Design the Performance Appraisal – Competencies Section


In this article, we are going review some of groups of competencies or skills commonly used or found in performance appraisals.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

Dale Carnegie wrote the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” stated 3 fundamental techniques in handling people:

  • Principle 1 Do not criticize, condemn or complain.
  • Principle 2 Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  • Principle 3 Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Competency Based and Skills Based Appraisals

In my professional view, the biggest flaw in performance appraisal is subjectivity. Instead of focusing on the results, a significant part is focused on subjective assessment of another person. This is often the case with competency based and skills based appraisals. It often caused grieves and tensions between manager and staff. It is often the case of “the pot calling the kettle black”. It broke Principle 1 mentioned above.

There is a place for competency and skills based appraisal:

  • The appraisal should be closed. It should be turned into an exercise in training needs analysis.
  • It should be for development purposes.
  • It should be for the benefit of the individual and not for the company.

If the company is not willing or cannot pay for the training and development of its employees, that will be the subject of another article. However, can you see how the present state of performance appraisals disengages staff?

Psychologists were quick to spot the errors in performance appraisals. Here are some of them. Michael Armstrong warned that “appraisers must be on guard against anything that distorts reality, either favorably or unfavorably.” Isn’t this ironic?

  • Halo error
  • Leniency error
  • Central tendency error
  • Recency error
  • Personal bias error
  • Horns effect

In my professional experience, no matter what amount of training is given to appraisers, they will commit these errors. The reason is simply that they are human beings with emotions and subjectivity.

Competencies Commonly Found in Appraisals (Generic/General Factors)

Quality/Quality of Work

Definition 1: The extent to which an employee’s work is completed thoroughly and correctly following established process & procedures. Required paperwork is thorough and neat.

Definition 2: Evaluate quality of work performed. Accuracy, neatness and consistency in all areas of job performance. Attention to detail.

Definition 3: Work results satisfy organization’s goals. Work is organized and presented professionally. Work product is thorough and complete. Work product is free of flaws and errors.

Job Quantity/Productivity

Definition 1: The extent to which an employee produces a significant volume of work efficiently in a specified period of time.

Definition 2: Evaluate how much acceptable work is done. Efficiency and productivity. Ability to accomplish objectives under pressure. Effective use of time.

Definition 3: Work output matches expectations established. Employee completes all assignments. Employee consistently meets deadlines.

Independence / Reliability/Dependability/Follow Through/Demonstrates Credibility/Sense of Responsibility

Definition 1: Ability to work independently with little or no direction/ follow-up to complete tasks / job assignment.

Definition 2: Shows commitment, dedication and accountability in carrying out allocated tasks. Is available whenever required and complies with regulations in force with respect to attendance. Makes rational use of leave privileges thereby causing no inconvenience to colleagues and customers. Shows willingness to accept additional responsibility as and when required.

Definition 3: Jobs completed on time. Ability to organize and prioritize to accomplish goals and objectives. Responsiveness to others in a timely manner.

Definition 4: Shares information with others when appropriate. Acts independently while keeping supervisor informed. Performs work according to current guidelines and directives. Maintains personal appearance appropriate to work. Exhibits ability to secure and evaluate facts before taking action.

Definition 5: Listened carefully to instructions. Followed instructions fully. Willingness to assist with various tasks. Willingness to accept supervision and feedback.

Job Knowledge

Definition 1: The extent to which an employee possesses and demonstrates an understating of the work instructions, processes, equipment and materials required to perform the job. Employee possesses the practical and technical knowledge required of the job.

Definition 2: Applies technical or professional knowledge and skills to work situations. Keeps abreast of current developments and adapts to new technology.  Incorporates new learning in related work activities. Requires minimal guidance and supervision.

Definition 3: Appraise comprehension and retention of job procedures and methods. Understanding of responsibilities and scope of duties. Exhibits ability to learn and apply new skills. Requires minimal supervision. Displays understanding of how job relates to others.


Definition 1: Showed interest in the position. Showed interest in training.

Interpersonal Relationships

Definition 1: The extent to which employee is willing and demonstrates the ability to cooperate, work and communicate with coworkers, supervisors, subordinates and/or outside contacts.

Definition 2: Establishes and maintains effective co-relationships with co-workers. Exhibits tact and consideration. Responds to management direction.Displays positive outlook and pleasant manner. Works co-operatively in group situations. Represents self to others in a professional manner.

Definition 3: Polite and courteous to supervisors. Polite and courteous to fellow staff. Polite and courteous to event participants.


Definition 1: Puts team success above own interest. Participates actively and positively towards achieving team goals. Works harmoniously within and across group(s). Shows respect for others’ views and opinions and values contribution.

Adherence to Policy

Definition 1: The extent to which the employees follows company policies, procedures and work conduct rules. Complies with and follows all safety rules and regulations, wears required safety equipment.

Definition 2: Adhered to Policy. Responsible attitude.

Cooperation/Commitment/Maintains Flexibility

Definition 1: Employee accepts and responds to change in a positive manner.  Accepts job assignments and additional duties willingly, takes responsibility for own performance and job assignments.

Definition 2: Willing to accept a variety of responsibilities. Adapts to new situations in a positive manner. Displays openness to learning and applying new skills. Works well with others to achieve organizational goals. Is resourceful and generally seeks work process improvements.

Attendance/Housekeeping/Availability for Work

Definition 1: The extent to which an employee is punctual, observes prescribed work break/meal periods and has an acceptable overall attendance record. Employee’s willingness to work overtime as required.

Definition 2: Punctuality. Absenteeism. Keep commitments. Housekeeping – Extent to which employee keeps work area organized and equipment kept clean and orderly.

Definition 3: Employee’s attendance supports the expected level of work. Employee’s presence can be relied upon for planning purposes. Employee is a dependable team member.

Definition 4: Was punctual to start work. Informed supervisor of absences or lateness.

Customer Focus

Definition 1: Displays a positive outlook, pleasant manner, courtesy and respect in dealing with both internal and external customers. Listens and responds effectively to customers’ needs and expectations. Develops trust and credibility with customers. Uses customer feedback to improve own performance.

Definition 2: Treats all customers with respect. Responds to customers’ needs within timeframes. Addresses conflicts and problem situations with patience and tact.


Definition 1: Written communication. Verbal communication. Keeps others informed. Communication with other departments. Effectiveness of communication.

Definition 2: Writes in a clear and concise manner. Demonstrates effective listening skills. Speaks clearly using appropriate verbal and non-verbal language. Shares relevant, accurate and up to date information with others, using the range of tools and methods available.

Lead (if applicable)/Leadership

Definition 1: The extent to which the employee demonstrates proper judgment and decision-making skills when directing others. Directs work flow in assigned areas effectively to meet production / area goals.

Definition 2: Provides clear direction and purpose. Models ethical workplace behavior. Demonstrates influencing skills by setting goals. Empowers subordinates to achieve objectives. Acts to motivate


Definition 1: Organizes and distributes work among subordinates. Secures resources and audits their effective use. Communicates behavioral expectations and performance standards. Monitors, documents and evaluates employee conduct and performance. Provides appropriate and timely feedback.

Work Environment

Definition 1: Maintains a safe and healthy workplace. Builds a team that reflects high morale, clear focus and group identity. Encourages and provide opportunities for subordinate to obtain and apply new skills and knowledge. Promotes equal opportunity and protects the right of all employees.

After Thoughts

If you are a businessman, what you will be after will be the business results

  • Does assessing your employees on their competencies enable you to know how well they have carried out their tasks or is it just a waste of time?
  • Do you think the concept of the bell curve would be applicable to these assessments?
  • To what extent how well you have crafted these statements will change the behaviors of your staff member or is it just a wish list?

If you are a manager or supervisor, what will you say to your staff member if the assessment from both of you differs for each of these competencies? Do you think someone who native language is not English will be able to understand and correctly interpret the statements?

If you are an employee, would you wish that the assessment would be more specific to your job? Do you feel comfortable with assessments at all?

For the last bit, let me throw the wrench into the works. In the article “Gen X Is From Mars, Gen Y is from Venus: A Primer On How To Motivate A Millennial,” written by Rob Asghar (Forbes 14 January 2014), he said “Gen X tends to be structured and punctual and linear. Millennials can be unstructured and nonlinear, which can be maddening to the Xers.” Do you really think performance appraisals as they exist now in our corporate world are still relevant?