Basic Tips for Conducting a Performance Evaluation

A business owner from North Carolina called me the other day to discuss performance evaluations. Up until this point, the owner had not required his supervisors to conduct performance evaluations on employees, though he was now beginning to see their use in driving employee accountability and organizational value. While I explained there are myriad essential features inherent within the performance evaluation process, I offered three primary tips for the owner to consider before implementing the performance evaluation process.

Here are the fundamentals for conducting an effective performance evaluation.


If an employee is surprised by any comment, observation, or rating shared during the performance evaluation meeting, that is evidence the supervisor did not conduct necessary coaching throughout the rating period.

  • Performance evaluation is not a game of “gotcha!”
  • The goal is to improve employee job performance.
  • Conduct regularly-scheduled one-on-one meeting with each direct report every month.


Review the employee’s job description, personnel folder, previous performance evaluation forms, and supervisory documentation several days prior to the actual meeting.

  • Have the performance appraisal form completed several days prior to the meeting.
  • Never let an employee complete a performance appraisal on him/herself.
  • Be prepared to justify every performance rating with specific behaviors when the employee asks “Why did you give me that rating?”
  • Be prepared to answer the other common employee question “What must I do to improve my rating to the next level” by having a behavioral action plan available for the employee to see your commitment to his/her improvement.


  • Conduct employee performance evaluations on all employees during the month of February each year, not on their hire date anniversary.
  • This timing aligns a review of last year’s company and individual performance, as well as anticipated company and individual goals for the current year.
  • By doing performance evaluations in February, the entire company is completely aligned at the same time.

If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything else related to human resources, simply call me at (760) 685-3800.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.