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Performance Development

Performance Development

Collaborative effort between supervisors and employees


The following information is designed to assist supervisors and employees become effective participants in the performance development process. The performance development process is an active partnership between supervisors and employees that enhances engagement and performance to ensure employee success. This collaborative effort is supported by setting clear and aligned expectations, creating a culture of accountability, and providing continual coaching and feedback.

HRS is Your Performance Development Partner

Supervisors and employees may reach out to Human Resource Services (HRS) for assistance with any part of the performance development process or performance appraisals. Assistance may include: reviewing a performance appraisal for content and proper wording prior to the appraisal meeting; help with making a decision regarding an overall evaluation rating; answering questions regarding the availability of training and development programs; assisting in the coaching effort as it relates to an employee’s performance gaps; assisting an employee prepare for a performance appraisal meeting; and/or providing guidance with planning difficult conversations, moving forward with a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), or disciplinary action. Requests for assistance may be directed to the Employee Relations Coordinator.

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Setting Expectations

Expectations that are clear, collaborative, and aligned are one of the foundations of effective performance management. Expectations that are clear to both the supervisor and the employee can help build a culture of accountability and give employees a voice in their performance development. We recommend supervisors provide context when setting expectations and ensure employees understand the “why.” This can help create buy-in and minimize apprehensions about what employees should reasonably expect - not only from their supervisor but also from their position at UNI.

Discussions about expectations can range from establishing call-in procedures, phone answering etiquette, giving and receiving feedback, recognition, work performance metrics and/or inclusion efforts. To ensure common understanding, supervisors must communicate clearly and directly, ask open-ended questions, and define what successful performance will look like for each employee. Additionally, supervisors should state what employees can expect from them as well.

Finally, set the bar high. When you have established expectations that are achievable and created a plan to meet those expectations, you can trust that together all set goals can be achieved.

Creating a Culture of Accountability

Merriam-Webster defines accountability as "an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions." At work, accountability should be shared between a supervisor and the employee. While the employee ultimately chooses whether or not to take ownership, supervisors should pave the way for individuals to fulfill their commitments successfully. Supervisors are responsible for establishing extrinsic motivators, such as; setting expectations and appropriate goals; treating all employees equitably; providing developmental opportunities; recognizing progress and growth; creating psychological safety; giving autonomy and control over how work is performed; and providing opportunities for collaboration and belonging. Accountability is not something leaders do to people - it’s something they help people do. Watch the LinkedIn video "Management 101: Accountability Basics While Managing" to learn more about the basics of accountability.


Coaching is the “...ability to make other people more successful by helping them identify and eliminate roadblocks, guiding them to achieve their full potential, and preparing them for success at the next level.” (Canaday, 2020) The focus should be on empowering employees to discover solutions, with guidance, using comprehensive and probing questions. This, along with open communication and encouragement, can lead to increased confidence, better working relationships, productivity, and job satisfaction. Supervisors should prioritize coaching and make a commitment to provide coaching to all their employees - not just those who may be struggling.

The most common framework used by coaches in a business environment is the GROW Model:

Goal: What do you want to achieve or what do you want to accomplish?

Reality: What is the current situation?

Options: How can we move forward?

Will: How committed are you to achieving your goal and how can we ensure we get there?

To learn more about the benefits of coaching, check out Coaching Skills for Leaders and Managers by Sara Canaday on LinkedIn learning. Note: You can find a coaching self-assessment, scenarios, common pitfalls, and other coaching resources by downloading the “Exercise Files” located under the “Overview” of this course.


Effective feedback should focus on outcomes. This means recognizing wins, large and small, to help employees identify positive patterns within themselves they can recreate and refine. Critical feedback rarely improves performance; therefore, focus should be on highlighting people’s strengths and efforts to empower them to do their best work. If critical feedback must be given, we recommend asking open-ended questions and using the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) model to guide those conversations:

Situation: Use facts and objective information to describe the situation.

Behavior: Describe the observed behavior.

Impact: Describe the impact the observed behavior had on you, others, the work environment, the team, etc. Never assume intent.

Avoid common mistakes when giving feedback, such as; being too vague or giving too many details; focusing on personal traits vs. actions; or muddying the feedback by bringing up or including other non-essential information. For more information on giving effective feedback, check out the July 2022 Supervisor Newsletter issue on the HRS webpage.

Finally, supervisors must be open to receiving feedback. We cannot expect employees to receive feedback if supervisors are not open to do so as well.

Establishing Goals

Performance goals provide employees with direction and understanding of their job duties, responsibilities, and help establish priorities. Goals can be short-term, long-range, individual or team-oriented, and focus on processes, performance and/or outcomes. They should be collaborative and take the employee’s career aspirations, abilities, and resources into account.

Effective goal setting allows employees to:

  1. Build trust with their supervisors and/or peers.
  2. Increase their self-confidence and reach their full potential.
  3. Direct their efforts and increase engagement and motivation.
  4. Become accountable for their performance.
  5. Align their goals with the organization’s goals.

Effective goal setting allows supervisors to:

  1. Keep the lines of communication open.
  2. Develop objective and collaborative means for evaluating performance.
  3. Encourage, motivate and develop employees.
  4. Recognize employee efforts.
  5. Effectively address performance deviations.

Types of Goals:

  1. SMART (Specific | Measurable | Attainable | Relevant | Time-based)
  2. PACT (Purposeful | Actionable | Continuous | Trackable)
Can include long-term and short-term goals. Long-term goals with short-term actions.
Focuses on outcomes. Focuses on outputs/efforts.
Breaks down major goals into actionable steps or smaller goals. Does not require planning and actionable steps can be taken immediately.
Variables may not be within the employee’s control. Based on things the employee can control.
e.g. "Secure $100k in dollars closed by the end of the Spring semester." OR "Increase training participation over the next academic year by 10%." e.g. “Make 10 cold calls per week until we have secured $100k in dollars closed.” OR "Personally invite at least 5 potential training participants for each training over the next academic year until participation increases at least 10%."

We recommend including a mixture of these two types of goals, as well as keeping the number of goals to something that is attainable. While goals can be set at the start of an appraisal period, you should check in often and evaluate and/or modify those goals as necessary. Finally, goals should be a collaborative effort. Building a culture where “your goals” become “our goals” can help create a psychological contract and help to build mutual trust - especially when supervisors take part in helping employees achieve success.

Documenting Job Performance

We recommend supervisors keep detailed documentation of an employee’s performance throughout the year and use that information to help guide discussions and complete any required performance appraisals. Documentation may include records of work performance discussions, specific examples of observed performance gaps, commendations, special achievements and/or training records. Documentation should be written in a manner that is specific, objective and accurate, and focuses on observed behaviors - not attitudes or personality traits. Sharing this information with your team members is a great way to create common understanding. As such, the information presented should never be a surprise to the employee nor should it be the first time an employee learns they are not meeting standards or expectations.

Employees should also keep track of information pertaining to their own performance. This helps employees to engage in conversations with their supervisors and become active participants in their own development.

Performance Appraisal Process

Merit Employees

Merit employee appraisals are scheduled based on the employee’s start date in their new position. Merit employees should receive appraisals at the intervals listed below.

  1. Two-Week Performance Discussion
  2. Three-Month Performance Appraisal (Probationary Merit)
  3. Six-Month Performance Appraisal (Probationary Merit)
  4. Annual Performance Appraisal

NOTE: The appraisals conducted at the third and sixth months are extremely important since they are issued during the probationary period. Once an employee has reached the end of their probation, they automatically become permanent employees - regardless of whether or not an appraisal is completed. Therefore, it is imperative that supervisors complete these appraisals in a timely manner and reach out to HRS if there are any performance concerns which may lead to a release from probation.

P&S Employees

Most P&S employees are evaluated annually in the month of May; however, this may differ for some departments. Supervisors may choose to complete a Two-Week Performance Discussion form for new P&S employees.

Completing the Performance Appraisal Form

The first step supervisors and employees should take before completing the performance appraisal process is to review any/all documentation noted during the review period. This will include any outcomes of previously set performance goals. Additionally, the job description should be reviewed to ensure its continued accuracy.

When completing the appraisal form, supervisors should consider whether the employee met their goals and expectations for the review period. If not, were there any outside circumstances (new orders, staff cuts, equipment problems) that limited the employee’s ability to meet those goals? Did you provide the employee with feedback and coaching throughout the year? Do you have records of specific examples of successes, improvements, or weaknesses? All should be included.

Next, supervisors will need to evaluate the employee on each of the rating factors noted within the appraisal form. This requires evaluation of the mutually agreed upon expectations vs. actual performance, outcome of goals, and should include information that accurately captures the entire review period. Avoid making generalized statements, focus on facts not feelings, and address the established performance expectations. Additionally, raters should avoid relying on memory as this can allow rater errors and biases to seep into the process.

All comments made should be meaningful and consistent with performance ratings. Examples of observed behavior(s), positive and negative, should be given to support all ratings. Beware of sending mixed messages. If a “Needs Improvement” or “Unsuccessful” rating is assigned, we recommend providing at least three examples to demonstrate how that specific expectation was not met. Additionally, supervisors should include what actions the employee can take to increase their performance for the upcoming review period.

TIP: Writing the performance narrative first can provide clarification and guidance to assign a proper rating.

Ineffective Statements/Verbiage Effective Statements
You are really organized. Your organizational skills are strong. You take detailed notes, maintain your calendar up-to-date, and keep everyone informed of scheduling changes in a timely manner. This positively impacts the entire team and promotes efficiency. Great job!
You have a bad attitude. I have observed you speaking to your peers using a negative tone, refusing to respond when being spoken to, and raising your voice when team members disagree with you. This creates an unprofessional work environment and is not conducive to building and maintaining good working relationships. Moving forward, you are expected to treat others with respect and strive to maintain professional standards at all times.
Always/Never Using absolutes compromises your credibility. Stick to terms such as “often,” “regularly,” or “rarely.” Better yet, provide specific dates and/or examples such as, “Over the last 3 months I have observed you come in late on 10 separate occasions.”
To be honest/No offense/I’m sure you… Avoid priming statements that can put somebody on the defensive and/or assume negative or positive intent.

Remember, certain information is never appropriate to include in a performance appraisal. For example, there should be no mention of an employee’s medical information, naming of other employees, use of protected leave terms such as FMLA/ADA, or any other terms regarding an employee’s protected class or personally identifying information (age/color/race/disability/national origin/religion/sex/sexual orientation/political affiliation/marital status, etc.)

Biases and Rater Errors

Rater errors are personal perceptions and biases (conscious or subconscious) that may influence how we perceive an individual’s performance and could undermine the effectiveness of performance development objectives and/or the performance appraisal process. Oftentimes, raters are unaware these errors and biases are being made; therefore, great care must be taken to understand how they occur and what steps should be taken to minimize and/or eliminate them.

A great way to uncover our biases/prejudices is by continually engaging in activities that challenge our status quo. Using tests such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT) are also great tools to become more self-aware. Additionally, regularly seeking feedback and input from employees, peers, and/or our supervisors can help us obtain an objective view of our own attitudes and behaviors.

Rater Errors/Biases Description
Leniency/Severity Effect Choosing to give all positive or all negative ratings, irrespective of actual performance.
Central Tendency Bias Rating all performance as average and/or centered around a midpoint and not utilizing the full rating scale.
Halo/Horns Effect Tendency to allow one specific rating to influence other ratings.
Recency Bias Basing performance ratings on recent performance and/or recent situations without consideration for the entire rating period.
Comparative Bias Rating employees in comparison to one another vs. comparing them to set expectations, job requirements and/or personal growth over the last rating period.
Affinity/Alienation Bias Rating employees higher or lower based on how well raters identify with the personal characteristics of each employee.
Status Effect Ratings that are affected based on someone’s title or position within the organization (higher for those in management positions vs. lower for those in entry-level roles).
Spillover Effect Allowing past performance ratings to unjustly influence current performance ratings.
Personal Bias/Prejudice Ratings which are negatively affected by someone’s differing views of protected characteristics, such as; national origin, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability, religion, etc.

Performance Appraisal Meetings

The goal of the performance appraisal meeting is to come to a mutual understanding of an employee’s appraisal ratings and goals for the upcoming year. We recommend notifying employees of their scheduled performance meeting at least one week in advance in order to give them ample time to read through their appraisal and prepare to engage in a thoughtful discussion. The date and time should be mutually convenient for the supervisor and the employee. We recommend doing so in a private space where interruptions can be avoided. When scheduling consecutive performance appraisal meetings, supervisors should ensure there is enough time between them so the appraisal process isn’t rushed. Additionally, supervisors should anticipate any concerns the employee may have so they are prepared to respond appropriately.

Employees should also be prepared to engage in a thoughtful discussion and bring up any concerns, if any, that should be addressed by the supervisor.

Employee Self-Appraisals

While HRS does not currently require employees to complete a self-appraisal, individual supervisors and/or departments may choose to require employees to do so. An employee’s self-appraisal can give supervisors insight into their own leadership effectiveness and help guide future discussions, career goals, etc. It also provides information that can help uncover areas of performance expectations that may need further clarification.

Employees should review any/all notes kept throughout the year, including training certifications, special recognition, extra projects, etc., prior to completing the self-appraisal. Furthermore, employees should evaluate their progress based on set goals and expectations and begin to craft new goals for the upcoming year. Additionally, employees should utilize their job description to guide their review of their performance vs. their official job duties. This is also a great time to determine if the position has gone through significant changes that may require updating the job description.

Preparing for Your Performance Appraisal

Employees should be given adequate time to review their performance appraisal prior to meeting with the supervisor to discuss and finalize the form. A review of the self-appraisal vs. the supervisor’s responses should be completed to figure out where and why there may be some discrepancies, if any. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to maintain adequate documentation; however, employees should be able to provide examples to support why they may agree or disagree with any portion of the appraisal. While supervisors are instructed to take the information an employee provides into consideration, this may not always result in changes to the final ratings. Employees have the opportunity to provide final comments and elaborate as to why they may or may not agree with any portion of the appraisal. An employee’s signature signifies they have received a copy and that the supervisor reviewed the form with them - not necessarily that they agree with any portion of the appraisal, including the overall rating.

There are many general tips that can enhance the effectiveness of a performance appraisal, the appraisal discussion, and facilitate ongoing feedback between an employee and their supervisor. Preparing for a performance appraisal helps employees focus on examining their performance in a more objective way. It is in the employee’s best interest to seek feedback throughout the year, even if the supervisor does not initiate it. The sooner employees know where they stand in terms of their performance, the sooner priorities can be shifted and/or problems can be fixed. Remember, communication is a shared responsibility.

To learn more about how to prepare and become an active participant in your performance appraisal, read the How to Prepare for and Participate in Your Performance Appraisal supporting webpage. Employees may also reach out to HRS to request guidance.

Emotions in the Workplace

Expressing emotion is part of the human experience and experiencing a range of emotions helps us process situations in a healthy way. However, we must understand that while emotions themselves are not problematic, the resulting behaviors could be.

Occasionally, employees may have strong reactions to a supervisor’s appraisal of their performance and could derail positive and productive conversation. If you find yourself in this situation, we recommend the following actions to help get back on track:

Silence: Silence can be an indicator of disagreement, resentment, resistance, embarrassment and/or disengagement OR a sign someone is processing the information being given. Supervisors should ask open-ended questions and look for verbal and non-verbal cues to determine the root cause of the silence. If an employee becomes silent and refuses to engage, it may be best for the supervisor to reschedule the conversation for a time that may be more productive. If employees need time to process the information being given, it is best to state that and request additional time to process the situation. Resistance stems from a lack of control or fear that the “status quo” may be disrupted. Supervisors should focus on those things that are not changing and reassure employees that they will have support when moving forward with new goals and/or tasks.

Anger/Frustration: While it is possible to have a productive conversation when frustrations arise, anger rarely leads to positive outcomes. Anger can “hijack” our rational thinking processes; therefore, supervisors and employees should take active steps to prevent and/or de-escalate negative conflict. Focusing on our breath and acknowledging our emotions can help us stay grounded. If you feel anger taking over it’s best to remove yourself from the situation. You can say, “I’m beginning to feel angry and need some time to process,” OR, “I think it’s best that we reschedule once I can positively contribute to the discussion.”

Anxiety/Sadness: Receiving feedback, specifically critical feedback, can heighten a person’s anxiety or could lead to sadness. Supervisors should anticipate these reactions and take steps to minimize these emotions. One of the most common reasons why employees fear the performance appraisal process is due to lack of communication. This occurs when supervisors do not regularly have performance discussions; therefore, care must be taken to ensure nothing within the appraisal comes as a surprise to the employee. Above all, supervisors should proceed with compassion and lead with empathy.

When receiving critical feedback, or feedback we may not agree with, it can be easy to distort what is being said and assume negative intent. Research tells us that suppressing emotions may be detrimental to our health. So, how do we strike a healthy balance and create space for emotions while maintaining a professional environment?

We can do so by acknowledging our emotions and learning ways to respond in appropriate ways. To learn more about emotions, read "How to develop emotional regulation skills to be become a better manager".

Tips for Success

We recommend the following supervisor actions to maximize the performance appraisal process:

  1. Provide feedback and coaching throughout the entire rating period.
  2. Ensure performance appraisals are being completed in a timely manner.
  3. Allow employees to be active participants in the process and be open to adjusting ratings based on provided information and input.
  4. Avoid rushing through the appraisal process - either when writing it or presenting it to the employee.
  5. Encourage employees to complete a self-appraisal.
  6. Do not use the employee’s self-appraisal to complete the employee’s appraisal - This can skew the supervisor’s ratings. Instead, use it to guide the appraisal meeting discussion.
  7. Avoid sending mixed messages. E.g. noting the employee is an “exceptional team member” but only rating them as “Successful” in the area of teamwork.
  8. Don’t be afraid to use the entire rating scale.
  9. Set collaborative goals that are exciting, challenging, yet achievable.
  10. Look forward NOT backwards! The purpose of the performance appraisal process is to forge ahead with useful feedback and information to help employees guide their performance in the coming year.

We recommend the following employee actions to maximize the performance appraisal process:

  1. Be an active participant in your performance development.
  2. Keep a journal or notes throughout the year of your performance, completed training, etc.
  3. Be willing to accept constructive feedback and coaching from your supervisor.
  4. Do not be afraid to reach out for assistance or speak up if additional clarification is needed.
  5. Complete a self-appraisal.
  6. Set collaborative goals that are exciting, challenging, yet achievable.
  7. Use the performance appraisal as a tool to help you improve your performance.

Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a supportive measure (not a punitive measure) designed to assist an underperforming employee achieve successful performance. A PIP can be implemented any time and may sometimes follow the yearly performance appraisal process. On average, the duration of a PIP ranges anywhere between 60 to 90 days; however, this can vary and is assessed on a case-by-case basis. There may also be times when PIP extensions are necessary. A successfully implemented PIP will have the following components:

  1. A thorough summary of any/all performance deviations and/or deficiencies.
  2. A detailed plan outlining the specific requirements and steps the employee will need to take in order to achieve success.
  3. A plan for check-ins, additional training requirements and/or any assistance that may be needed to ensure the employee can be successful.

While PIPs are designed to assist employees be successful, we understand some may be apprehensive about the process. To reduce this fear, we encourage supervisors to include employees in the process, maintain open channels of communication, and follow-up frequently.

Additional Resources

  1. HRS Learning and Development
  2. LinkedIn Learning
  3. Recognizing Others
  4. Supervisory Newsletters
  5. Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  6. Annual Performance Appraisal Demo
  7. Annual Performance Self Appraisal Demo

Contact Information

Jesse Heath
Employee Relations Coordinator
(319) 273-6219 OR

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