HR Management & Compliance

Performance Evaluations: Can You Give Me Pointers on Evaluating Our Workers?

We’re reworking our evaluation process and want to make sure we’re appraising workers properly. What should we keep in mind? And how should we address supervisors who procrastinate in completing the evaluations? That’s often a problem for us. Thank you. —Caroline M., HR Director in Oxnard


No California or federal law requires employers to complete written employee performance reviews, but evaluating your workers honestly and promptly is an important workplace responsibility. California employment attorney Harold M. Brody of the law firm Proskauer Rose, LLP, recently discussed key points to consider when preparing for and conducting performance evaluations at the Employer Resource Institute’s 2007 California Employment Law Update in Berkeley. Here we share his advice.

Employees are interested in how they’re doing, and their pay increases often are based on their performance as covered in evaluations. Employers should conduct evaluations regularly—but make sure you conduct the reviews when you say you will. Be realistic about the timeframe you set. An employee’s immediate supervisor is the person who should complete the evaluation, with input from other management personnel who worked with the employee and could speak to his or her performance.

10 Tips for Effective, Legal Performance Appraisals

Don’t let your performance appraisals fall by the wayside. Learn how to make them effective and legal with our exclusive White Paper, 10 Tips for Effective, Legal Performance Appraisals.

No Specific Form

There isn’t a specific or required form that employers should use for their evaluations, but when creating an evaluation form, think about the key aspects of an employee’s job that need to be evaluated and whether a supervisor will be able to complete the form thoughtfully and thoroughly. Although an evaluation may take various forms, you should include: 1) the date of the evaluation; 2) the name of the evaluator and the employee—make sure these names are legible; 3) the time period covered by the evaluation; and 4) the employee’s and supervisor’s dated signature. An overall score is helpful as well. And regardless of the type of form used, make sure that the supervisor fills it out completely.

Be Honest and Accurate

Supervisors should fill out the evaluations honestly and accurately—they shouldn’t refrain from being candid about an employee’s performance for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. From a legal standpoint, if a written evaluation rates the worker as “satisfactory” and “meets expectations,” it may be difficult for the employer to persuade a judge or jury that the person was a poor performer. Remember that, for litigation purposes, if something isn’t in writing, it will be viewed as not having happened or not having happened the way you claim it did. When completing the evaluations, supervisors should be encouraged to use objective language, provide specific examples, and make behavioral observations.

When the supervisor reviews the evaluation with the employee, they should meet one-on-one in a private area without distractions. The supervisor should conduct the meeting professionally and focus on objective issues. The employee should be given the opportunity to comment on the evaluation. If the supervisor has particular areas for the employee to work on during a set timeframe, the supervisor needs to keep track of the action items and follow up with the employee. Instruct the supervisor to give a copy to the employee and keep one for the file.

Supervisors Who Delay

Caroline asked about supervisors who procrastinate when completing the evaluations. If supervisors complain that they don’t have time to finish them, look at whether the evaluations are too complicated and unnecessarily long and detailed—that may be deterring supervisors from doing them. It may be helpful to inform supervisors during training sessions that the human resources department will not approve the discipline and/or discharge of worker if there isn’t sufficient evidence in the employee’s personnel file. Also, supervisors may be motivated to complete the evaluations if they learn that their own performance reviews will cover whether they’ve evaluated their own staff completely and promptly.

CELA Editors