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

To begin the process, you and the employee will collaborate on the development of performance standards. You will 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 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

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).

Characteristics of Performance Standards

Standards describe the conditions that must exist before the performance can be rated satisfactory. A performance standard should:

  • Be realistic, in other words, attainable by any qualified, competent, and fully trained person who has the authority and resources to achieve the desired result.
  • Describe the conditions that exist when performance meets expectations.
  • Be expressed in terms of quantity, quality, time, cost, effect, manner of performance, or method of doing.
  • Be measurable, with specified method(s) of gathering performance data and measuring performance against standards.

Expressing Standards

The terms for expressing performance standards are outlined below:

  • Quantity: specifies how much work must be completed within a certain period of time (e.g., enters 30 enrollments per day).
  • Quality: describes how well the work must be accomplished. Specifies accuracy, precision, appearance, or effectiveness (e.g., 95% of documents submitted are accepted without revision).
  • Timeliness: answers the questions, "by when?", "how soon?", or "within what period?" (e.g., all work orders completed within five working days of receipt).
  • Effective Use of Resources: used when performance can be assessed in terms of utilization of resources: money saved, waste reduced, etc. (e.g., the computer handbook project will be completed with only internal resources).
  • Effects of Effort: addresses the ultimate effect to be obtained; expands statements of effectiveness by using phrases such as: so that, in order to, or as shown by (e.g., establish inventory levels for storeroom so that supplies are maintained 100% of the time).
  • Manner of Performance: describes conditions in which an individual's personal behavior has an effect on performance. (e.g., assists other employees in the work unit in accomplishing assignments).
  • Method of Performing Assignments: describes requirements; used when only the officially-prescribed policy, procedure, or rule for accomplishing the work is acceptable. (e.g., 100A Forms are completed in accordance with established office procedures).

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.