Appraising the Modern Employee

Defining Performance Goals

Performance goals are at the heart of the performance appraisal process. If you fail to identify what an employee is supposed to achieve, how can you assess whether or not he has achieved it?

An essential aspect of effective appraisal is the preparation that every manager must undertake to make the appraisal correctly focused. Many managers assume that employees know what they’re supposed to do, and give them the space to do it. But then, they face real problems when it comes to appraisal. As part of the process for preparing for appraisal, the manager must define the overarching performance goals that the employee will ultimately be appraised on at the beginning of the appraisal period.

This means that just after the appraisal meeting, the manager must begin preparing for the next appraisal period. In most organizations, appraisal periods tend to be for a calendar year. But whatever period is used in your company, you need to start preparing for appraisal as soon as the previous period has been completed.

Performance goals are fundamental to effective appraisal. Performance goals — sometimes called performance objectives — identify what an organization wants as an outcome from an employee. Performance goals are the targets that the employee’s appraisal is based on.

The factors that you will use to determine performance goals are as follows:

Company goals — Company goals set the context for individual goals. Individual goals should contribute to company goals. This will determine not only the activities the employee must perform, but also what the most important objectives are for the individual.

Job descriptions — A job description is a formal list of the activities that the job holder agreed to perform. It is usually created at the start of employment. A job description will enable you to identify whether a performance goal is a new demand being placed on the employee.

Previous appraisals — Previous appraisals should establish a track record to be used to set appropriate goals. From this information you can determine whether the individual is generally capable in her performance, or whether some goals might be difficult.

Poor or confused goals make appraisal meaningless. Defining performance goals correctly is essential for effective appraisal.