PERFORMANCE REVIEW—5 FAQ’s for Documenting Performance

1.  Why is thorough, contemporaneous documentation so important in a Performance Appraisal process?

  • To support promotions or other advancement.
  • To support adverse actions such as separation from the position or the organization.
  • To reduce rating inconsistencies.

2.  How much should a manager document in a Performance Appraisal process?

  • Only those positive or negative aspects of performance that significantly contribute to or get in the way of the work effort.
  • Enough to demonstrate to the employee, your Management Team, and Human Resources that your team’s focus is aligned with the organization’s Vision and goals.
  • Enough to support any necessary corrective action for Human Resources or a third-party reader.
  • Enough to demonstrate to your Management Team, Human Resources, or a third-party reader how you have managed and developed the employee’s performance.
  • Enough to support the rating for the employee, your Management Team, Human Resources, or a third-party reader. Especially provide solid facts to support exceptional (high and low) ratings. Your Human Resources department may return Performance Appraisals lacking specific substantiation of results.
  • Enough to demonstrate for the employee, your Management Team, and Human Resources your knowledge of the employee’s individual contributions and enough to reinforce desired behaviors.
  • Enough to increase your credibility with the employee who questions that you and they discussed an issue. Ensure there is a match between what is documented and what appears on the Performance Appraisal.
  • The same level of detail for all comparable employees on the team.

 3.  What should be documented and included in the employee’s file to support Performance Appraisal comments?

  • Performance Agreement updates to reflect any changes in the employee’s responsibility and objectives.
  • Substantiated results toward objectives. Documentation of direct observations of performance from the entire review period:  job-related results and behavior. If you observe and record specific examples of performance when they occur, you should have a good starting point for preparing the Appraisal. In fact, throughout the year, you can use the Performance Appraisal form as a worksheet to jot down key observations for each objective and to capture supporting detail—examples, numbers, and other facts.
  • Both constructive and appreciative feedback. Be ‘even-handed’:  give credit where credit is due. Document the employee’s failure to accomplish requirements or achieve goals as well as the employee’s success in accomplishing requirements and achieving goals. Document witnessed violations and disciplinary actions as well as positive contributions, rewards, and recognitions.

 4.  What are some examples of ongoing Performance Appraisal documentation to record in the employee’s file?

  • Employee Self-Appraisals.
  • 360-degree feedback from colleagues and customers (as appropriate for your work team and the employee).
  • Copies of reports or memos written by the employee—with your contemporaneous feedback to the employee.
  • The employee’s monthly status reports.
  • Letters or memos of commendation from others about the employee.
  • One- or two-line notes to yourself documenting any situation that occurred, the employee’s behavior, the impact of the behavior, and your discussion with the employee.

The Performance Appraisal file is not a secret dossier. Anything that goes into that file should be discussed with the employee as closely as possible to the time the incident occurred. Feedback is most effective when it is immediate.

5.  What should be included in documentation of performance discussions?

Document objective facts concerning actual performance and coaching discussions. You can set up a Documentation Form with these entries:

  • The date, the time, and where coaching took place.
  • Expected vs. actual results or behavior including specific examples (worded factually, never judgmentally).
  • The impacts on the individual, team, organization, and customer.
  • The action plan including precise descriptions of expectations, measures, and a timeline.
  • The consequences of failing to achieve the action plan—that is, where the employee is on the continuum of corrective action and the level of seriousness of the situation.
  • How the organization and the Management Team will support the employee’s development (e.g., training, coaching).
  • Any referral to additional resources such as the organization’s Employee Assistance Program.
  • Subsequent results toward the action plan.

You can use the Documentation Form for both appreciative and constructive feedback. But with appreciative feedback, the Action Plan might be to share a Success Story with the team and you would not list consequences. If you are not using something comparable to this form to ensure that you document feedback consistently, consider putting this tool into practice.

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