Performance Appraisal: Documenting the Year in Review


Performance appraisals, performance reviews, appraisal forms, whatever you want to call them, I’ll use appraisal. I’m not sure if it has been the 27 years of writing these for my team or having one done about me, but I think the appraisal is a necessary part of the whole process.  Yearly also seems to be the right timeframe. I have done this with every six months to 18 months – 12 months (January to December). Built in reminders that when the holiday season is coming upon us – it is time to close the documented part of the year.

From my experiences and tweaking of my past 26 years, here is the checklist for how to close the annual performance appraisal – start to end!

Preparation for annual performance appraisal:

  • Kick-off the end of the year, with a nice reminder to your team that our performance appraisal time is now just around the corner. I usually send this message out with expectations, timelines and expected closure.
  • Within the initial message, my employee’s are given a blank document for them to write a self assessment on their key accomplishments, their strengths and some areas that they may want to improve on in the coming year. This provides them some input on their overall assessment.
  • Provide the opportunity for broader feedback. I use a 360 degree performance feedback request.  That incorporates feedback from the employee’s peers, customers, and people who may report to him.  Each employee can provide me names of the above that they feel will be a good source of providing feedback (I also reserve the right to add additional names). We really want a well rounded loop of feedback.
  • The self assessment and 360 feedback requests have deadlines that all will be due to me.

Assessing employee and the team performance:

  • Start the Rev 1 appraisal. This is where I sit down and review the self assessment, 360 comments, during the year coaching session notes, employee 1:1 file (all feedback good or bad, awards and such for the complete year) and write my document that I would say is very close to the performance appraisal (Rev 1). Focus on the expectations for the coming year – keeping the cycle alive.
  • Sit down and discuss the Rev 1 document with the employee. One more attempt to review the document and for each to provide feedback. Usually there are minor tweaks or maybe some missing information that may come to the surface, but rarely.
  • Take my individual employee’s performance reviews and assess each to the overall team. This is where folks are being ranked and rated to each other. Depending on the team, you may have senior folks and junior folks on the same team – and assessing them could get a bit difficult. I usually have to remind myself to look at their job expectations, their grade level and level set my expectations to match. Finish up the process by giving each a rating.

Delivering the performance appraisal:

  • Insure to schedule the meetings! Coming up to an employee that happens to sit in the same site as you, is not really a welcome sight. If the employee’s are at different sites, insure to schedule conference rooms. Privacy is something that is important.
  • The night before the scheduled appraisal review session, I send out the Rev 2 document. (I do this for both the folks on and off site). This is the complete review form – that has been reviewed many times by each of us, discussed and finished up. The main item that the employee really has not seen is the overall performance message and ranking/ratings.
  • Minutes before the meeting – I send out to the employee’s that are off site – the overall pay letter. Each employee knows to come to the meeting with their laptop to open the emailed pay letter. For those on site, I have a copy for them.
  • We discuss both documents in detail! Questions and comments – whatever is needed.



  • Never schedule these review sessions back to back! You may want to get it over with, but time to discuss is critical and needed. Running a marathon of performance appraisal meetings, is very taxing.
  • Never schedule on a Friday! From past experience, this gives too much time between delivery and potential additional discussion. If this message is not going to be perceived well, the receiver really does not need to have their weekend wasted. Schedule those messages, early in the week…
  • For off-site folks, try to be there, physically if possible. If travel is restricted, definitely try to use a video feed. Gauging reaction to messages is very difficult over the phone.
  • After completed, I usually give the employee some time to think about the appraisal some more, and if they have any questions and/or comments – to just get back to me by 3 days. This is when I usually close our companies policy by uploading the document to the employee’s record.
  • In my RSS feed (9/4) I found a book review on Leading Blog: Productive Performance Appraisals by Paul Facone and Randi Sachs – Key points:

    1. Document, document, document. Keep a performance log on each and every employee and update it frequently. How often do we let this slide?
    2. Treat monetary issues and promotions separately from performance appraisal discussions.
    3. Get employees’ input before making decisions on reassignments or new tasks.
    4. Learn how to give employees criticism without arousing hostility.
    5. Avoid the word “attitude” in discussions and documentation and use terms like conduct and behavior instead.
    6. Always follow up on areas on concern. Don’t look to continually find fault with the employee’s work—you made your point at the performance appraisal. 7. Find out what they are doing right and encourage them to keep it up.

    Seems my blog post was a shorten verison of a book. Very simple process that works.

  • Hi,
    An excellent informative article. I believe that the points made in the article
    would greatly contribute to the HR society. I am of
    the opinion that the right way to assess performance of an employee is through
    qualitative assessment of the results of the work done by him, rather than on
    some quantity or measured value. A well designed self-appraisal system can only
    achieve this goal. I feel that the employees should
    be involved in the appraisal process and trained on writing performance
    appraisal report properly. I
    strongly feel that the employees need to be made more conscious about the
    importance of the performance appraisal process and the companies need to play
    a bigger role in this matter for eventual development of their employees.

    how to write self performance appraisal