Performance Standards: How Well Is the Job Being Accomplished? an Abbreviated Approach

By Boe, Gerard P. | Journal of Continuing Education Topics & Issues, August 2008 | Go to article overview

Performance Standards: How Well Is the Job Being Accomplished? an Abbreviated Approach


Boe, Gerard P., Journal of Continuing Education Topics & Issues


Performance Standards

Performance standards for each position are the guides that express the particulars of expected job performance to both the manager and the employee. The standards explain not only how well, but in what way, how much and when the employee must perform his job, to be considered "satisfactorily performing."

Job performance standards are a must for the manager to measure an employee's accomplishment on the job. Standards help the manager with his employee appraisal tasks, help the manager in assessing employee productivity, and finally, they provide a common starting ground for both the manager and the employee when discussing job performance problems.

More and more today, we see the requirements for written performance standards. There are a number of benefits that accrue from written versus verbal standards. Written standards help to ensure a common understanding between the supervisor and the employee. Well-defined written standards assist in the uniform application of standards which can act as guidelines for effective administration.

Uses of Standards of Performance

Well developed, written performance standards will aid management in a number of areas: training needs analysis, placement, employee appraisal, employee-supervisor relations, staffing, and work distribution, to name a few. Performance standards will also provide a means of determining outstanding performance versus satisfactory performance of a particular job.

Clearly defined standards will help the new and the experienced supervisor to be more aware of each employee's job. That is, they will be in a better position to know not only what the employee should do, but how well he should do it. At performance appraisal time, written standards take some of the "guess work" out of evaluation. They provide standards that are consistent and recorded, and help the supervisor give an accurate and fair evaluation.

Guidelines for Preparing Performance Standards

1. Standards should be written only for significant duties of the position. Only those particular tasks that are specific and permanent parts of the job should have written standards.

2. Standards should be written to define fully acceptable or satisfactory performance. The performance standards should be written and established at a level of effectiveness that is expected from a fully qualified, competent employee. Remember, the standards that are established must be attainable.

3. Standards should be written for each individual position, not for a group of similar positions. Performance standards should be tailored for each position. For example, one trainer may teach only management personnel and the possible number of classes or sessions taught may be much less than the number taught by someone who works with staff personnel. Another example: While some duties may be similar, often one secretary will deal with statistical reports, etc., while another secretary may only answer the phone and type letters.

4. Standards should be a joint project of the supervisor and the employee. Participation in the development of the performance standards will provide the employee with a better understanding of the process and a self-vested interest in meeting the standards. In addition, while the supervisor may know what is necessary to accomplish in order to meet organizational goals, the employee knows the "nuts and bolts" of the job and essentially what can and cannot be accomplished within reason.

Some Common Errors in Writing Performance Standards

1. Use of Vague Terms or Generalities. When preparing performance standards, be sure to use terms that cannot be open to personal interpretations. Be specific. One of the best methods to accomplish this is to use numbers or percentages, for example: (a) Use 100%, when you mean without exception or when you want to say always, or never; (b) Use 75%, when you want to say generally, or normally, or usually; (c) Use 20% when you mean sometimes, or from time to time. …

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