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Navigating the annual performance evaluation process

Navigating the annual performance evaluation process

It is time once again to kick off the annual performance evaluation process. This is an opportunity to build upon conversations between managers and staff to date and to reflect on all that has been accomplished, both individually and collectively throughout the academic year. We are here to help you along the way so please feel free to reach out to your Human Resources Officer for assistance at any time. Check in here to find important information and tools to help. Additional tools and training materials can be found on the Harvard Training Portal.

Annual Performance Review: Tips and Tools

Annual Performance Review: Tips and Tools

  • Prepare for the conversation

    • Self-evaluation
      • Honestly evaluate your own performance
        • Be objective so as to not appear biased or self serving
        • Prepare a list of your accomplishments throughout the year, and be ready to talk about them
    • Show growth
      • Be prepared to show that you have improved in areas that were critiqued in previous year
      • Or, prepare to talk about your initiative in your own self development that shows growth in the things you are already doing well
    • Plans for the future
      • Be prepared to talk about ways in which your manager can support you achieve your goals.  This may mean skills you’d like to develop
    • Share with your manager
      • Encouraging a two way dialogue can be best done by giving your manager a chance to prepare for the conversation by reviewing what you’ve put together
    • Be open minded
      • Ask open ended questions to seek clarity
      • Catch your own emotions
      • If we become defensive, we stop listening
  • Receiving Feedback

    • Mindset – constructive and positive
    • Recognize your own emotions and the potential impact of your response
    • Asking open ended questions
    • Listening skills
  • Listening Skills

    • Create the Right Environment: Set aside physical distractions to focus completely on the other person
      • Speaker: “Can we talk about a challenging situation that I am having?”
        Listener: “This is a good time. I will silence my phone and close the door to give you 100% of my attention.”
    • Seek to Understand: Focus on the speaker’s message, rather than your response
      • Bracketing: Imagine putting aside your nagging thoughts or the debate
      • Body Language: Lean forward, establish and maintain eye contact, comfortable posture
    • Paraphrase: Validate the speaker’s message by rephrasing, using your own words to confirm their meanings. Use reflective language
      • “As I hear it, you…” “I’m picking up that you…” “It sounds like you…”
    • Perception Check: Check your belief(s) about what the speaker feels or thinks – unspoken assumptions, conclusions, feelings
      • “It appears that you place a high value on…” “So, your feeling now is that…” “You seem to have a sense of…”
  • Nonverbal Communication

    During active listening, the nonverbal cues you use are equally important as your choice of words and language in reinforcing to the employee that they are being heard, and that you, as the manager/supervisor are fully engaged with what is being shared.


    • Comfortable eye contact
    • Listen nonjudgmentally, listen for understanding
    • Use affirming voice sounds to encourage conversations
    • Open hands, “open” arms – not crossed
    • Engaging posture, whether standing or sitting
  • Open-Ended Questions

    Open-ended questions help manager and staff to more clearly understand what is happening, what is needed, and to discover different ways of thinking and acting to be more satisfied and fully contributing in our roles.

    Open-ended questions start with: What, How, When, Where, Who, and sometimes Why.


    • What priorities do you think I should focus on this year?
    • What impact do you want me to have this year?
    • What is your (our) understanding about the project?
    • What might I (we) do differently?
    • Who else might be a resource to me (or us)?
    • How can I (we) mitigate the risk?
    • What do you need from me?
  • Best Practices for Meeting/Conversation

    • Treat the conversation with the importance it deserves
    • Schedule in advance
    • Reserve adequate time
    • Prepare for the meeting
    • No interruptions; stay present
    • Create an open, comfortable environment
    • Your aim is a two-way conversation
    • Be curious, ask questions, and listen to understand

PeopleSoft Online Performance Management System: 2019 Updates

With an increased emphasis on the quality of conversations, Performance Management in PeopleSoft now includes a new, simplified template for documenting performance conversations.

  • Tabs: Instructions, Goals, Mid-Year, Annual, Competencies, and Feedback
    • The instructions for completing the form are found within the online template
  • There are no system inhibitors preventing access to the section tabs throughout the performance management cycle
  • “Share” and “stop sharing” features enabled throughout the performance cycle

New Rating Scale for 2019

Harvard is using a new rating scale this year moving from a five point numerical scale to a four point scale.  Learn more about the individual ratings by reading their descriptions below.

Exceptional Impact

Contributions have significant and consistently exceptional impact and value to the department and/or the organization.  Makes unique, often one-time achievements that measurably advance the process towards organizational goals and/or result in major improvements.  Easily recognized as a role model by high-performing peers.  Viewed as an excellent resource to provide expertise, guidance, advice, mentorship, or support to others.  Demonstrates a range of high-level capabilities and actively takes on higher levels of responsibility.

Full/Consistent Impact

Consistently demonstrates meaningful impact through accomplishments and contributions.  This level of impact is reflective of a fully qualified, competent and experienced individual in this role.  Viewed as someone who gets the job done and effectively prioritizes work and produces strong results.  Contributes positively to the overall objective of the department and/or the larger organization.  Achieves valuable accomplishments in several important areas of the job and/or assigned projects.


Needs to gain proficiency and/or productivity in the position to achieve consistent impact.  May achieve some, but not all, goals, Strong or additional knowledge, skills, and abilities need to be demonstrated for consistent success in the role.  This rating is recommended for use when an employee is still coming up-to-speed with their job responsibilities based on limited tenure in the role.

Needs Improvement

The quality of performance is below expectations for the role.  Knowledge, skills, abilities and/or productivity have not been demonstrated at the appropriate levels.