by Kate Russell

Appraisal ratings

Every organisation will develop their own method of rating an employee’s performance.

As a performance manager, you will use criteria to rate the employee’s performance. At the beginning of the appraisal period, review these ratings and the performance standards for each position which reports to you so that you can fairly evaluate the employee’s performance.

In addition to setting standards of performance, there are two main methods of determining whether an employee has met the required standards: establishing targets and setting out levels of competence.

Establishing targets

These can be quantified outputs, improvement targets or one-off targets relating to a particular project. They can also be standing targets that concern the day-to-day operations of the job. They should be challenging and SMART.

Step 1

Ensure that targets are SMART.

S = specific and stretching

M = measurable and meaningful

A = agreed and achievable

R = realistic and relevant

T = trackable and timed

Example targets
  • Ensure that guests are acknowledged and greeted within 30 seconds of arrival.
  • Phone calls to be answered within five rings.
  • Written queries to receive response within five working days.

Step 2

Review the targets at regular intervals.

Step 3

Set an appropriate number of targets.

Levels of competence

These set out required organisational behaviours and may include personal and technical competencies. They are often called Competency Sets or Competency Frameworks.

Employees’ performance is measured against those preferred competencies. The behaviour which measures the preferred competencies must be identified.

Examples of other rating scales


The checklist is a set of adjectives or descriptive statements. The manager will tick an item if he believes the employee possesses the trait listed. If not, the manager will leave the item blank. The rating score from the checklist equals the number of checks.

Critical incident technique

The term is used to describe a method of performance appraisal based on lists of statements of very effective and very ineffective behaviour for employees. Once they have been compiled, the lists are combined into categories, which vary with the job. Once the categories have been developed and statements of effective and ineffective behaviour provided, the manager prepares a log for each employee. During the evaluation period, the manager records examples of critical behaviours in each of the categories, and the log is used to evaluate the employee at the end of the relevant period.

Forced choice method

This appraisal method has been developed to prevent managers from rating employees too high. Using a set of descriptive statements, the manager has to select those statements that apply to the employee. The statements are weighted.

Forced distribution

The term used to describe an appraisal system similar to grading on a curve. A manager using this system would be asked to rate employees in some fixed distribution of categories. One way to do this has been to type the name of each employee on a card and ask the manager to sort the cards into piles corresponding to their rating.

Graphic rating scale

The term used to define the oldest and most widely used-performance appraisal method. The manager is given a graph and asked to rate the employees on each of the characteristics. The number of characteristics can vary from one to one hundred.

Narrative or essay evaluation

This appraisal method asks the evaluator to describe strengths and weaknesses of an employee’s behaviour. This method is sometimes combined with the graphic rating scale.

Paired comparison

The term is used to describe an appraisal method for ranking employees. First, the names of the employees to be evaluated are placed on separate sheets in a pre-determined order, so that each person has been compared with all other employees to be evaluated. The manager ticks the person he feels has been the better of each pair on the criterion for each comparison. Typically, the criterion has been the employees’ overall ability to do the present job. The number of times a person has been preferred is tallied, and the tally developed is an index of the number of preferences compared to the number being evaluated.


The term ranking has been used to describe an alternative method of performance appraisal where the supervisor has been asked to order his employees in terms of performance, from highest to lowest.

Weighted checklist

The term used to describe a performance appraisal method where supervisors or personnel specialists familiar with the jobs being evaluated prepare a large list of descriptive statements about effective and ineffective behaviour on jobs.

Performance levels

Once you have decided on the type of rating scale that you’re going to use, you need to define levels of conduct or behaviour so that you can identify what performance fits into what level.


Maintenance Engineer

Significantly exceeds job requirements Achieves all objectives plus develops new procedures and working practices, saving considerable sums of money
Exceeds job requirements Better than expected performance in key areas of response times, staff morale in the face of new working practices and budget control
Meets job requirements Achieves realistic objectives in key areas
Does not meet job requirements Performance acceptable in most areas but not in any of response times, staff morale or budget control
Significantly fails to meet job requirements Under-performs in most areas with unacceptable problems in scheduled maintenance, response times, staff morale or budget control

Performance factors

Not all targets will be equally easy to achieve and success may be influenced by a number of factors. Appraisers have to take into account all the relevant factors.


Some objectives will be more important than others. Aspects of management relating to development, for example, might be more important than maintenance of the status quo.

Aspects of a clerical job relating to accuracy might be more important than those relating to standards of dress.

The degree of emphasis given to qualities such as integrity, creativity, caution or leadership will vary according to the job, the organisation culture and the specific situation.


Satisfactory performance against a tough objective is usually worth more than good performance against a comparatively easy objective.

External factors

External factors can make a given achievement more or less impressive. For example, an IT manager who implements a new system within a tight timescale despite a shortage of programmers would probably have performed very well.

Mitigating circumstances

Few of us can totally separate our personal from our professional lives, so problems such as ill health or financial worries can have a detrimental effect on performance at work.

You should be aware of such problems.