Performance Management Overview

Setting performance standards, observing and providing feedback, and conducting appraisals enables you to achieve the best results through managing employee performance.

The process begins when you and the employee discuss future goals and objectives for the coming year. You should develop a performance plan that directs the employee's efforts toward achieving specific results, to support organizational growth as well as the employee's professional growth. Discuss goals and objectives throughout the year, providing a framework to ensure employees achieve results through coaching and mutual feedback. At the end of the rating period, you will appraise the employee's performance against existing standards, and establish new goals together for the next rating period.

As the immediate supervisor, you play an important role; your closest interaction with the employee occurs at this level.

Performance Appraisal
UC Davis carries our our mission through the individual and collective contributions of its employees. To do their best, staff members need to know that those contributions will be recognized and acknowledged. Overseeing performance and providing feedback is not an isolated event, but rather an ongoing process that takes place throughout the year. The performance appraisal is part of that process, and provides an excellent opportunity for you to communicate with the employee about past performance, evaluate the employee's job satisfaction, and make plans for the employee's future performance.

Remember that the performance appraisal summarizes the employee's contributions over the entire appraisal period (usually one year). It is not a step in the disciplinary process. It may occur as often as you believe is necessary to acknowledge the employee for accomplishments and to plan together for improved performance.

Performance Standards
Performance expectations are the basis for appraising employee performance. Written performance standards let you compare the employee's performance with mutually understood expectations and minimize ambiguity in providing feedback.

Having performance standards is not a new concept; standards exist whether or not they are discussed or put in writing. When you observe an employee's performance, you usually make a judgment about whether that performance is acceptable. How do you decide what's acceptable and what's unacceptable performance? The answer to this question is the first step in establishing written standards.

Standards identify a baseline for measuring performance. From performance standards, supervisors can provide specific feedback describing the gap between expected and actual performance.

Guiding Principles
Effective performance standards:

  • Serve as an objective basis for communicating about performance
  • Enable the employee to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable results
  • Increase job satisfaction because employees know when tasks are performed well
  • Inform new employees of your expectations about job performance
  • Encourage an open and trusting relationship with employees

Key Areas of Responsibility
You may choose to write performance standards for each key area of responsibility on the employee's job description. The employee should participate actively in their development. Standards are usually established when an assignment is made, and they should be reviewed if the employee's job description is updated. The discussion of standards should include the criteria for achieving satisfactory performance and the proof of performance (methods you will use to gather information about work performance).

Performance Measurements
Since one of the characteristics of a performance standard is that it can be measured, you should identify how and where evidence about the employee's performance will be gathered. Specifying the performance measurements when the responsibility is assigned will help the employee keep track of his progress, as well as helping you in the future performance discussions.
There are many effective ways to monitor and verify performance, the most common of which are:

  • Direct observation
  • Specific work results (tangible evidence that can be reviewed without the employee being present)
  • Reports and records, such as attendance, safety, inventory, financial records, etc.
  • Commendations or constructive or critical comments received about the employee's work

Observation and Feedback (Coaching)
Once performance objectives and standards are established, you should observe employees' performance and provide feedback. You have a responsibility to recognize and reinforce strong performance by an employee, and identify and encourage improvement where it is needed. You provide informal feedback almost every day.
By observing and providing detailed feedback, you play a critical role in the employee's continued success and motivation to meet performance expectations.

Coaching is a method of strengthening communication between you and the employee. It helps to shape performance and increase the likelihood that the employee's results will meet your expectations. Coaching sessions provide you and the employee the opportunity to discuss their progress toward meeting mutually-established standards and goals. A coaching session focuses on one or two aspects of performance, rather than the total review that takes place in a performance evaluation.

Guiding Principles
Effective coaching can:

  • Strengthen communication between you and the employee
  • Help the employee attain performance objectives
  • Increase employee motivation and commitment
  • Maintain and increase the employee's self-esteem
  • Provide support

Key Elements of Coaching
To make your coaching session effective, you must understand the key elements of coaching:

  • Coach when you want to focus attention on any specific aspect of the employee's performance.
  • Observe the employee's work and solicit feedback from others.
  • When performance is successful, take the time to understand why.
  • Advise the employee ahead of time on issues to be discussed.
  • Discuss alternative solutions.
  • Agree on action to be taken.
  • Schedule follow-up meeting(s) to measure results.
  • Recognize successes and improvements.
  • Document key elements of coaching session.

Questions to Consider When Coaching
To provide effective feedback you must understand the elements of performance and analyze marginal performance. Keep these questions in mind:

  • How is the employee expected to perform?
  • Does the employee understand these expectations? If not, why not?
  • Does the employee know what successful results look like? How do you know?
  • Does the employee know the performance is marginal? How do you know?
  • Are there obstacles beyond the employee's control? Can you remove them?
  • Has the employee ever performed this task satisfactorily?
  • Is the employee willing and able to learn?
  • Does satisfactory performance result in excessive work being assigned?
  • Does unsatisfactory performance result in positive consequences such as an undesirable task being reassigned?

Coaching Behaviors
To make the most of coaching the employee, remember to practice these coaching behaviors:

  • Focus on behavior, not personality.
  • Ask the employee for help in problem identification and resolution. Use active listening to show you understand.
  • Set specific goals and maintain communication.
  • Use reinforcement techniques to shape behavior.

During the Coaching Session
If you decide to conduct a coaching session to provide positive feedback to the employee, keep the following ideas in mind:

  • Describe the positive performance result or work habit using specific details.
  • Solicit your employee's opinion of the same product or behavior.
  • Ask the employee to identify elements that contributed to success (adequate time or resources, support from management or other employees, the employee's talent and interest in the project).
  • Discuss ways in which you and the employee can support continued positive results.
  • Reinforce for the employee the value of the work and how it fits in with the goals of the work unit or department.
  • Show your appreciation of the positive results and your confidence that the employee will continue to perform satisfactorily.
  • If appropriate, document your discussion for the employee's file.

When you conduct a coaching session to improve performance, you may want to use the following format:

  • Describe the issue or problem, referring to specific behaviors.
  • Involve the employee in the problem-solving process.
  • Discuss causes of the problem.
  • Identify and write down possible solutions.
  • Decide on specific actions to be taken by each of you.
  • Agree on a follow-up date.
  • Document key elements of the session.

If your coaching session is conducted to address poor work habits such as continued tardiness, keep these steps in mind:

  • Describe in detail the poor work habit observed.
  • Say why it concerns you.
  • Ask why it occurred and listen non-judgmentally to the explanation. Describe the need for change and ask for ideas.
  • Discuss each idea and offer your help.
  • Agree on specific actions to be taken and set a specific follow-up date.
  • Document results from the session.

Follow-Up Discussion
To conduct a follow-up discussion, consider the following steps:

  • Review the previous discussion(s).
  • Discuss insufficient improvement and ask for reasons why.
  • Indicate consequence of continued lack of improvement. (No threats! This isn't an oral warning.)
  • Agree on action to be taken and set a follow-up date, if appropriate.
  • Convey your confidence in the employee.
  • Document your discussion.

Guiding Principles
The goal of the performance appraisal process is to help the employee feel:

  • Positive about the job
  • Motivated to do well and to develop
  • Benefited by specific, constructive feedback
  • Appreciated for specific contributions
  • Informed about current and future performance objectives
  • Involved as a participant in the process

Preparing for the Appraisal
Both you and the employee play an important role in creating a productive performance appraisal process. Here are some suggestions to get the employee involved:

  • Schedule a mutually convenient time and place for the performance appraisal discussion. Allow enough time and ensure privacy.
  • Explain that you would like the discussion to be a dialog, with input from both of you included in the final written document.
  • Give the employee some options about how to prepare for the discussion. For example, ask the employee to prepare a self-evaluation using the same form you will use for your draft. The employee can address accomplishments and things that could be done better.
  • Give the employee a list of questions to consider when evaluating their own performance. Sample questions might be: What have been your major accomplishments? What could you have done better? What could I do as your supervisor to help you do your job better? Would you like to see your responsibilities change? If so, how?
  • Prepare a draft appraisal, making sure you have as much information as possible, including: job description, performance standards, previous appraisals, letters of commendation and/or criticism, samples of work, and records of disciplinary action.
  • Consider the question, what can I do to help the employee do the job better and achieve developmental goals?

Conducting the Appraisal Discussion
Continue the momentum you have established throughout the year with your ongoing dialog about performance. You want to set the tone for an open and productive discussion. Here are some steps you can take to make it as successful as possible:

  • Create a supportive environment by stating clearly the purpose of the discussion. Be as non-threatening and open as possible since the employee may be tense or uncomfortable.
  • Discuss key areas of responsibility and give examples of specific results. Have the employee go first, based on the self-appraisal or the questions you provided in advance. Ask lots of questions and get clarification to make sure you understand the employee's point of view.
  • Discuss what could have been done better. Identify your concerns and listen to the employee's explanations.
  • Ask your employee for help in resolving problems. Focus on future performance and be sure the employee takes responsibility for improvement.
  • Make sure you and the employee have the same understanding of future expectations regarding performance.
  • Give positive recognition for performance that reinforces the goals of the work unit.
  • Discuss the employee's interests and potential new responsibilities. Discuss both of your roles in achieving new objectives while maintaining ongoing responsibilities.
  • Conclude on a positive note, emphasizing the benefits of your dialog.

The Final Appraisal Document
Record the results of your discussion on the electronic performance appraisal form. Ask the employee to review and acknowledge the form, and explain that the acknowledgement indicates discussion of the contents has been held, not necessarily agreement with them.

Source: UC Berkeley, Guide to Managing Human Resources