Performance management is a year-round process, and requires much more than one conversation each year. The annual performance discussion is one of the most important of those conversations, and provides an opportunity for employees and managers to take a step away from the day-to-day work demands and have a focused discussion about the employee's performance, position, and role in the department. It is also an opportunity for the manager to hear valuable feedback from the employee.
The form includes several elements that are essential to evaluating performance at Dartmouth. It also helps managers to coach and develop employees, and plan for the year ahead in a way that is consistent with departmental priorities. We strongly suggest that managers ask employees to either complete the Preparation for Annual Performance Evaluation Discussion Topics and return the document to the manager prior to the evaluation discussion meeting, or at a minimum ask the employee to come to the meeting prepared to discuss those topics. This information will likely help remind managers of milestones in the previous year as well as understand the employee's perception of their position and performance.
Download a copy of the Evaluation Instructions (pdf).
Section 1: Core Competencies
Core competencies apply to every position at Dartmouth College. Competencies are often described as "how" one does a job, as opposed to "what" someone does, although there may be some overlap. By way of example, being an effective communicator is a technical competency for the position of Writer, but we all are expected to communicate effectively and professionally in some way within our positions, whether it is with our colleagues; faculty, staff, or students we serve; our supervisors and direct reports; or the general public.
Section 2: Position-Specific Competencies/Accountabilities
Position-specific competencies are typically drawn from the "skills and knowledge" section of a position description. For example, a position-specific competency might be demonstrating technical knowledge in a particular field, decision making and judgment, organizational skills, attention to detail, strategic thinking and planning, etc.
Position-specific accountabilities are typically drawn from the "key accountabilities" section of the position-description, such as program support, operations, systems management, or data analysis and reporting. The categories are not mutually exclusive, for example, project management may be considered a key accountability for a particular position, and also considered a competency for the position.
The key to this section is for managers to focus on the top three to five areas that are critical for the position. You should be balanced and should include critical position elements which employees are performing well, as well as including critical areas employees might need to improve or enhance.
Section 2(a), Managerial Competencies, should be completed only for positions that have responsibility for managing the work of others. This section may be deleted on evaluations for non-supervisory positions, or note N/A.
Section 3: Specific Objectives/Accomplishments for Past Year
This section is designed to capture and recognize specific accomplishments during the evaluation period, as well as to note progress on any goals that were set in the prior year's annual evaluation but that may have been modified or adjusted. The difference between an objective and an accomplishment is that objectives are typically planned, and may or may not have been accomplished. An accomplishment may be the completion of a specific objective, but also may be an achievement that arose out of unexpected circumstances. The key here is to include milestones or specific one-time achievements rather than listing day-to-day activities normally expected of a position. For example, "conducted research and analyzed data" is likely in the realm of day-to-day activities, unless it was a one-off assignment. Co-authoring a paper on that research which appeared in a specific publication, however, would be an accomplishment for that evaluation period.
Section 4: Summary of Performance
This section may be used in different ways depending on your evaluation style. Many managers like to include the majority of their comments and examples in narrative style. Others may write more in the individual comment sections and less in the summary. All boxes in the form will expand as you type. Many employees report that the narrative portion of the evaluation, whether it is included in a longer summary or within individual sections, is the most meaningful to them. It is just as important to provide details on what employees do well as it is to include the areas where improvement might be needed.
Section 5: Performance Objectives/Goals for Year Ahead
Performance objectives and/or goals should be included as appropriate for the position. This may include a project to be accomplished within a specific timeframe that will advance departmental goals, such as a project to redesign a particular way something is done, or obtaining training and knowledge on a new software program the department is implementing. An objective may be aligned with an area in which an employee needs to build skills or where skill enhancement would benefit the employee and the department. Use the SMART model for setting goals and objectives: objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
Section 6: Training and Professional Development
It is helpful to speak with the employee in advance of completing this section. Identify training and development opportunities or recommendations that will help the employee meet performance objectives or goals or that will enhance the employee's skills and competencies. Be sure to consider training and workshops that will benefit an employee as a member of the broader Dartmouth community, such as seminars or workshops about diversity and inclusion and appreciating and valuing difference. Consider training that will help the employee explore other areas of professional development beyond the confines of the position description and that might help the employee advance their career at Dartmouth. Consider also training and workshops that help with team building and personal effectiveness, including workshops that encourage work/life balance.
Section 7: Employee Comments
The employee comment section is optional for the employee. Employees may wish to add comments to the form, may ask for their self-assessment or responses to the Preparation for Annual Performance Evaluation Discussion Topics to be included with the final evaluation form, may attach a separate document with their comments, or may choose not to comment.
Section 8: Signatures
The original copy of the Annual Staff Performance Evaluation should be signed by the employee and manager, then the department head, then the VP, and then sent to the Office of Human Resources. Employees and managers should each retain a copy. As the form notes, the employee's signature indicates only that the evaluation has been reviewed with the employee, and not necessarily his/her agreement with the evaluation. Despite this language, there have been occasions where an employee may state they will not sign the evaluation. Should that occur, ask the employee to review the language below the signature line and give the employee time to rethink the decision not to sign. Tell the employee if they ultimately decline to sign the evaluation, you will note on the form you submit that the review was discussed with and presented to the employee and the employee declined to sign it.
There are three defined assessment categories for specific areas of accountability or competency: Solid Performance, Needs Improvement, and Exceptional Performance. Dartmouth expects that the vast majority of its employees will have performance that falls in the Solid Performance category. "Solid Performance" is intended to let employees know where they are successfully achieving the expectations for their position. "Needs Improvement" is intended to encourage development and/or improvement in areas that may be falling short of expectations for the position, or where the employee needs to build their skills or the consistent application of their skills. "Exceptional" should be used to recognize areas of performance that truly set or exceed the highest standard for a particular competency or accountability, often beyond the expected position requirements. A few notes about using the assessment categories:
- Definitions: Read the definitions before assigning a category to ensure consistency and accuracy.
- Comments:Use the comments section to give focused feedback on a particular area of competency or accountability to support or explain the assessment category selected.Include positive examples and language to support an assessment of solid performance.Include constructive language and specific examples in areas where the employee needs to improve.Explain what was exceptional about an employee's performance in any area where this category is chosen.You may also elaborate on your comments and provide further specifics in the narrative summary section. If you do so, please provide some comments in the comments section, and note that the employee should also see the Summary of Performance in Section 4 for more detail.
- Mixed Assessments: In most cases, managers should be able to determine that one assessment category applies in a given section. However if for a particular competency or accountability an employee's performance is a mix between Solid and Exceptional or Solid and Needs Improvement, you may select more than one category. If you do so, the comments must clarify and explain the mixed assessment, noting both how the employee is demonstrating success in that area as well as specific examples of performance that fall into the Exceptional or Needs Improvement category.
The Overall Assessment
The assigning of the overall assessment should be a reasoned and logical conclusion, taking into consideration and weighing the importance of the individual assessment categories in Sections 1 and 2, the employee's progress on objectives, the level of the position, and the length of time an employee has been in a position or field and/or has had the opportunity to develop in particular areas. For example, you may have recently hired or promoted someone in a position who is still working to develop critical skills, and that learning curve was expected when you hired that person. A Needs Improvement rating in a particular area may not be a cause for a concern for your overall assessment of that employee in the first year of employment. However, if the employee is in a more senior level position in which a certain level of knowledge, skill and competence is expected to have already been obtained, a Needs Improvement assessment in a critical area may have more weight in your overall determination. While it is not an exact science, the overall assessment should be fair and should make sense to the employee in light of the entire evaluation.