How to create best-practice employee evaluation forms

How to create best-practice employee evaluation forms

Good employee evaluations forms are key to the success of your performance management process. A poorly designed performance appraisal form can frustrate and disengage managers and employee from the process — defeating the whole purpose.

So what makes a great performance evaluation form?

A great performance evaluation form:

Is easy to use

A great employee evaluation form is easy to use. The information it provides and requests is clear and unambiguous. It guides and supports managers and employees as they fill it out, and gives HR and executives the information they need to make strategic decisions about their workforce. It provides sufficient space for comments, makes it easy to choose the right ratings, prompts managers to include all the details that make a goal SMART (specific, measurable, achievable and time-bound) and ideally tabulates scores automatically to avoid errors.

Has a logical flow

A great performance evaluation form has a logical flow. It moves from discussion about past performance to development needs, to discussion of new goals, career aspirations and professional/career development. It doesn't require managers and employees to jump around, search for missing information, transcribe information or ratings from one section to the next, or complete tasks in a non-linear fashion.

Has a clear focus

A great performance appraisal form also has a clear purpose. It doesn't ask for information that is meaningless or that no one will use. It doesn't provide details that are not pertinent or helpful. It provides clear guidelines and support so managers and employees know exactly what information to provide, what ratings mean, how to get information they need, etc.

When designing your form, consider your primary purpose for conducting employee performance appraisals? (Note: you may have more than one)

  • Do you need to better align your workforce?
  • Are you trying to build or reinforce organizational culture?
  • Are you trying to effect a major organizational change?
  • Do you need to improve accountability or engagement?
  • Is your focus on employee development?
  • Do you need to better understand learning needs? Areas of strength? Key skills?
  • Do you need to identify high-performers or high-potential employees?
  • Do you need to identify and document sub-standard performance so it can be addressed?
  • Do you need to meet regulatory, ISO or other requirement?

Your performance evaluation form should clearly serve the primary purpose or purposes of your performance appraisal process. If you haven't identified a clear focus, your form with reflect that; manager and employee engagement with and participation in the process will be lower, and you likely won't get the results you want. Be wary also of trying to focus on too many things at once. This will dilute your efforts and result in an overall lack of focus.

Uses a consistent, descriptive rating scale

Ratings are by their nature subjective. To keep ratings as fair, consistent and objective as possible, use a consistent, descriptive rating scale throughout your employee evaluation form.

The scale you choose should support the primary focus of your performance appraisals. Too short a scale does not support differentiation in ratings that can be needed for things like pay-for-performance programs; too long a scale can allow too much differentiation that becomes meaningless or too subjective.

Be clear about what rating a solidly performing employee should expect to receive. That should be the desired or most common rating given. In a 5-point scale, that rating might be a 3 or a 4, depending on how you define each level of performance and rating.

If you want to force managers to rate all employees as high or low performers, choose a scale with an even number of ratings (e.g. a 4-point scale). If you want to allow managers to select a mid-point rating to indicate solid, expected performance, choose a scale with an odd number of ratings (e.g. 5-point scale).

With goal and competency ratings, it can be helpful to provide managers with examples of the different levels of demonstration or performance that correspond with each rating. These examples guide managers in their selection of appropriate ratings.

You may also want to consider allowing managers to choose a not applicable, N/A, or 0 rating where they have insufficient knowledge of information to supply a rating, or where the item being rated does not apply to the employee.

Gives managers access to all the information they need

When completing performance appraisal forms, managers might need to access things like:

  • Job descriptions
  • Past goals
  • Definitions for competencies
  • Definitions for rating scales
  • Results of other assessments (e.g. project reviews, 360 degree multirater reviews, 30/60/90 day reviews, etc.)
  • A list of learning activities or learning paths designed to develop a particular competency
  • Learning paths created for particular roles
  • Details on the organization's policies and programs related to employee development (e.g. budget, tuition reimbursement programs)
  • Etc.

Make sure your form either includes these details, provides links to them, or lets managers know where to find the information.

Promotes dialogue

Your performance appraisal form should promote an ongoing dialogue about performance between a manager and employee. This message should be reinforced in your form, but can also be supported by things like comment boxes for the employee to complete or even an employee self-evaluation form that mirrors the employee evaluation form, and which employees fill out before meeting with their manager.

Supports employee development

The focus of all employee evaluations should be the employee's development; we want our employees to continually improve and succeed. So it's important for your employee evaluation form to promote employee development. Make sure you include sections for development planning tied to competencies, and the achievement of individual goals, as well as career aspirations.

Gives leaders the data they need to make better strategic decisions

In designing your employee evaluation form, think about what information your HR and executive teams need to better manage your workforce, then ensure you collect and can analyze that data. It's not enough to be able to view a summary of ratings. Your leaders need to know things like:

  • Your high to low performer ratio
  • Your high performer growth rate
  • Top 5 competencies
  • Bottom 5 competencies
  • Impact of development on performance
  • New hire failure rate
  • High performer retention rate
  • Etc.


When well-designed, a great employee evaluation form is a strategic tool that:

  • helps your employees perform better
  • helps your managers better manage their employees' performance
  • helps HR and executives better understand and manage their workforce
  • helps leaders make better strategic decisions

Read how others have created best-practice employee evaluation forms

As a fast-growing professional organization, WHPacific uses their employee evaluation forms to track a fairly complex set of performance metrics. By automating their forms and process, they can now effectively redesign and re-invent their forms as their business evolves.

Fairbanks Hospital spent a lot of time creating organizational standards for inclusion in everyone’s appraisal, as well as carefully outlining management standards and weighting sections to help align their workforce with their strategic plan.

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