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Guide to performance management

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Recent research with employees in the Middle East found that only 34% were satisfied with their company’s performance management process. This is a huge wasted opportunity – not just to boost employee engagement, but also to get the best out of your workers. In this article, we’ll look at what performance management is, and how Small and Medium Business owners can improve upon how the performance appraisal is conducted.

What is performance management?

Performance management can be defined as a dedicated framework an organisation sets up to provide periodic feedback to employees. It is an essential management activity that is intended to improve the work of individuals and the organisation. It is useful because it provides a moment when employees and managers can pause and evaluate how things are going and encourages change. Rather than just carrying on as they have always done, it means employees and managers can work out how to improve mutually upon things.

Choosing the right performance management process

The traditional performance management process involves an annual meeting where a member of staff and their line manager discuss the employee’s work over the course of the year. While the performance management process can be highly valuable, many organisations have found that a traditional annual review doesn’t ‘work’ for them.

Employees often report that they find it stressful because recent events tend to dominate the conversation and they often come away unsure about what they are supposed to do. As a result, many companies are beginning to use different types of performance management systems.

There are now ever more types of performance management processes that can be tailored to different sized businesses, industries and ways of working. Let’s look at some of them.

Performance appraisals

A performance appraisal is a meeting in which the company’s performance management process is put into play – and this can vary drastically depending on the approach you take. In an organisation that has an informal approach to performance management, the meeting may be a casual discussion over a coffee in a staff meeting area. In other companies, it will be a highly structured ‘interview’ style meeting, where employees and managers mark off performance against an employee evaluation card that all staff must follow.

What is a performance appraisal?

A performance appraisal – also known as a performance evaluation or a performance review – is a type of meeting where an employee and their manager formally discuss the employee’s performance in a given period (usually quarterly or annually). It involves providing feedback, setting targets for improvement, and negotiating pay rises.
A performance appraisal is valuable because it sets aside time to discuss the employee’s work specifically. Without having a regular performance evaluation in place, this kind of feedback and goal setting would only happen sporadically (if at all). Different organisations will decide to run the employee performance evaluation differently – depending on their size, industry and business culture.
Let’s look at some of the different approaches you can take for your employee measurement.

Methods of employee evaluation

Employee evaluation will vary from one business to another and will also depend on an employee’s role. A member of staff in a retail store might be evaluated on the way they interact with customers; a B2B salesperson might be assessed on their sales figures; and a finance employee might be assessed on their efficiency.
Here are some of the most popular employee evaluation methods:

Employee evaluation form

An employee evaluation form is a document that HR sends the employee in advance of their performance appraisal. The worker is asked to fill in their appraisal form with self-evaluation comments in response to specific questions about their work. They then send this back to their manager, and during the meeting, this performance appraisal form is used to discuss the employee’s progression. Most companies use employee evaluation forms during appraisals.

Meetings and catch-ups

For a less formal approach, the company may choose to forego a performance appraisal form, and instead have more casual meetings every few months to discuss progress or issues. This is common in smaller companies where staff work closely together.

Rating scales

With rating scales, the employee and their manager will work through a predefined list of activities and rank how well the employee is doing against them. This is more common in larger companies that want data on general performance across the business.

Ranking against objectives

Objective-based appraisals involve setting targets at the beginning of each year or quarter, and then deciding if the employee has achieved them during the appraisal meeting. This method can be used in almost any organisation.

360-degree evaluations

This is a kind of evaluation where employee appraisal comments are given not just by the manager, but from other members of the employee’s team and even customers. This means feedback is more rounded than previously.

Performance evaluations

So, what should you include in your company’s performance evaluation form? It will, of course, depend on your employees and how you work, but the following employee evaluation samples will give you an idea of what works.

Self-assessment example questions

Achievement questions

Example: Please list your most significant achievements since your last appraisal.
Purpose: This gets the employee to reflect on their successes and gives them the opportunity to highlight the value they believe they bring to the company.

Professional development questions

Example: What goals do you have, and how could the organisation help you achieve them?
Purpose: This kind of question helps frame the interview in a positive way, so the employee can focus on how they can improve.

Issues and problems questions

Example: Please describe anything that you feel unhappy about in the workplace.
Purpose: This kind of question allows the employee to report any personal problems or discuss issues such as bullying or poor conditions.

Performance evaluation samples

If your organisation chooses to use ratings to help with the performance appraisal process, performance evaluation scales can help rank progress in a quantitative manner. This gives you data to help understand how staff are doing right across the business.
  • Do you agree that you are paid fairly for your work?
Completely agree    Completely disagree
1  2 3 4 5
  • Do you feel that you receive enough support from your manager?
Completely agree    Completely disagree
1  2 3 4 5
  • Is your work challenging enough?
Completely agree Completely disagree
1  2 3 4 5

In larger businesses, this kind of information can tell you if one team is having morale issues, meaning you can then investigate what is going wrong and resolve underlying issues.

Performance reviews structure example

An employee appraisal will cover many of the same kinds of questions. The following performance review structure example shows the type of typical information an organisation might include.

  • Introduction and purpose: Explain why you are carrying out the performance review.
  • Points on general behaviour and performance: Discuss issues around punctuality, attendance, compliance and attitude.
  • Job-specific discussion: Talk about how well the employee is performing with regards to their specific role.
  • Year-on-year comparison: Discuss how well the employee is doing in comparison with previous years.
  • Goals and targets: Discuss whether they have achieved objectives set in the past, as well as goals for the future.

Performance management for any organisation

Organisations that put into place a consistent performance management process enjoy many benefits. Employees are supported, issues can be discussed and resolved, and new targets can be set. This helps the individual employee to flourish, as well as improves the organisation.