For more information about Dick Grote and Grote Consulting, visit: http://www.groteconsulting.com/