How to Write a Successful Employee Evaluation

, Staff Writer
Updated October 24, 2019
two people in employee evaluation meeting
    two people in employee evaluation meeting
    wera Rodsawang / Moment / Getty Images

Since evaluating employee performance is an important managerial duty, every supervisor needs to know how to write an employee evaluation. Discover best practices for assessing employee performance and conveying critical information to your direct reports via a formal performance appraisal.

Evaluate Employee Performance

The first step in evaluating employee performance is, of course, to determine how employees are performing in their jobs. It is very important to provide meaningful, thoughtful feedback focused on recognizing an employee’s strengths and putting plans in place for those areas where the individual has room for improvement.

  1. Start by reviewing the employee’s job description so you’re clear on their specific job requirements.
  2. For each requirement, consider how the employee’s performance measures up to standards for satisfactory performance. Review performance data as needed.
  3. Focus on evaluating employee performance against job requirements and standards rather than comparing individual team members to one another.
  4. Reflect in particular on the employee’s individual strengths and weaknesses, being sure to mention both in the document you prepare.
  5. Consider any goals that are in place for the employee. Goals may have been established as part of the last formal evaluation or in the interim.
  6. Determine if established goals have been met. If not, identify what — if any — progress has been made or if something happened to focus the employee’s work in another direction.

The time you put into thoughtfully reflecting on employee performance in this way will properly prepare you to write a performance evaluation for each of your direct reports.


Complete Performance Evaluation Documentation

Companies that require or encourage supervisors to complete employee evaluations often have a standard performance appraisal template to use for this purpose. These performance evaluation forms typically include a combination of rating scale and open-ended comments. Most rating scales involve rating employees one through five, with five behind “outstanding,” three being “satisfactory” or “meets expectations,” and one being “significantly below expectations.”

Performance Evaluation Forms

If your company has a set form, chances are that you will be required to use their form for the sake of consistency. Some have paper forms, while others do evaluations within a human resources information system (HRIS). Employee evaluation forms typically include:

  • Spot to fill in the rating period (dates) covered by the evaluation
  • Items covering performance, behaviors and results (with a rating scale)
  • Space to leave comments related to each of these areas
  • Section focused on any actions that need to be taken
  • Space to list goals for the next rating period
  • Room for employees to add comments
  • Signature lines for employee and supervisor

Example Sample Forms

If your company doesn’t have a set form, consider using these free printable employee evaluation examples. Each is set up in a questionnaire format, with room for customization and comments. This sample performance memo is a good template to use if you prefer a narrative format.

Customized Feedback

Whatever format you use, it’s important to customize feedback to each employee. Resist any temptation to just mark every item with the same score. Look at each item on the evaluation form in isolation, taking into account that someone can be an outstanding performer in some aspects of the job, yet have room to improve in other aspects.

Employee Performance Review Example Comments

The most challenging part of writing employee evaluations is often coming up with appropriate phrases and words to use when providing feedback to employees.


Positive Feedback

Be sure to include phrases that emphasize things the employee does well. Remember that recognizing contributions and achievements is an important part of the performance evaluation process.

With positive feedback you might describe someone as:

  • creative and innovative with regards to work performance and problem solving
  • outstanding multitasking skills; ability to effectively organize and prioritize multiple tasks
  • proactive in offering potential solutions to identified problems or challenges
  • reliably meets or exceeds work expectations, including volume and quality of work
  • takes a collaborative approach to working effectively with team members

For even more examples, review perfect phrases to use when writing a performance review.


Improvement-Focused Feedback

Be specific when addressing areas where the employee has room for improvement, whether performance is currently below standard or if there are some areas where the employee is meeting the requirements but could still benefit from improvement.

Improvement-focused comments include:

  • boost customer satisfaction scores to at least 80% satisfied/very satisfied
  • build effective professional relationships with peers and internal customers
  • consistently follow company policies and procedures regarding work flow
  • improve ability to use newly adopted team collaboration tools effectively
  • meet deadlines for weekly productivity requirements

If there are a number of areas where the employee is below expectations, you may want to work with the employee to develop a performance improvement plan.


Development-Focused Goal Suggestions

It’s also a good idea to include some development-focused suggestions on an employee evaluation. These can potentially become appropriate goals for the employee for the new rating period.

Focus on things employees can do to enhance their job skills with advancement opportunities in mind, such as:

  • attend outside courses to work toward completion of college degree
  • enhance leadership skills by working with new hires as a peer buddy
  • enroll in the organization’s management development program for high potentials
  • seek industry standard certification in your field
  • Spend 10 percent of your time cross-training in other departments to expand skills

Take the employee’s long term career goals into consideration when developing this type of feedback.


Sample Completed Employee Performance Review

Once you have given some thought to what you’d like to convey to your employees, review these sample completed employee evaluation forms. This can provide you with a realistic idea of what a completed performance assessment document should look like and what kinds of comments to include. These completed employee performance review examples provide additional sample comments you may find to be helpful.

Variations for Employee Evaluations

Depending on your company’s approach to performance management, there may be more elements included in the overall evaluation than just what you write.

  • 360-degree feedback - With a 360 approach to evaluations, performance feedback is gathered not just from the manager, but from other groups the employee interacts with, such as team members, internal customers and/or managers at a higher level.
  • self evaluations - Some companies have employees complete self-evaluations, in which they submit written evaluations of themselves. These are generally submitted to the manager prior to individual meetings with employees.
  • employee comments - It is common to allow employees to add comments to their evaluations, either to add information or as rebuttal to a poor performance evaluation.

Manager-Employee Dialogue

It is definitely important to thoughtfully complete an employee evaluation form for each employee. However, having a well-written evaluation isn’t the end of the process of evaluating employee performance. You’ll also need to hold a performance-focused discussion with each employee, during the evaluation results are discussed.

  • Go over the evaluation results of each employee’s evaluation in a one-on-one conversation.
  • This conversation should be a dialogue, which means that it’s a two-way exchange of information rather than just reading the questionnaire.
  • Encourage the employee to share thoughts and feedback. Ask for input as appropriate.
  • Listen to what the employee has to say and take it into consideration.
  • Work collaboratively with the employee to identify goals for the next rating period.
  • Ask the employee for questions, discussing any issues that arise.

Feedback Should Flow Both Ways

Once you and the employee have thoroughly covered the performance evaluation, let the employee know that you’d also like to receive feedback on how you are doing. Encourage the employee to share any feedback they’d like you to have without pressuring the employee to do so. Let the employee know that you’re always open to feedback and encourage them to follow up at any time. This, paired with effective performance management, can help you build a stronger professional relationship with each employee on your team.

Important Business Writing Skill for Managers

Crafting effective employee evaluations is one of the many types of business writing that managers are required to do. Writing skills are very important for managers. While you’re thinking about the subject of performance improvement for your employees, it’s also a good time to reflect on what kind of professional development might be beneficial to you. If writing is one of the areas where you have room to improve, start by reviewing the basics of effective written communication.