Performance Reviews - Human Resources - Carnegie Mellon University

Performance Reviews

The Carnegie Mellon Strategic Plan strongly emphasizes an accomplished university community. One of the strategies to achieve that goal is for managers to give regular performance feedback and establish clear lines of communication with their employees. Ongoing feedback should clarify expectations, standards, and perceived performance throughout the year, and bring to light the issues that may contribute to or distract from achieving those goals.

The university expects that each member of the university community will receive a performance review each fiscal year (by June 30). Employees are encouraged to complete a self-assessment as part of the review process.

  • Performance Review Guidelines and Review Form for Managers [doc] or [pdf]
  • Employee Performance Self-Assessment Form [doc] or [pdf]

Linking Performance and Pay

Each year, supervisors are expected to conduct performance reviews for the employees they manage. The performance review is an excellent opportunity to discuss an employee’s work performance, strengths and weaknesses, and how his or her duties fit in with departmental strategic goals. In addition, these reviews should be consistent with salary decisions and other employment actions.

Assessing each employee’s performance in an objective, consistent, and accurate manner takes planning and preparation on your part. Before you complete the Performance Review Form [doc], you should read the Performance Review Guidelines that are a part of the form and review the employee's Position Description. Use the Performance Review Supervisor's Checklist [pdf] to make sure you have not forgotten any important steps.

Avoiding Bias in Performance Reviews

Some of the factors that may bias a performance review include the following:

  • Personal Style—Sometimes introverts view extroverts as loud or bossy, while extroverts may see introverts as aloof and unfriendly. A quiet individual's accomplishments may be overlooked. An intuitive person may seem flighty to a more analytical type. But all of these types can be highly effective. A diverse workforce leads to greater creativity, new perspectives and innovative ideas, but only when each person's style is accepted and valued.
  • Personal Relationships—It is hard to review the performance of a friend, or that of a person with whom you have had difficulty in the past. This is particularly difficult for managers who may have worked with their employees as peers in the past (before being promoted). It is important to maintain objectivity while conducting reviews.
  • Short-term Memory—While it is easy to focus on more recent events, you should base your review on the employee's work performance over the entire year.
  • Cultural and Racial Assumptions—Avoid making assumptions based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, gender or age. Stereotyping leads to inaccurate assessments of performance and is illegal when used as a basis for employment decisions.
  • Group Rating—Although it is possible that all of your employees are excellent, it is unlikely. Most employees perform satisfactorily, with a few standouts who do excellent or very poor work.  Evaluate your employees as individuals, rather than as a group.

Conducting Accurate and Effective Performance Reviews

  • Focus on results-based evaluations: You should have objective, fact-based measures upon which you judge performance.  Employees performing the same job function should be evaluated by the same measures.
  • Back it up: Throughout the year, keep track of your employees' performance. Meet regularly with them to discuss their projects and activities. Use written talking points at these sessions, and keep copies. This will help you to look objectively at the quantity and quality of work your employees have done throughout the year.
  • Educate yourself: Professional Development Services offers programs on managing conflict, understanding personality types, conducting performance reviews, and many other topics to enhance your management skills.
  • Drive on a two-way street: Performance reviews are often one-sided, with you telling the employee what you think of his or her work.  But this process should be an exchange of information. Have the employee prepare a list of his or her accomplishments over the past year before you complete the performance review. Also give the employee a chance to discuss issues of concern. Reviews provide excellent opportunities to discuss procedural and organizational issues that may affect employee performance.
  • Develop a scale: It is easy to say, "This employee always completes her work on time with few errors. She's never late, and she gets along with her co-workers." But what does this mean? Is this person a superior performer or is this expected behavior? As yourself, "Would action need to be taken if this were not the case?" A chronically late or sloppy worker is unsatisfactory. Depending on the job, if the same employee initiated a new procedure that saved time and money, she may have demonstrated superior or at least expected performance.
  • Know when to forget: You may have had personality clashes with an employee, or he or she may have been a poor performer in the past. A person can improve his or her performance, and personality differences do not mean that the employee is not getting along with others. Use objective criteria to evaluate the employee fairly.