“He’s making a list and checking it twice. He’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice… performance evaluations are…” Coming to town? Indeed. The end of year is not only holiday season, but also the time of year when a number of employers complete performance evaluations of their employees.

Just like gift giving, the evaluation process is time consuming and for many, about as much fun as a trip to the mall on Black Friday. However, evaluations—if done right—are essential to companies in various ways such as identifying and logging an employee’s performance, advising an employee on goals for the coming year, or even serving as key evidence in a company’s defense of a legal claim brought by a terminated employee.

Check this handy checklist in preparing yourself, your HR department, or your managers in the performance review process:

  • Spend time training managers on how to use the company’s evaluation form. The best form in the world is not necessarily user friendly.
  • Only include honest, accurate assessments, even if that means providing unfavorable feedback. Written comments should match any numerical rating. For example, an employee cannot be “3 – meets expectations” in attendance if the written comments note that the employee is consistently tardy.
  • Evaluate the entire time period covered by the evaluation, not just the last two months. If the employee has unsatisfactory performance for July-October, but then improves in November and December, the evaluation should reference both levels of performance. Do not just rate the employee on the last two months to “encourage” the continued improved performance.
  • Rate the employee on job duties, satisfaction of the review period’s goals, and any relevant behaviors (such as recognizing the employee who works to keep the team’s morale high, or admonishing the employee whose behavior lowers team morale). Provide specific examples where possible, especially when being critical of an employee’s behavior.
  • Do not “save up” issues to put in the performance evaluation. Employees should not be surprised by their evaluation comments or ratings. This means you should make certain that employees receive performance feedback periodically throughout the period of time covered by the evaluation.
  • Encourage employee feedback. Ideally, the performance evaluation meeting with the employee would be a conversation. Ask the employee to provide feedback on the evaluation’s positive and negative points while the evaluation is delivered. Also allow the employee an opportunity to respond to the evaluation in writing. If the employee does provide feedback, consider responding to the employee’s concerns in writing or make a note on the employee’s file as to how you addressed the issue.
  • Create an action plan. The evaluator and the employee should discuss goals for the next evaluation period and, if needed, steps to address the areas for improvement. The action plan should be realistic, both in content and timing.

Wishing you and your employees a happy, healthy, and hopefully positive holiday season!