Performance Appraisals: How to Make Them Easy

Clear, measurable job objectives early on take away the guesswork later.


I know that companies are always trying to get you to set goals in categories like "Trust" and "Teamwork" and "Leadership." Those are gushy little categories that leadership teams just love, but for managers it's a huge pain. Since I promised to make your next year's performance appraisal writing a snap, I'll tell you how to set goals so that the appraisal just falls into place.

A typical goal for teamwork would read something like this: "Suzanne will work with her team members to successfully execute all necessary tasks. She will collaborate with her coworkers in order to increase the departmental knowledge base and facilitate the timely completion of projects."

If this were my goal, and my manager had to evaluate how well I did on "teamwork," she'd probably end up curled into a little HR-avoidance ball. Finally, at the last minute, some additional gobbledygook would be written on my appraisal and I'd be assigned a number (4.2). But that's a pain, and what does it mean, anyway?

Instead, let's get SMART about it. SMART objectives meet the following criteria:


T—Time Frame So, if I still have to have a goal about "teamwork," let's see how a SMART objective would work.

Specific: Suzanne will participate in semimonthly team meetings. She will present her projects and receive reports on her team member's projects. She will work to build the team's knowledge base by presenting summaries of her projects. Likewise, she will increase her knowledge base by listening to her team's presentations. She will update the team via E-mail at least weekly as to project status.

Measurable: Weekly E-mails, semimonthly meetings, and presentations.
Achievable: This goal is achievable.
Relevant: This builds teamwork and contributes to timely completion of other goals.
Time Frame: Specific expectations are listed (semimonthly meetings, weekly E-mails). Now, if I have the SMART objective, think about writing that performance appraisal. You just have to ask the question, did Suzanne do what you set out? Yes, she sent weekly update E-mails; yes, she attended team meetings; yes, she did presentations and asked for input. Easy, easy, easy appraisal.

Now, of course, teamwork isn't the only goal. There would be others. But, if they are all written in this fashion, when it comes down to evaluating the employee, it's almost like a check-box review.

This also helps with the delivery because there are no surprises. The employee knows exactly what she was supposed to do and knows in advance if she screwed up. It allows for easy monthly or quarterly checkpoints. You can re-evaluate the goals if things change throughout the year. But, at the end of the day, these SMART objectives will make your life easy. So, when you are writing your goals, make sure you keep this in mind.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of Human Resources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500 company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.


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How to Write Performance Appraisals
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