Effective Performance Appraisal: Tips from the MSPB

What makes performance appraisal effective? The MSPB has a few tips for federal supervisors that can make a lot of difference (and they aren’t that hard).

Pay-for-performance is getting a lot of attention because many federal employees are going under a performance based system for the first time. To put it mildly, the reaction is one of fear, anger and distrust.

Based on the many comments sent in to FedSmith.com in the past week, the most common reaction is that the supervisor can’t be trusted; only the favorite employees will get recognized (which does not include the writers of the comments); and that the whole program is designed solely to cut wages of employees who deserve better.

Thre are a few positive comments but this is the gist of the majority of those taking the time to write in. (You can check out the comments yourself which are at the end of the recent articles linked to the left hand side of this page.)

With that in mind, the Merit Systems Protection Board has advice for supervisors on how to conduct more effective performance appraisals. This is one of several articles from the most recent MSPB newsletter “Issues of Merit.” The newsletter is available from the link on the left hand side of the page.

The first piece of advice: understand the work. Many employees think their supervisor doesn’t know what they do. Make sure that isn’t the case with your employees. It isn’t necessary to be completely knowledgeable about the employee’s job (that’s what the government is paying them for). Buy you should be very familiar with the agency’s mission and goals and how each employee fits into this scheme.

Second, communicate. Make sure employees know what is expected of them. What is important to you and what will you be evaluating when you look at an employee’s performance? Communicate these requirements clearly and directly.

Third, track goals and performance. To provide credible, constructive feedback, you need to understand and measure organizational and individual performance. Is the organization meeting its goals? Have goals and priorities changed? Are employees meeting, exceeding, or falling short of their objectives? Why or why not?

Finally, communicate again. Feedback should happen on a regular basis. The employee should not be shocked when it’s time to issue an annual performance rating.

Pay for performance is coming to many federal employees and no doubt there are going to be more employees covered by the system in the coming months and years. Doing a good job in performance appraisal is an integral part of this system. It isn’t as hard as some people make it out to be but it does take time and work.

Take the time to communicate effectively and you may be able to cut short some of the gripes and complaints from your employees.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47