Employee Performance: Exploring Ways To Measure, Evaluate And Improve It

Philip Cleave
December 1, 2023
An employee being rated on their work performance

Given just how much employees bring to an organisation, it should come as no surprise to hear how much the day-to-day performance of a workforce can influence the success or failure of that business.

To remain successful in today's market, businesses need to identify ways of bringing out and maintaining the best performance in their staff. By doing so, not only will this help them to recruit, retain and develop the best talent, but help staff to grow within their roles, enabling an organisation to build a pipeline of future leaders that can contribute to its long-lasting success.

The process of improving staff performance is an ongoing one that involves measurement, evaluation and planning. But it's also a vital step to achieving company goals.

What is employee performance?

Employee performance is defined by how well a person executes their job duties and responsibilities, and how well they behave in the workplace. And their performance is typically measured in terms of the quantity, quality and efficiency of their work.

By monitoring the performance of their staff, it can help employers to paint a picture of how well their business is doing. This not only helps to highlight what companies could be doing to improve their business but provides the information they need to support their future growth plans. However, it’s not all about the benefits for the business. Focusing on staff performance helps employees to reach their full potential, while also improving their overall performance, which can have a positive impact on their morale and the quality of work they produce.

Finally, but most importantly, when employees are under-performing it can result in greater customer dissatisfaction. As a result, an entire business can become beset by poor performance and struggle to reach its goals, which is another reason why measuring, evaluating and improving employee performance is so important.

How to measure performance

When it comes to measuring employee performance every work environment is different, so it will ultimately depend on the type of industry and business your company and staff operate in.

Yet, there are some more general metrics you can use to measure performance, which include:

Quality of work

A good place to start is the standard of work produced by each of your employees.

Are your staff putting in maximum effort to ensure high-quality results?

Are your performance objectives being met?

Asking such questions about the quality of their work serves as a foundation to analyse other elements of their performance.

Speed and efficiency

By thinking about how much your employees accomplish in an average week, month or quarter, you can gauge how well they’re meeting your expectations.

Are your deadlines being met, improved on, or is time being wasted?

What about your processes for completing work quickly. Are corners being cut to achieve this?

Efficiency is all about achieving maximum output for the least cost. So, it’s vital to be aware of this within your business.

Trust and consistency

You also need to be asking yourself if you can trust your employees to complete their work to a high standard and deliver it on time.

Can they work independently, or do you feel that you often have to step in?

Do they consistently display company values?

Are they punctual and presentable to the standards you expect?

When staff are performing to a high standard, they can be trusted to be autonomous and continue to produce strong results without too much supervision.

It’s important to keep all these performance metrics in mind when carrying out individual employee performance reviews.

How to evaluate employee performance

Performance reviews can be daunting for both staff and managers alike, yet they’re a necessary starting point.

If you’ve not thoroughly evaluated an individual employee’s performance, you may waste valuable time and effort implementing improvement plans that don’t begin to solve the key issues. So, take your time during this stage to get a complete and rounded view of everyone's performance, as this will give you a solid foundation to create their improvement plans.

Here are some useful ways to evaluate staff performance.

Employee performance survey

A good starting point is get your staff to complete an employee performance survey.

Besides giving them an initial platform to rate their own performance, this type of survey typically asks them to detail the level of support they’ve received to perform their job, in terms of resources, support, managerial feedback and more.

All these things can affect how well individuals perform in their work. So, by asking these types of questions, it can reveal if there’s anything more your managers and the wider organisation could do to better support your employees.


With this approach, each employee judges their own performance against questions that are set by their employer. It’s also a method that works well when it’s used alongside a verbal performance review.

For instance, when you spot differences between what the employee thinks of their own performance, and what you think, it can provide some really interesting points of discussion for your meeting.

This method can also help employees better understand what their performance review is likely to address, which can help ease any anxieties they may have.

360-degree feedback

Another effective method is to obtain feedback and opinion from other people that an employee may have regular contact with. This includes those that they directly report to, along with team members, supervisors, customers and others.

Commonly referred to as a 360-feedback survey. The aim of this evaluation method is to obtain a wider more holistic view of the employee under review from multiple perspectives.

This approach can be really beneficial in revealing to an individual any behaviours that he or she may be unaware of, which if they’re able to rectify can help improve their overall performance.

Objective based performance

Using this approach, managers and employees can work together to develop performance goals, while setting clear deadlines for their completion.

The benefit of involving staff in the creation of their objectives, is that they can see how their individual goals contribute to larger organisational ones. This helps create more understanding of what needs to be done and why it’s important.

This method also helps increase engagement and motivation for each staff member, while making it very easy to define success and failure for the employer.

Use scales to rank staff performance

A more traditional way to measure staff performance is to use numbering scales, such as 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, in order to rank an employee’s performance in specific disciplines.

These scales are commonly used as they’re easy for both employees and managers to understand and enable simple comparisons to be made between team members, which requires little administration and can be easily adapted to any business needs.

Managers or HR personnel can establish the criteria to be ranked, which typically includes behaviours, aptitudes or projects completed.

How to improve staff performance and productivity

Whatever your choice of evaluation method, once you’ve reviewed your findings, you’ll want to create an improvement plan, which helps to address any areas of development you’ve highlighted.

Here’s some steps that can help you to improve your employee performance.

1 Explore why an employee isn’t meeting expectations

There can be a long list of reasons why an employee isn’t performing as expected. And if you don’t get to the bottom of these, it will be incredibly hard to take the right steps to improve it.

Therefore, it helps to begin with an open and frank discussion and find out if the employee feels anything is affecting their ability to perform. They may feel that the business is holding them back from reaching their full potential, they could be lacking resources, they may feel misaligned with company goals or that they’re not receiving proper guidance or training.

It’s also possible that the factors affecting their work performance may be unrelated to work itself. Personal reasons that an employee may be going through including poor mental wellbeing or issues in their personal life can also impact their performance.

By initiating this conversation, it can help provide the basis you need to provide more effective support.

2 Review highs and lows

Even though your end goal is to achieve improvement, your performance reviews shouldn’t just focus on what’s not going well.

The problem with only focusing on areas where your employees should be improving, is that this could knock their confidence and lead to resentment, if they feel that their hard work in other areas is going unnoticed. Consequently, you need to praise them for what they’re doing well, pointing out any areas where they’ve performed really well since their last review, as well as highlighting any areas for development.

When their hard work is recognised, staff will know that they’re a valued member of the team and be encouraged to put a greater effort into their work. That said, when you do discuss any challenges or areas for development, you have to be totally clear about any problems an employee is having, if they’re to improve effectively.

When you’re conversing with staff, make sure they’re left with a clear understanding of their strengths, any areas for development and any steps you need them to take, as this will help minimise their stress.

When you’re giving feedback, you must always consider your employee’s wellbeing too. It's also a good idea to check you're not giving them too much to do, or you could risk them feeling out of their depth.

3 Offer consistent feedback as they progress

One of best ways to improve employee performance is to provide regular feedback.

Frequent feedback helps employees stay on track as they work to make ongoing improvements, rather than any saving up issues for a more formal review later. By then, the effects of poor performance may be far more detrimental to the team or business.

When you provide more regular feedback, staff become more comfortable with receiving feedback in general. This can also help to prevent any negative connotations that people associate with receiving that feedback. That’s because frequent feedback is more likely to be a mix of positive and constructive comments, which can help keep employees engaged and motivated rather than discouraged.

It's important for performance improvements that staff know how well they’re progressing. That way, they’ll be more aware of how well they’re doing and the steps they need to take to improve further.

4 Develop a more positive workplace culture

The more positive your workplace culture, the higher your levels of engagement, motivation and performance.

To make the improvements you require, you need to review elements such as how aligned your employees are with your company vision and mission, your employee benefits and the work/life balance you offer for staff.

Your workplace culture should provide the foundation for staff to perform to the best of their abilities. A positive workplace culture helps employees to be focused and engaged without any negativities distracting them and with the support of a positive workplace driving them forward.

The easiest way to find out if your workplace culture is right for your employees is to ask them directly. Use an anonymous survey to ask your employees what they think about how your business operates. By keeping your survey anonymous you’re most likely to get more honest and valuable feedback, as your employees will feel safer to express their views without fear of retribution.

Not only can this help you to identify and make changes to anything in the business that may be affecting performance, but you can also demonstrate to staff, how much you value them by making changes based on their input.

5 Prioritise learning and development

Typically, poor performance can be the result of a knowledge or skills gap.

By developing a focus on learning and development, employees can be reminded about best practice, and the importance of gaining new skills to take valuable steps along their career path.

You can then work with staff to develop individual learning and development plans, which will give your employees a greater say in how and what they learn, to help keep them engaged and motivated.

6 Agree measurable and realistic goals

If you’re to drive performance improvements, your employee needs to know what you’re measuring. That way they can monitor their own performance and work to improve it. Without measurable goals employees are left guessing about whether they’re improving or not.

Any goals must also be realistic. While you’ll want to stretch your employees a bit, anything that feels too unachievable could overwhelm them and lead to burnout. On the other hand, goals that are too easy will not provide any motivation, so you need to find the right balance.

You also need to make clear when you expect these goals to be completed by. Consider setting two dates, one to come back to and see how things are progressing, and another for your expected completion date.

7 Regularly acknowledge good work and improvements

From gift card vouchers and other surprise gifts to a team meal or an additional discretionary day off. Whatever your thank you gift of choice, it’s important to recognise and reward great work, because in doing so you’re letting your staff know how much you value their efforts.

By developing a process which allows for regular recognition, it will help you to keep your highest performers engaged. These individuals can then lead by example and help others.

8 Optimise job satisfaction

Sometimes some employees only put in as much effort as they ought to, based on what they feel they’re getting out of the role. So, if they feel they aren't getting paid enough, not getting the same benefits as they could elsewhere or feel like their workplace is lacking in resources - they may not try as hard to perform. Therefore, it’s prudent to look at rival employers to ensure you’re offering the right benefits to keep your staff happy.

Of course, it also helps to know exactly what your staff are unhappy about and have an idea of how many employees this applies to. But you’ll only get that by obtaining their feedback. And the best way to do that is through a staff satisfaction survey, which can enable you to monitor their sentiment and take actions based on this to improve their contentment levels.

The importance of keeping your teams motivated and engaged

Maintaining consistent levels of employee performance and productivity can be tough, as people naturally go through peaks and troughs. However, you can minimise the impact of these dips, through closer scrutiny of your staff, collecting their feedback and listening to and acting on what they’ve got to say.

By doing this and putting together an effective plan to improve their performance, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a happier and more productive team.

The experiences you deliver for staff can also impact their performance

Knowing how to measure and evaluate your employees’ performance is crucial if you’re going to improve it. But you mustn’t forget all the tactics you’ll need to maintain this performance including delivering positive employee experiences. However, you’ll only be able to achieve that with the right survey tools.

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