People Management 4. Appraisals (Evaluations): Assessing Whether Expectations Have Been Met

What Is an Appraisal?

An appraisal is a formal evaluation of the extent to which the worker has achieved the objectives established in the performance plan. Managers typically conduct the appraisal within a month of the closing of the appraisal period (but not before the end). The appraisal is formally written, but presented in a face-to-face meeting with the worker (even for workers who work at different locations than their managers).

An appraisal typically presents statements that describe how the worker performed on each objective, numerical assessments of the performance in each area, and a numerical assessment of overall performance. The numerical assessment usually indicates whether or not the employee met expectations. Most appraisal systems also indicate the extent to which the worker exceeded expectations (sometimes, usually, or always).

Appraisals also provide workers with feedback on their strengths and areas in which they should focus improvement efforts.

Purpose of an Appraisal

As an evaluation tool, an appraisal is part of a long-term process of helping workers to assess and enhance their performance in their current jobs.

Most companies also use appraisals as a tool to make decisions about human resources issues. Because many organizations use pay scales that tie salary increases to the performance on the job, managers use appraisal ratings to determine the size and timing of a salary increase. Generally, the stronger the performance, the larger the raise and the sooner the worker receives it.

When employees have sustained a high level of appraised performance for several appraisal periods, managers use this sustained performance to justify a promotion.

When hiring an internal candidate for a job, the hiring manager might review a prospective worker’s recent appraisals as part of a background check on the worker.

Format of an Appraisal

For a given area of performance, use one of the following ratings to provide an overall assessment of how well the worker met the objectives:




4=Met expectations

5=Did not meet expectations

Then, write an overall assessment of performance and indicate whether or not each supporting objective was met. If a supporting objective was not met, explain why.

Example of an Appraisal

Objectives Feedback Evalu-ation
Main:Design, write, and produce user’s guides and other information about BC’s products.
Supporting: Design, write, and produce the BC Series 300 User’s Guide.

Design, write, and produce the BC Series 300 General Information Manual.

Design, write, and produce the BC System 300 online help system.

Produce all projects within the negotiated schedule and budget.

Overall, Jan met the objectives.Jan completed the BC Series 300 User’s Guides and General Information Manuals during the appraisal period. Both were completed on time and within budget. They required extensive revision between the first and second drafts because some of the technical information was misinterpreted by Jan.Jan did not complete the online help system because the programmers were not able to support this project. 4
Main:Contribute on department oversight committees as requested.
Supporting: Note that projects might be added or changed during the course of this review period

Serve on the editorial standards committee

Serve on other departmental committees and handle other department assignments as requested

Jan met expectations in this area and sometimes exceeded them.Jan served on the editorial standards committee and participated in meetings.Jan also offered to serve as recorder for standards committee meetings, and has been taking minutes for the past two months. 3
Main:Maintain good working relationships with technical groups.

Take initiative in informing management of the progress of all projects

Contribute to the department’s knowledge base

Negotiate changes in project scope with technical departments only after clearing those changes with management in the technical communication department

Jan met expectations in this area.Jan provides me with bi-weekly status reports on the projects.Because Jan is new to the department, Jan has not contributed yet to the department’s knowledge base.At first, Jan did not inform me about the concerns expressed by the programmers on the first draft of the BC Series 300 User’s Guide. But after I learned of the situation, Jan worked closely with me to develop an action plan. Jan met all the commitments in the action plan. 4
Main:Expand your base of skills with the product and in technical communication.

Attain level 4 certification in the use of the BC Series 300. (Level 4 indicates that you can install and tailor this system, and troubleshoot common problems.)

Keep abreast of developments in publishing systems.

Keep abreast of developments in e‑commerce technology.

 Jan has met expectations in this area and sometimes exceeded them.Jan has achieved level 3 certification in BC Series 300. Scheduling conflicts prevented Jan from attending the level 4 certification class.Jan regularly reads Publish magazine and informs me of new developments in electronic and online publishing.Jan also attended the two technical vitality seminars on e-commerce.


Overall Jan has met the expectations established in the performance plan. On occasion, Jan exceeds expectations in areas of secondary priority.Jan’s strengths are:Attention to editorial detailAbility to follow direction

Writing skills

In the next appraisal period, Jan should focus on improvements in these areas:

Building technical knowledge of the BC 300

Taking initiative in business situations and in assuming work

Striving for excellence rather than perfection


Preparing to Write an Appraisal

Throughout the appraisal period, the manager should place brief notes in the worker’s file to use as reference when writing the appraisal. When preparing to write the appraisal, the manager should review this file and consider performance for the entire appraisal period.

Some questions to consider:

  • What is the feedback of others with whom the worker interacts? What insights can they provide?
  • Has the worker accomplished the tasks listed in the performance plan? Completely? Partially? Not at all?
  • If the worker has only accomplished a task in part or not at all, why is that? Has the urgency subsided? Have other priorities arisen? Was completing the task not feasible because of other priorities or a lack of resources? How has the failure to complete a task had an adverse effect on the business?
  • Has the worker accomplished tasks outside of the performance plan? Were these essential tasks that were not anticipated when the plan was written or non-essential tasks that the worker has chosen to take on?
  • What is the most recent impression of the worker’s performance: positive or negative? How does this compare to the impression one month ago? Three months ago? Has the performance been consistent or not?

Process for Writing an Appraisal

  1. For each supporting objective listed on the performance plan, write the accomplishments.

Merely state what happened, not how it was perceived.

Use observable and measurable terms.

Avoid value terms like “good” or “poorly;” instead, use neutral terms.

2.  For each of the three or four main objectives stated in the performance plan, assess whether the worker has:

5=Not met requirements at all

4=Met the requirements of the job

3=Met the requirements of the job and sometimes exceeded them

2=Met the requirements of the job and often exceeds them

1=Consistently exceeds the requirements

Note that, although it has five levels of evaluation, this evaluation scale does not correspond to the grading system in schools (such as excellent, good, fair, poor, and fail).

3.  Considering the assessments in each area, provide the worker with an overall assessment of the performance using the same scale used in the previous step.

4.  Identify three strengths the person brings to the job.

5. Identify three areas that the person can improve upon. These should pertain to skills (time management), rather than to characteristics (stop being such a latecomer).

6.  Meet with the worker to present the appraisal. For a new worker, you might read the appraisal aloud, going through each section individually and discussing feedback. For a more experienced worker, you might present the overall appraisal then initiate a discussion.

7.  Following the personnel procedures of the organization, file the completed appraisal.

Issues in Writing an Appraisal

  • Recency effect. That is, the manager might focus on the most recent performance (strong or weak) rather than consider the entire performance period.
  • History effect. That is, one event that happened early in the appraisal period might color the manager’s opinion throughout the appraisal period.
  • Sole opinion. That is, the manager does not seek input from others (such as co-workers, teammates on projects, and others) when reviewing the worker’s performance.

© Copyright 1998, 2001, 2010, 2011, 2012. Saul Carliner. All rights reserved.  If sharing or excerpting, should be properly cited.


About idmodelsandprocesses

Exploring, reporting, teaching, and advising on learning and communication for the workplace and consumers.
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