How to write a performance review or job appraisal.

In today's economy, with fewer employees doing the work of many, why take time out of a busy schedules to write employee performance appraisals? Isn't it just a waste of time that puts everyone further behind on their daily "To Do" list? From a manager's point of view, the goal of the performance appraisal should be more than an opportunity to document specific criteria for salary increases, promotions or disciplinary actions—it should also involve ongoing communication, setting achievable goals with clear expectations and having a plan of action for the next period. It is important to take the time away from imminent deadlines to write an effective employee performance appraisal because of a host of benefits:

Motivates your employees. Give employees a clear understanding of what's expected of them by setting goals, establishing timelines, tracking progress, and identifying obstacles to their individual goals.

Recognizes and compensates top performers. Track employee progress against performance goals to identify who is contributing most to the success of your business and reward them for exceptional effort.

Reduces employee turnover and attrition. Help employees be more successful by providing them with clear goals that support your company's objectives and encourage retention by creating a pay-for-performance structure that rewards your top performers appropriately.

Protects yourself legally. Document with a detailed paper trail to build an airtight case should you need to terminate an individual due to unsatisfactory performance. Now that you know why they are important, the next question is how do you write an effective employee performance appraisal? The following tips will help you construct performance appraisals that are efficient, focused and beneficial to everyone.

Set Individual Goals Effectively

Setting goals is a collaborative activity between a manager and his or her employee. The manager communicates company and departmental objectives to the employee and based on this information, the employer and employee together create successfully achievable goals that are aligned with the company goals. Why waste time pursuing goals that are not aligned with those of the company? This leads to a waste of resources and frustration for everyone involved.

Case Study: Camp Fire USA

The issue:
Camp Fire wanted an easy to use, non-intimidating performance management solution that would align individual and team goals with the organization’s overall strategic plan, (updated every three years) and instill confidence in the process by all—employees and managers alike. It would replace their current Microsoft Word-based planning and review processes that were cumbersome and made it difficult to make informed, quick changes to staffing of departments and divisions.

The solution:
All manager's and their direct report's goals, objectives, and actions are incorporated in a single list, enabling visibility amongst employees that share the same final goals, but have different action steps to achieve those objectives. With one click, managers see all direct reports' action steps and can assess performance based on individuals' rolls in contributing to completing shared objectives. The easy-to-use system, with email notifications and centralized data, greatly reduced time necessary to complete the goal setting and performance review process and added value to the information gathered.

The result:
SuccessFactors enabled Camp Fire to tighten up procedures related to the employee appraisal system and brought much-needed consistency. The new online management system saved Camp Fire USA a significant amount of time, made the HR appraisal process more thorough and has resulted in improved attitudes toward the performance assessment process.

"We are a non-profit, but we are also a business, and need to be high performing like any other business. Now, where people used to dread planning and reviews, they actually look forward to it."

Anne Sheets,
Senior Vice President
Administration and Finance


Make it an ongoing process—not just once a year

Managers need to be available and check in with their employees on a regular basis to give feedback and / or coaching as necessary. They should be made aware of any obstacles that may keep their employees from achieving these established goals. If there are obstacles, the manager and employee can create a plan to overcome them, such as reviewing the skill development or training necessary to be successful or evaluate the current available resources to identify whether additional resources are required. Performance monitoring, feedback and coaching creates a separate feedback loop within the larger loop which should take place more than an annual review, allowing for changes as necessary.

Use multiple resources for the employee performance appraisal

The employee performance appraisal needn’t be done in a vacuum—it is important for a manager to solicit multiple viewpoints on the employee's performance, including a self-assessment from the employee. This type of appraisal is called a 360-degree review.

Members of the company who may be involved in a 360-degree review include supervisors, top management, subordinates, co-workers and representatives from other departments who interact with the employee. In fact, anyone who has useful information on how the employee does the job, even customers and clients may be a source in the appraisal, providing a broader view of the employee's performance.

By doing this, managers receive valuable feedback on an employee’s performance because fellow team members often know more about each other's day-to-day performance than the direct supervisor. At the same time, this open process can add to an employee’s job satisfaction and potentially reduce turnover.

Make the process easy and efficient

Design the performance process to work for you. The performance management process must add value; otherwise you will face resistance problems such as missing deadlines and non-participation, thus creating a headache for your HR department. In addition, the process itself must be efficient and as simple as possible, while still providing the necessary value. Automated reminders and scheduling tools can help keep the process on track. This leads us to the consideration of a fully automated process.

An automated process streamlines the process because all parties have access to a centralized document location and can use email to gather necessary information or solicit feedback. Cost savings are evident through the lack of printing multiple copies of various forms and efficiency due to all members of the team being able to work on centrally located documents. Additionally, companies that switch to a paperless process establish a "greener" profile which is becoming increasingly important to consumers.


When written effectively, employee performance appraisals do fill a good strategic business need. They allow us to communicate company and individual goals and put in place the guidelines for a pay-for-performance system that rewards employees for successfully achieving those goals. These appraisals are tools that have the ability to make us all more productive and engaged in our jobs and therefore make our companies more successful.

About SuccessFactors

SuccessFactors is the global leader in business execution software. The SuccessFactors Business Execution Suite improves business alignment and people performance to drive breakthrough results for companies of all sizes. More than 8 Million+ users and 3000+ companies leverage SuccessFactors every day. To learn more, visit:

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