HR Operations

Performance management supervisor guide

Purpose of performance management

Performance management isn’t simply a once-a-year evaluation. Good performance management is a continuous, positive collaboration between you and your employees all year round.

Most employees want to be successful contributors. They want to know what is expected of them and how they can most effectively achieve those expectations. As a supervisor, it is your job to:

  • Clearly communicate expectations
  • Provide employees with the tools, training, and information they need to succeed
  • Offer regular, timely, and constructive feedback
  • Be reasonable and fair when evaluating performance
  • Recognize successes and achievements
  • Address performance issues in a proactive and timely manner in order to resolve them before they become significant

Good performance management doesn’t just help the employee. It can make your job a lot easier and help you build a high-functioning, productive team.

Other benefits of effective performance management include:

  • Motivated and engaged employees
  • Increased retention of good employees
  • Reduced costs related to recruiting and training new employees
  • Less time dealing with corrective action issues
  • Positive departmental reputation as a great place to work

If you have any questions about performance management, talk to your HR consultant.

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Hire for success

Performance management starts before the employee is even hired. Hiring the right person for the position makes performance management much easier.

And to hire the right person you need a clearly defined position. Make sure you have an up-to-date job description. When filling a vacant position, consider whether departmental needs have changed since the last time you hired for the position. Also consider the role the position plays within the organization and what success would look like for the position.

When assessing candidates for the open position, ask:

  • Does the candidate meet the qualifications for the position?
  • Does the candidate possess the necessary competencies to perform this job? Or, if not, can the candidate be trained easily after hire?
  • Is the candidate well suited for the University’s and your team’s work environment and able to uphold the UW’s institutional values?

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New employees

During an employee’s first week on the job, set the individual up for success in this new role by:

  • Reviewing the job description and performance expectations with the employee
  • Explaining how the employee’s work contributes to departmental and University goals
  • Designing a plan to help the employee acquire all necessary competencies
  • Explaining how and when you will provide performance feedback
Probationary or trial service period

New classified employees — or current classified employees moving to a new position — are usually required to serve a probationary or trial service period. The length of this period is determined by the employee’s collective bargaining agreement or employment program.

During the probationary or trial service period, closely monitor and provide feedback on the employee’s work performance and behavior. Provide coaching and counseling as needed and document it.

If you believe the employee isn’t meeting requirements for the position, contact your HR consultant to determine if the probationary or trial service period should be ended. While there is no corrective action “just cause” standard for ending a probationary period appointment, there are procedures that must be followed and dates by which action must be taken.

Professional staff don’t have a probationary or trial service period; instead, they serve on an “at will” basis, which means that their appointment can be modified or ended for any reason that does not unlawfully discriminate against the employee or violate public policy.

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Reviewing the previous year

Performance reviews typically take place annually. The review looks back, assessing the employee’s performance since the last review. The annual performance review includes a written evaluation of your employee’s work performance and a one-on-one conversation to discuss the evaluation.

Your department’s review schedule dictates when this annual performance review is due.

Be balanced, honest, and fair in your review of the employee’s performance. Focus on the work, not the person.

Acknowledge really good work just as readily as work that needs improvement. It can be easy to take strong performance for granted and only point out problems.

Of course, if an employee falls short of a goal, document that. But if there is a good reason for that failure — some circumstance that justifies the missed goal — explain that as well.

The written evaluation
Evaluation forms

Your team may consist of professional staff, classified staff covered by one or more collective bargaining agreements, classified staff covered by civil service rules, and temporary employees. While performance management principles are the same for all employees, you may have different evaluation tools based on employment program.

We offer some sample evaluation forms on the right side of this page for campus employees, but your department may use an evaluation form tailored to the needs of the department and type of work being evaluated. Check with your department leadership.

The medical centers have a standardized process through Workday.  See the link to the Performance Review Resources Portal on the right side of this page.

If you are evaluating a contract classified employee, be sure that your evaluation form covers the items required by the employee’s collective bargaining agreement. If you have questions about the collective bargaining agreement requirements, check with your department leadership or HR consultant.

In order to fully evaluate your employee’s performance, it may be useful to solicit performance feedback from others (such as faculty, students, clients, and peers) who have knowledge of the employee’s performance. Ideally, your employee should participate by suggesting people who can provide such feedback, in addition to others that you choose.

A written evaluation is required in order for your professional staff employees to receive a merit pay increase.

Employee input

Give the employee a copy of the performance review form you are using and make sure they understand how the form is used.

If your department doesn’t already require that staff complete self-evaluations, consider asking your employees to provide written input on how they think they performed over the past 12 months. This input should address achievements and obstacles as well as goals achieved or not achieved. The employee’s input can help you remember specific performance details as well as provide insight on how you can best support them in the coming 12 months. 

The conversation

Remember that for many employees, the face-to-face performance review is the most stressful work conversation they’ll have all year. For supervisors, the discussion can be just as tense. Let the employee see that you are committed to helping them succeed at their job. If you and your employee have been communicating openly and frequently throughout the review period, nothing in the evaluation should come as a surprise to the employee.

Make sure the employee has the opportunity to provide input before the review is finalized.

After you and the employee have discussed the evaluation, both of you must sign the form. If the employee is hesitant to sign the evaluation because they do not agree with it, inform the employee that their signature simply means that they have read the document. The employee is allowed to write a letter of response, detailing their view of their performance and how it differs from your evaluation.

The evaluation must be stored in the employee’s departmental personnel file for three years.

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Planning for the upcoming year

Now that you have evaluated and discussed the just-completed performance review period, it is time to look forward to the next year.

Designing an employee’s goals should be a joint effort between you and the employee. Allow the employee a voice in their own performance management. Encourage them to advocate for their own professional growth.

Set goals

Here are some helpful tips for writing goals:

  • Set goals with not for the employee. Employees who help set their own goals are more motivated to achieve them.
  • Use the SMART formula for setting goals:
    Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.
  • Tie individual goals to departmental goals. Doing so helps the employee see the importance of their own work and increases their job satisfaction.
  • Assess the employee’s competencies. Does the employee need to develop any skills or knowledge to successfully perform their job?
  • Consider the employee’s long-range professional goals. Do this year’s goals help the employee reach their long-range goals?

Document the employee’s goals, including any needed training and professional development. Once completed, be sure the employee has a copy. Both you and the employee will want to refer to the document throughout the coming months.

Your department may have a form for documenting the goals — mostly likely within the annual performance review form. If your department does not have a method for documenting goals, we offer sample annual performance review forms on the right side of this page that include goal planning sections.

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Supporting throughout the year

A lot can happen in a year — for better or worse — so proactively supporting your employee in their goals can make all the difference in their work performance.

Stay connected

Meet with your employee regularly throughout the year, formally or informally, so that you can provide timely feedback about the employee’s performance. These meetings can also be a great time to discuss any additional support or training the employee may need to accomplish their goals.


Encourage two-way dialogue with your staff. A clearly communicated open-door policy is good. Actively initiating conversations with your staff is even better.

Create a supervisorial relationship where employees feel safe to discuss work challenges and mistakes freely. You can’t help if you don’t know a problem exists. And your employees won’t speak openly if they fear they will get in trouble for their honesty and openness.

Address performance issues early

Don’t let performance issues linger. Addressing them immediately is the best way to prevent challenges from snowballing into problems then into formal corrective action. Focus on being an effective coach so that you spend less time — or maybe no time at all — as a disciplinarian.

Revise goals, if needed

If an individual’s goals change, be sure to document the changes and give the employee a copy of the revised goals.

Throughout the year, keep notes on your employees’ achievements and performance. This information will come in handy when it is time again for annual performance reviews.

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At any time, you can boost employee engagement by recognizing the good work of your staff. Recognition can be awarded individually or collectively, formally or informally, publicly or privately.

Employee satisfaction and commitment increases when employees:

  • Are recognized for their achievements
  • Know that their contributions matter to the organization

Recognition is most effective when it takes place on a regular basis and in a variety of different ways. It is also important that recognition activities be aligned with the culture of your unit or department. The Employee Recognition webpages offer many ideas for acknowledging your staff’s hard work.

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Additional resources

UW policies

  • APS 43.13 Probation and Trial Service Policy for Classified Non-Union Staff
  • APS 43.14 Performance Management Policy for Classified Non-Union Staff

Civil service rules (classified non-union staff)

Collective bargaining agreements

Professional Staff Program

Professional and Organizational Development (POD)

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