We auditors are well aware that performance evaluations can be a burden. But our reviews of best-practice literature during a recent audit of Oregon’s Teacher Standards and Practices Commission indicate annual evaluations are necessary – as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management puts it, people need to know “how they’re doing, what’s working, and what’s not.”

Evaluations can satisfy “the basic human need for recognition,” North Dakota’s evaluation guidance suggests. They can also provide a rare “time out” for discussion of work issues that might not otherwise be addressed, performance appraisal consultant Archer North says.

The literature suggests some key evaluation best practices:

Evaluate at least annually. Oregon’s Department of Administrative Services policy requires annual evaluations, consistent with other sources we reviewed.

Set performance standards. Standards should include measurable performance targets, tied to the agency’s goals. The standards can also focus on job-related behavior.

Focus on employee training. DAS policy emphasizes written individual employee development plans designed to improve employees’ job-related knowledge and skills. It recommends that half of agency employees receive 20 or more hours of training each fiscal year, a signal that the organization is genuinely interested in their development.

Involve employees. DAS notes that supervisors and their employees can jointly develop performance management plans, part of the literature’s emphasis on fostering an open discussion of job expectations. At a minimum, employees should know what’s expected well in advance of a review. And reviewers should listen to an employee’s reasons for performance gaps and work to develop joint solutions – not assume that the gaps stem from low effort.

Involved employees, North Dakota’s guidance suggests, “are more likely to demonstrate genuine commitment to goals and performance.”