Performance Appraisal Form Design Guide

We hear it at HR association meetings and see it on HR e-Lists: managers asking other managers to 'lend' them their company's performance appraisal form. It's understandable. No one has much time these days, so why reinvent the wheel? Moreover, people are often tossed into the HR role with little or no hands-on experience or on-the-job training in OD or compensation. Samples and examples can prove helpful. They're readily available from peers, books, and the Internet.

One-size doesn't fit all. 'Borrowed' and generic forms may get you through, but tend to fail over the long run. They will never match the quality of one that precisely fits your organization. We're not suggesting that you design your form in a vacuum. In fact, we urge you cull ideas from other people's creations. But to best serve your company, we strongly advise you to develop a made-to-order-form that suits your company's purposes, goals and culture.

To make life easier for you, we have listed some basic features of well-crafted forms. They should:

  1. Have a professional appearance, including your company's logo
  2. Provide lots and lots of writing space
  3. Contain identification information, including:
    • Date (on each page)
    • Employee's name (on each page)
    • Employee's job title
    • Employee's department
    • Rater's name, title, and relationship to employee (e.g., immediate supervisor)
    • Succinct instructions
    • Signatures
  4. Documentation of observable behavior rather than personality traits

We urge you to avoid:

  1. Excessive length
  2. Insufficient length
  3. Hard-to-understand language
  4. Words that are ambiguous, ill-defined or subject to bias (e.g., loyal, diligent, hard-working)
  5. Use of numerical ratings with no space for explanations
  6. Attempting to serve multiple purposes if in so doing it subverts the original purpose (e.g., using the form for documenting complex career advancement plans or detailed training development needs)
  7. Loose pages
  8. Pages lacking identification information