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While performance elements tell employees what they have to do, the standards tell them how well they have to do it. The first article in this series defined and reviewed the characteristics of critical, non-critical, and additional performance elements. This article reviews the principles of writing good standards that can be used effectively to appraise employee performance of those elements.
A performance standard is a management-approved expression of the performance threshold(s), requirement(s), or expectation(s) that must be met to be appraised at a particular level of performance. A Fully Successful (or equivalent) standard must be established for each critical element and included in the employee performance plan. If other levels of performance are used by the appraisal program, writing standards for those levels and including tem in the performance plan is not required by is encouraged so that employees will know what they have to do to meet standards higher than Fully Successful.
Performance standards should be objective, measurable, realistic, and stated clearly in writing (or otherwise recorded). The standards should be written in terms of specific measurers that will be used to appraise performance. In order to develop specific measurers, you first must determine the general measure(s) that are important for each element. General measurers used to measure employee performance include the following:
For each element, decide which of these general measurers are important to the performance of the element by asking the following questions:
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Once you've decided which general measures are important, you can develop specific measurers. It is these specific measures that will be included in the standard. To develop specific measure(s) for each element, you must determine how you would measure the quantity, quality, timeliness, and/or cost-effectiveness of the element. If it can be measured with numbers, clearly define those numbers. If performance only can be described (i.e., observed and verified), clarify who would be the best judge to appraise the work and what factors they would look for. (The first-line supervisor is often the best person to judge performance, but there may be situations, depending on what is being measured, when a peer or the customer receiving the product or service would be the best judge.)
The following questions may help you determine specific measures. For each general measure, ask:
If there is no number, and the element can only be judged, ask:
Once you've established the specific measures that apply to the elements, you can begin to write the standards. Before writing the Fully Successful standard, you must know the number of levels that your appraisal program uses to appraise elements. For example, if you are under an appraisal program that uses two levels to appraise elements, the Fully Successful standard would describe a single point of performance, above which is Fully Successful, and below which is Unacceptable. If, however, your appraisal program uses five levels to appraise elements, you would describe the Fully Successful standard as a range, above which is higher than Fully Successful, and below which would be Minimally Successful (or equivalent). How you write the Fully Successful standard depends on the number of levels your program uses to appraise elements.
If a specific measure for an element is numeric, for example, you would list the units to be tracked and determine the range of numbers (or the single number in a program that appraises elements at two levels) that represents Fully Successful performance. If the specific measure is descriptive, you would identify the judge, list the factors that the judge would look for, and determine what he or she would see or report that verifies that Fully Successful performance for that element had been met.
Included below are examples of elements and standards. The specific measures are in italics; the performance (or range of performance) that actually establishes the level of the standard are in boldface type.
Fully Successful Standard in an appraisal program that appraises elements at five levels (to meet this standard, all of the bullets listed must be present or occur):
(If this standard had been written for an appraisal program that appraised elements at only two levels, the standard would have been "no more than 8% errors per quarter, "at least 60% of customers agree," and "up to 8 working hours from receipt of request.")
The supervisor and team members are satisfied that the incumbent:
The Research Manager is routinely satisfied that: