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Evaluating Performance Appraisal Programs

Evaluating Performance Appraisal Programs

As appraisal program designers plan for the implementation of their programs, they should also plan for their evaluation. Ongoing program evaluation should be part of the program design and should be planned for, not only because it is required by regulation, but to improve the program's overall effectiveness.

Appraisal programs can be evaluated from two broad perspectives:

  • Are we doing things right? (i.e., are the process and the rules being followed?), and
  • Are we doing the right things? (i.e., what effect does the program have?)


By asking the first question, evaluators are attempting to determine if the organization is in compliance with regulatory, system, and program requirements. Examples of these types of questions include:

  • Were employee performance plans issued timely?
  • Did everyone who was supposed to receive an appraisal get one?
  • Were progress reviews made?


By asking the second question, evaluators attempt to determine the effects of the appraisal program. The following questions represent possible criteria for assessing such effects:

Are the stated objectives of the program being met? If there are no stated objectives, do users have unwritten expectations and are those expectations being met? If there are no stated or unwritten goals for the program, at least the regulatory goals of performance management (found in section 430.102(b) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations) can be the basis for developing evaluation questions, such as:

  • Does the program clarify organizational goals for employees?
  • Are performance expectations clear?
  • Are training needs and/or career development discussed?
  • Is appraisal used for improving performance?
  • Are awards based on valid and accepted criteria and are measures credible?
  • Are appraisal results used appropriately as a factor that is considered when making other personnel decisions?
  • Are employees and managers satisfied with the equity, utility, accuracy, etc. of the program?
  • Do the benefits of the program outweigh the costs?
  • Has there been an improvement in employee, unit, or organizational performance levels?
  • Has the attitude or the behavior of employees and/or managers changed as desired?
  • Are there signs of dissimilar treatment in the results of performance management processes?
  • Do statistics on performance ratings and distribution of awards raise questions of fairness when compared by race, national origin, sex, and by occupational groups and grade?
  • Are performance-based adverse actions taken against certain groups of employees more often than others?
  • Has there been an improvement in the efficiency or the effectiveness of related human resources programs?


Once a list of possible topics and questions has been developed for evaluating the program, the following guidelines can help ensure that the right questions are being asked in the right way:

  • Don't include questions for which information can't be gathered.
  • Don't include questions that have only one predetermined answer.
  • If no one will use the information, don't bother to collect it. (The results of evaluations are much more useful when people want the information.)
  • Knowing ahead of time how evaluation data will be used increases the chances that the evaluation results will not be filed away and never used.

A periodic, well-designed evaluation of the results of performance management programs will provide the information managers and employees need to continually improve their appraisal and awards processes.

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