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What Information Do I Need To Write A Valid Performance Appraisal?

You’ll need information about four different factors that contribute to an effective performance appraisal:

1. The job

2. The jobholder

3. The person

4. The self-appraisal or accomplishments list

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The Job. Begin by rereading the job description for the individual. That is your very first responsibility in getting ready to do a performance appraisal. You are not evaluating Charlie—you are evaluating how well Charlie did this particular job. Start therefore by getting the job clearly in mind.

It may be that Charlie’s job description isn’t very good. It’s not completely accurate. It describes some things that he’s really not responsible for and omits some critical responsibilities. Again, reading the job description helps you understand exactly what Charlie’s job actually is, since you’ll be able to compare his real day-to-day job with the somewhat artificial construct described in the official job description. (And this is an excellent time to get the wheels in motion to get the outmoded job description revised.)

Next, pull out your copy of the performance appraisal form with the notes that the individual took during the performance-planning meeting at the start of the year. Review the goals that you set and the discussion you had about the key job responsibilities. Again, your focus is on getting a clear understanding of exactly what the job you’re assessing involves.

Finally, answer these questions:

  • Why did the organization create this job?
  • What are the most important ways in which a person doing this job should spend her time?
  • What are the two or three most important duties of a person holding this job?
  • If someone asked me what it takes to be successful in this job, what would I say?
  • What is the easiest way to tell whether this job is being done well?

The answers to these questions will give you a solid fix on exactly what the job itself is. And before you can assess how well someone did a job, you must know what the job actually is.

The Jobholder. Now is the time to start collecting all of the available information about the person doing the job. The most valuable source of information is all of the notes and entries you made in your performance log. (If you haven’t been keeping a performance log or diary for each of the people you’re responsible for supervising, you’ll appreciate the value of it now.)

Some of the information will be numerical and quantitative. Some of it will be descriptive and qualitative. Get it all together.

Next, review both your notes and your memory for critical incidents. Critical incidents are events where the individual demonstrated either particularly good or poor performance.

What have you observed in the person’s performance that was worth remembering for the appraisal discussion? Behavioral observations are another source of data.

The Person. Now it’s time to consider Charlie himself. How does his performance this year compare with how he’s performed in previous years? Is he staying steady (in the face of rising performance expectations), gradually improving, greatly improving, or falling behind? How does his performance compare with the performance of people doing similar jobs? What action has he taken on items that you identified as needing attention during the midterm review? Did he get right to work on your suggestions or did he ignore the recommendations you made? How effective have his efforts been?

The Self-Appraisal and Accomplishments List. If you asked the individual to prepare a list of accomplishments or complete a self-appraisal (and return it to you in advance), this will be a worthwhile source of performance data. Has the person identified all of her important accomplishments—the ones that you are personally familiar with? Are there significant differences between your opinion of the quality of the individual’s work and her own?

Is there any evidence of ‘‘gilding the lily’’—presenting minor attainments as colossal triumphs?

Finally, is the individual unduly harsh or lenient in the evaluation of her own performance?

Gathering data from these four sources—the job, the jobholder, the person, and the accomplishments list—will give you a complete perspective on the individual’s job performance.