Performance appraisals help companies get the best from their workforce, as well as recognize and reward top performers. By objectively assessing how an employee does on the job, you can create a benchmark for current job performance to measure future success.

Objective One: Maintain Accuracy of the Job Description

Most companies adopt written job descriptions for each position in the business’ organizational structure. Over time, these descriptions can begin to vary, sometimes significantly so. A regularly conducted appraisal process helps identify positions where the work that was originally expected has transformed over time into a different set of duties. Keeping up-to-date, accurate job descriptions is essential for several reasons. Chief among them is the need to attract and hire new talent with the appropriate skill sets.

If job duties have evolved over time, a thorough appraisal process is a valuable opportunity to determine how, and to what degree, the job description should be rewritten. For the best results, it’s important to allow the employee to contribute freely to this process.

Objective Two: Identify Areas for Improvement

In order to help your employees grow and develop in their careers, it’s crucial to identify specific areas in which workers need to improve. Ideally, supervisors should give employees who report to them regular performance assessments, but in reality this often falls second to daily operational needs. A regularly scheduled performance appraisal process provides the ideal opportunity in a more relaxed, confidential setting, to discuss perceived areas that need improvement. A one-on-one conversation generally puts nervous employees at ease and leads to a more productive conversation on difficult issues.

Objective Three: Create a Plan for Addressing Performance Issues

Identifying areas in which an employee needs to improve is only the first step, of course. Working to improve those issues is the next step, and the performance appraisal provides the ideal context for this to begin. Appraisals should always include a section in which the manager’s expectations can be clearly communicated to the employee. Expectations should include any steps that need to be taken to improve job performance.

Whether those steps involve remedial training, additional supervision or setting clear goals for the employee to meet, they should be included in the written appraisal report. The manager should also go over the plan with the employee in a face-to-face meeting, to address any questions.

Objective Four: Encourage Strong Performers

Addressing weaknesses without acknowledging strengths is a recipe for low morale and high worker turnover. Employees report greater levels of satisfaction and workplace engagement when their strengths and talents are recognized by management. A thorough performance appraisal takes the opportunity to let the employee know that the company values the worker’s contribution to the business.

Objective Five: Provide Effective and Thoughtful Feedback

A busy workplace makes it difficult, if not impossible, to provide thoughtful feedback to employees. Yet feedback is essential to employee engagement and growth. It’s always in a company’s best interests to keep a feedback loop open with employees. Communicating how well workers are meeting expectations and what adjustments to their job performance might be appropriate helps them feel connected to the company and to see where their positions fit into the bigger picture.