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How to Evaluate an Employee: A Performance Review Checklist

Most businesses conduct employee evaluations on a regular basis, usually at least once a year. The evaluation typically includes a review of how the employee’s various work duties and habits compare with expectations. Often, the evaluation results are a key consideration for promotions, bonuses and raises. Regular evaluations help employees better understand what’s expected of them, improve communication between management and employees and give employees proper recognition for their work.

These topics explain how to evaluate an employee effectively and why performance evaluations are helpful leadership tools:

How to Evaluate an Employee

What is a Performance Evaluation?

What’s the Purpose of Employee Evaluation?

How to Evaluate an Employee

To evaluate an employee effectively, companies need to have a standard evaluation framework in place and review each individual employee against those standard metrics. Here’s a step-by-step guide to effectively evaluating employees:

1. Set Performance Standards

It’s important that you set clear performance standards that outline what an employee in a specific role is expected to accomplish and how the work should be done. The same standards must apply to every employee who holds the same position. All performance standards should be achievable and they should relate directly to the person’s job description.

2. Set Specific Goals

You should also set goals that are specific to each employee, unlike performance standards, which can apply to multiple workers. Goals are particular to the strengths and weaknesses of the individual employee and can help them improve their skills or learn new ones. Work with each employee to set goals that are reasonable and relevant to their position.

3. Take Notes Throughout the Year

Track the performance of your employees throughout the year. Create a performance file for each worker. Keep records of notable accomplishments or incidents, whether they’re positive or negative. Remember that you can give immediate feedback to employees when something stands out as well, you don’t have to wait until the year-end review process to give praise or constructive criticism.

4. Be Prepared

When it comes time to actually give an employee evaluation, it’s best to prepare for the meeting ahead of time. Review your documentation for the employee before the meeting and make notes of what you want to discuss with the employee. The performance review should be mostly about the positive elements of the employee’s performance, with some helpful advice on how to improve in the future. After all, if the worker’s performance was mostly negative, they probably wouldn’t still be working for you.

5. Be Honest and Specific with Criticism

When you do need to give criticism in an evaluation, be honest and straightforward about your feedback. Don’t try to sugarcoat or downplay the situation, which can create confusion for the employee. Give clear examples and then provide helpful, specific advice on how the employee can grow and improve in the future.

6. Don’t Compare Employees

The purpose of an employee evaluation is to review the performance of each staff member against a set of standard performance metrics. It’s not helpful to compare the performance of one employee to another and doing so can lead to unhealthy competition and resentment. Always circle back to your evaluation framework, not the performance of other workers.

7. Evaluate the Performance, Not the Personality

Your evaluation should focus on how well the employee performs their job, rather than their personality traits. When you make judgements about the employee’s personality, they can feel attacked and the conversation can turn hostile. So, for example, rather than giving feedback about an employee being immature or emotional, it’s more productive to instead give specific examples of the employee’s actions in the workplace that demonstrate those characteristics. Don’t make criticism personal, always tie it back to the work.

8. Have a Conversation

An employee evaluation shouldn’t be a one-way street where the manager gives feedback and the employee listens to that feedback. Instead, a productive employee evaluation should be a conversation between the two of you. Listen to your employee’s concerns and how they’d like their career to grow. Find out how you and the larger team can help the employee meet their career goals. You may also ask for an employee to provide a self-evaluation of how they think they performed at their job for the year. A performance review should allow the employee to review the workplace, their managers and themselves, as well as reflect on their own career growth.

9. Ask Specific Questions

To foster productive conversations with employees during the evaluation, it can help to enter the room with specific questions you’d like to discuss with the worker. Here are some questions you can ask employees to spark conversation and receive valuable feedback:

  • What do you hope to achieve within the company this year?
  • What resources or support do you need from the department to reach your goals?
  • What will your biggest challenges be in working to meet your business goals this year?
  • How often would you like to receive feedback?
  • How can I be a better manager to you?
  • What are your long-term career goals and how can the organization help you achieve them?
  • What new skills would you like to develop this year? Is there training we can provide to help develop those skills?

10. Give Ongoing Feedback

Ideally, employee evaluation is an ongoing process throughout the year, not a one-time task. Giving feedback throughout the year and touching base with an employee to see how they’re working toward their yearly goals can help improve worker morale and keep employees on track at work.

What is a Performance Evaluation?

An employee performance evaluation is a regular assessment and review of an employee’s performance on the job. Typically, managers conduct a full performance evaluation annually, with regular check-ins throughout the year. Performance evaluations allow an employer to set clear expectations and measure the employee’s success. The information gathered as part of a performance evaluation can help drive decisions about pay raises, promotions and layoffs.

Often, performance reviews include the manager’s evaluation of the employee’s performance as well as a self-evaluation conducted by the employee about their own review of their success. Performance evaluations should be judged against specific goals using clearly defined metrics.

What’s the Purpose of Employee Evaluation?

Employee evaluation serves a number of purposes meant to improve the individual’s performance and the company culture. Here are some of the benefits of professional employee evaluations:

  • They help employees better understand what’s expected of them
  • The manager has an opportunity to better understand the employee’s strengths and motivations
  • They give helpful feedback to employees on how they can improve their performance in the future
  • They can help the employee and manager plan for the employee’s future
  • They give objective reviews of people based on standard metrics, which can be useful for fairly evaluating promotions, raises and bonuses


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