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Appraisal Illustrations: Proficiencies and Areas for Improvement

Appraisal Illustrations: Proficiencies and Areas for Improvement

How do you know if your employees are firing on all cylinders? Are staff members excelling in their roles and progressing towards company goals? As a manager, having clear visibility into team effectiveness is key for nurturing talent. Well-designed performance evaluations provide just that - an avenue for assessing individual contributions while identifying strengths, gaps, and development areas.

These one-on-one check-ins allow both parties to evaluate what's gone well during the review period and what could be improved. Employees receive valuable feedback to enhance critical skills. Managers gain insight into coaching opportunities.

This post explores the building blocks for crafting purposeful performance evaluations. You'll discover tips for setting up appraisal templates, balancing constructive criticism with positive reinforcement, and motivating staff through actionable guidance.

What is Performance Appraisal?

Before diving into effective appraisal components, let's level set on what a performance review entails. In simple terms, it is a periodic assessment of an employee's job performance and overall contribution to a company over a defined review period (usually monthly, quarterly, or annually).

Appraisals go beyond a typical progress check-in, though. Appraisers use this practice to provide feedback, set future goals, and make training, promotion, or compensation decisions. Well-executed appraisals are pivotal for boosting productivity.

Performance Review Examples

Now, what might some evaluation formats look like in practice? There are a diverse set of methodologies managers can choose from:

  • 360-degree feedback: Collect perceptual input from all stakeholders. That includes the employees, managers, co-workers, direct reports, and even customers. A well-rounded perspective allows better assessment.
  • Self-appraisals: Employees first assess their own performance against pre-defined criteria. This self-reflection primes them for the formal review discussion.
  • MBO (Management by Objectives): The appraiser and employee mutually establish specific, measurable targets and expectations. Appraisal is directly tied to the achievement of these objectives.
  • Behavioral appraisals: Evaluate how well employees exhibit competencies outlined by the organization, such as leadership, communication, critical thinking, etc.
  • Ranking method: Benchmark employee output or skills against each other. Used to inform forced ranking, promotions, and succession planning.

The appropriate techniques depend on your goals, culture, and resources. Many organizations use a blend of these or other methods.

Setting up a Performance Appraisal Process

When establishing an impactful and consistent appraisal process, there are vital steps to follow, regardless of your chosen evaluation methodologies.

Define the Goals

First, determine what parameters constitute strong performance and productivity for your company. Identify:

  • Key metrics
  • Targets
  • Responsibilities
  • Competencies
  • OKRs
  • KPIs 

Naturally, these should align with organizational goals. Benchmark indicators will evolve based on business priorities. An excellent way to approach this is to get leadership alignment on 3-5 critical business objectives for the upcoming year. These could be tied to revenue growth, product expansion, customer satisfaction, etc. 

Then, break down essential workforce competencies needed to move the needle on those goals. We'll touch more on these competencies in the next section.

Choose Groups to Evaluate

Decide which groups of employees you want to evaluate and how often. For instance, you may start with jobs that significantly impact operations. Then, over time, expand assessments more broadly.

Annual appraisals are a good starting point. Comprehensive reviews allow managers to assess employee progression with more data points versus quarterly check-ins. For organizations with 500+ employees, breaking down annual reviews into fiscal half appraisals may be better. 

Kick off with sales, engineering, and product management - teams closest to customers and revenue. Next, evaluate support functions like Finance, Legal, and HR. Phase 3 can cover the remaining business groups.

Develop Competency Criteria

The next step is creating measurement criteria tailored to your firm. You can build a competency model by selecting capabilities that drive the behaviors and results you want to see.

For individual contributors, focus on tactical abilities. How adept are they with the tools and technologies required for their role? How strong are their project management, data analysis, or design skills? Assess managers on soft skills like conflict resolution, team building, and communication. Review executives on vision setting, industry foresight, and leading cross-functional initiatives.

Evaluating Employee Performance

With your goals and criteria defined, pick appraisal method(s) that align. No need to overcomplicate the process if you're just getting started. Simple templates on a shared drive with review reminders work well enough. As you mature, invest in tools that provide analytics. Ultimately, craft a methodology promoting continuous development through regular touchpoints.

A typical employee performance review cycle includes:

  • The manager assesses individuals against predetermined competencies and goals, filling out evaluation paperwork.
  • The appraiser (manager) and appraisee (employee) meet to discuss performance, wins, roadblocks, and areas for growth.
  • Development plans are created, along with new assignments.
  • Final ratings are compiled for all personnel. These inform decisions on training, pay, promotions, and more.

Employee Strengths and Weaknesses

Appraising employee strengths and opportunities for improvement is at the core of performance reviews. As a manager, you want to balance positive reinforcement with constructive feedback so individuals feel supported yet still challenged to reach their potential. Some key areas to evaluate:

Time Management

Effectively budgeting time is crucial for high-performance today with so many competing priorities. Does the employee plan ahead, prioritize well, and use calendars to maximize focus? Are they frequently late on assignments or missing deadlines? 

Ask about the tools they use - calendars, to-do lists, and project boards. These help quantify effort, which brings clarity. 

Customer Service

For client-facing roles, how we show up impacts perceptions more than we realize. Assessing communication style, patience, empathy, and accountability is critical. Look for a willingness to go the extra mile. Bonus points if they collect customer feedback or net promoter scores to gauge external perceptions.

We all have bad days, of course. That's why looking at the data over time rather than isolated incidents is crucial. 


Real wins happen when teams come together cohesively to amplify strengths. Notice those who are unafraid to ask colleagues for support or perspectives. They actively listen to understand, not just reply. And they model that behavior for newcomers.

If you see under collaboration, restore harmony through one-on-ones first. Discover mutual motivations to better support their role on the team. Then, you can implement group activities to strengthen bonds. Think team-building exercises or cross-functional projects.

Interpersonal Skills

Soft skills like emotional intelligence enable talent to influence without authority, resolve conflict, and steer conversations. Technical wizardry only goes so far without emotional intelligence sprinkled in. Evaluate the employee's self-awareness and ability to read the room when interacting. These softer abilities can accelerate or hamper careers.

Thankfully, coaching and training can develop these interpersonal skills. Look for an eagerness to learn new techniques and frameworks for better self-management, conflict resolution, effective communication, and relationship building. 

Accepting Feedback

Getting constructive criticism can be tough. When someone points out something we could improve on, it's human nature to feel a little defensive. But the employees who really stand out are the ones who can take critical feedback in stride.

They don't see it as a personal attack. Instead, they see it as helpful data that will make them better at their jobs. Those adaptive employees who can roll with the punches are worth their weight in gold.


When problems arise, you want employees who can keep their cool. Identify the ones who immediately start brainstorming solutions. Calm, rational, and innovative problem-solvers add huge value, especially in fluid fields.

One way to evaluate problem-solving is to understand how an employee has handled challenging situations in the past. Ask them to give specific examples of a time when they had to think on their feet and come up with a creative solution.


In today's fast-changing business world, rigid employees who can only operate under strict rules and procedures just don't cut it anymore. They crack under the pressure of evolving priorities and directives. Change resisters drag teams down, whereas agile professionals keep operations running smoothly.

If you have any change-resistant people on your team, a little transparency and hand-holding can go a long way. Walk them through why the change is important for the team's goals and the company's overall strategy. Offer to be a resource for them as they navigate uncertainty. Focus on their strengths and talents that will aid them through the transition.

Final Thoughts

Business success hinges on a skilled, motivated workforce. Managers can reinforce top talent through consistent performance reviews. The end goal is to uncover diamonds in the rough and align collective efforts. 

Of course, no solution is one-size-fits-all in the talent development space. As organizations evolve, so must evaluation methodologies. How have you structured appraisals purposefully in your context to unlock potential? What benefits or pitfalls have you encountered applying these techniques with your team? 

We would love to hear your perspectives!

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