The One Employee Performance Review Template to Rule Them All

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We’ve written a lot about performance management and the employee performance review. In this article, we will provide you with an employee performance review template that you can use during your performance appraisal meetings.

Employee Performance Review

The employee performance review is an annual or bi-annual happening in which the employee is rated on their performance. This performance review is part of the performance management cycle. This cycle starts with personal goal setting.

Personal goals should be aligned with team goals, which in turn, should be aligned with the goals of the company. When this is the case, good performance for the employee means a boost to team performance, and (in turn) a small boost to organizational performance.

After goals are set, employees are monitored, coached, and developed. Performance is then rated and rewarded, and this performance management cycle starts again.

AIHR-4-Stages-of-Performance-Management

The employee performance management cycle.

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The most formal moment in this cycle is the performance appraisal. This is a one-on-one meeting with the employee and their supervisor. During this meeting, which usually happens once or twice a year, the employee is appraised.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines appraisal as “the act of examining someone (…) in order to judge their qualities, success, or needs”. This is what the performance appraisal is all about. However, managers often struggle to appraise employees. This is where the employee performance review template comes in. In the next section, I will propose the two most common ways to measure performance and include a performance review template so you can use them in your work, either as an HR professional or manager.

Three ways to measure performance

There are three common ways to measure performance. The first approach lets the manager rate employee behaviors based on a number of pre-defined questions. This is the easiest approach. In the second approach, specific competencies are assessed based on specific behaviors – again by the manager. In the third approach, peers rate the individual. This is often referred to as 360-degree appraisal.

Job Performance scale

Not every job has clearly set competencies. But we wouldn’t be AIHR Digital if we wouldn’t give you the scientifically proven example questions that you can use during your performance appraisal. When it comes to job performance, there are several recommended questions.

Employee…

  • …achieves the objectives of the job
  • …meets criteria for performance
  • …fulfills all the requirements of the job

These items originate from Goodman & Svyantek’s 1999 job performance scale and they are intended for the supervisor to rate the employee.

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All scales have a certain reliability, which is a measure that indicates to what extent the scale will produce similar results under consistent conditions. This is incredibly important, as you want to measure performance accurately. Reliability is measured in Cronbach’s alpha and is considered highly reliable for this 3-item scale (α > 0.8).

Additional questions that can be added (based on Goodman & Svyantek), are as follows:

Employee…

  • …demonstrates expertise in all job-related tasks
  • …could manage more responsibility than typically assigned
  • …appears suitable for a higher-level role
  • …is competent in all areas of the job, handles tasks with proficiency
  • …performs well in the overall job by carrying out tasks as expected
  • …plans and organizes to achieve objectives of the job and meet deadlines.

These are the example questions that can be used to accurately measure job performance for employees. In the original study, items were scored on a 7-point Likert scale. For practical use, we recommend a 4-point Likert scale (Strongly disagree, Disagree, Agree, Strongly Agree).

Job behaviors scale

These behaviors, also called extra-role behaviors, are measured using the following questions.

Employee…

  • …helps other employees with their work when they have been absent.
  • …helps others when their workload increases (assists others until they get over the hurdles)
  • …volunteers to do things not formally required by the job.

These items also originate from Goodman & Svyantek’s 1999 research paper. Again, these items are intended for the supervisor to rate the employee. Cronbach’s alpha for these three items is considered good (α > 0.7).

Additional items that can be added, are as follows:

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Employee…

  • …takes initiative to orient new employees to the department even though not part of his/her job description
  • …assists me with my duties.
  • …makes innovative suggestions to improve the overall quality of the department
  • …willingly attends functions not required by the organization but that help in its overall image.

For this scale, a 4-point Likert scale is recommended as well. The performance & behavior scales correlate around = 0.40, meaning that both scales overlap by around 16%.

When we bring this together, we end up with our first employee performance review template. You can download a pdf version of this template by clicking this link. An editable Word version of the employee performance review template can be downloaded here.

Measuring performance using competencies

The second way of assessing an employee’s performance is through competencies. Every job has multiple competencies that are required to successfully do the job. These are the so-called job-specific competencies.

In addition to job-specific competencies, there are also core competencies. These are the competencies that everyone in the organization needs. They are often set by the board of directors and everyone in the organization is expected to have at least a basic proficiency for these competencies.

To use competencies in the employee performance review, you should select the three or four most important job-specific competencies, and the core competencies of the company. Based on these competencies, you can rate the employee’s behavior over the past period.

Usually, this is done by setting behavioral benchmarks for each score on the competency. This can be done by describing the specific behaviors for each competency. Take the following example of communication.

Beahvioral Assessment of Competencies

Not all organizations have the luxury of working with clearly defined competency frameworks. Setting up such a framework costs a considerable amount of time and money. However, competencies do enable supervisors to give clearer and more specific indicators of performance to employees. Because the competencies are described in detail, there is more consistency between raters because they benchmark observable behavior to a pre-defined behavioral rating scale.

When we bring this all together, we come up with a second employee performance review template, based on six competencies. You can download a pdf version of this template by clicking this link. An editable Word version of the employee performance review template can be downloaded here.

Measuring performance using 360 appraisal

360 feedback is a peer-feedback system in which the manager, direct reports, customers, and peers of an employee give input on his/her performance. This is a very balanced approach as the employee is assessed from multiple perspectives.

A performance review template would look similar to the ones above, but then with multiple different raters, and thus more feedback. However, there are some drawbacks to this approach.

In our full guide on 360-degree feedback, we explore this topic in much more depth. Simply put, it boils down to the fact that 360-degree feedback doesn’t always show a positive effect. More often than not it shows no measurable change in behavior, and sometimes even a negative effect (Bracken & Rose, 2011).

Another drawback is the significant time that is spent on assessing everyone. If one person has four assessors, it takes four times as long to assess one person. If everyone in the organization is assessed using a 360-degree feedback system, employees (and clients) will have to spend days on assessing each other. This is very costly and also runs the risk of tit-for-tat favoritism.

360-degree feedback is therefore mostly used as a tool for managers. For an in-depth explanation of this topic, check our article on 360-degree feedback, which includes tips to get the most value out of this instrument.

Conclusion

Is there one employee performance review template to rule them all? Every job is different. In this article, we’ve listed the best practices and offered both a generic template and a template based on competencies. Selecting the right competencies is important, as performance reviews aim to improve performance. This means that performance reviews will only be helpful if improvement in the competencies that are reviewed will lead to better business outcomes.

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