Missing performance appraisals – quick fix and long-term approach

Missing performance appraisals – quick fix and long-term approach

Here’s an interesting question about missing performance appraisals that I “stole” from another HR blogger, Sharlyn Lauby of HR Bartender fame. Her reader asks :

“Just looking for advice on how to handle the following situation. We’ve had a lot of management turnover in the last year and there are several employees who did not receive their 2014 annual review. Their former supervisors are no longer with the company and the new supervisors are needing to complete 2015 annual evaluations. What is the best way to handle missing evaluations (2014) if their current supervisor did not even work at the company at that time?”

Over at HR Bartender, Sharlyn shares 3 pieces of advice :

  1. Cover your legal bases to see if you have any legal implication. This would surely apply, especially in more litigious parts of the world such as the US. For the GCC, it’s still good advice (especially if you have written policies or contractual clauses about appraisals), but overall, the legal risk is surely much lower than in the US or Europe.
  2. Talk with managers to remind them that appraisals and giving feedback are important.
  3. Talk with employees to tell them that this situation was not intended and let them know they will be “in the process” this time.

I think it’s good, basic advice, and I would like to add a few considerations to handle missing appraisals if this happens at your company.

How on earth did employees end up without appraisals ?

First, the way I understand this question is : “Because these employees did not go through the appraisal process at the end of 2014, nobody discussed objectives for 2015 with them and now that year-end is approaching, how do we manage the situation ?”

Sharlyn is right, in many companies, the results of appraisals directly influence the salary increases and or the bonuses of employees. Yet at this company, only now is anyone realising that not having formally set objectives may be a challenge !

As Head of Performance & Reward in large conglomerates, and now as a consultant, my first reaction is to say that all 3 stakeholders here have defaulted in some way or another in this case of missing performance appraisals :

  • HR did not have a process, tools, or even a simple approach to follow-up with teams (both staff and supervisors) when the team leader is due to leave, nor when the new leader is coming on board.
  • The new managers did not try to talk with their employees to find out if/what the objectives were set with the previous supervisor, and to put in place a feedback and appraisal loop with their new employees
  • The employees did not raise the issue of not having had an appraisal formally completed last year, neither with the new manager, nor with HR. Like their new managers, they behaved as if they did not care about the performance management process.

Practical tips for handling missing performance appraisals – today

So, now that we’ve established that there is shared responsibility, how do we handle the situation ? We, in that case, will obviously be HR, the ever-ready firefighter who will solve all problems 🙂

HR the hero firefighter - Compensation Insider


The first thing you need to do is figure out how many employees are missing performance appraisals, and who their managers are.

I suggest holding a meeting for these employees and their managers, to cover the grounds with them. Reinforce that performance appraisals and the whole performance management process are important at your company, and that this group of employees is in a very special situation which was created by the large number of managers who left in the past 12 months.

Tell them what they should now, in the coming days :

Employees should think about what they have worked on and achieved during the year, just like for a regular appraisal. Check my recommendations on how to perform a superb self-evaluation for guidelines. Employees should think about the projects and special undertakings they took, and assess whether these could be part of their appraisal if they’d had objectives set at the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, the managers should think about the same for each employee, looking into the major pieces of work accomplished by the employee, and considering whether this could have been part of their objectives if the previous manager hadn’t left the company.

Then they should meet and agree on the 2015 objectives… Even though it is late in the year, tell them to consider this as a formal exercise which will reduce the risk of friction at the time of the appraisal. And, if your HRIS allows, they should enter the objectives in the Performance Management System within a very short deadline.

To be honest, I have seen that situation happen quite often at some of my clients or even in past corporate roles. In most cases, the manager and employee will be reasonable and agree on something which makes sense and isn’t outrageous (too “easy” or too “difficult”).

It is super important that as HR, you now keep an eye and monitor this population closely. Give them a tight deadline to formalise the objectives and enter them into the PMS, or to manually create the forms. Make them respect that deadline !

Throughout the formal year-end appraisal, make sure that this group of employees is paid proper attention to by their managers, and also that they are not discriminated (positively or negatively) in terms of ratings and performance evaluation.

You don’t want more of these employees to be rated as under-performers than in the rest of your company, nor do you want managers to “buy silence” by rating them overwhelmingly as superior performers !

Practical tips for avoiding to find employees missing performance appraisals in the future

So, the good news is, you have identified a gap in your process regarding performance appraisals. Now you only need to fix it to prevent the situation from arising again.

Handling the departing manager

Add a few points to your departure checklist :

If the employee is a people manager, they should perform a “to-date” appraisal with each of their employees, ensuring that there is a performance evaluation for work done to date, as well as objectives set for the current fiscal year.

How to ensure it has been done ?

The manager needs to confirm they have performed as such in their departing forms.

You might even require the employees to confirm the same.

HR should be able to either track the existing forms in the Performance Management System, or should require to receive a hard copy of the documentation.

Handling managers transferring out of their team, division, or country

Basically, the same process applies. When a people manager is transferred out if his current team, he should sit with all his direct reports and make sure he performs a temporary performance appraisal so that nothing is missing come year-end.

Again, as HR, you should be able to track it in the PMS, or get a hard copy.

Handling the new manager

Any new team supervisor should be required to officially review, amend or create objectives with each of their new direct reports within one or 2 months of taking over their new supervising role.

Guess what you need to check ? That the form has been updated, or created, in the system.

Set up some automated reminders in your HRIS that will track all transfers and promotions and alert both you and the new managers of this important part of their role as a people leader.

By the way, this should also apply to employees who act as interim manager for a team for any longer than one month. This will be a great help to avoid employees missing performance appraisals when the times to evaluate comes.

Handling the team members who “lose” their manager during the year

It may be a good idea to remind them that they have a responsibility in managing their performance too, and that it is their job to make sure that their old and new bosses sit with them to evaluate year-to-date achievements and set expectations for the rest of the year.

And if the managers are a bit unresponsive after a few attempts from the employee, then it is the employee’s duty to report that to you (HR) so that you can step in and ensure the process is followed.

Thinking about the longer-term approach

Basically, if some of your employees end up missing their performance appraisals, it’s probably due to the fact that performance management at your company is seen as a one-off, administrative activity, and is not perceived as an on-going managerial activity.

This kind of thing happens when HR “owns” the performance management process, instead of it being perceived as a normal part of a manager’s job.

I’ve described elsewhere how to link performance management and a performance-driven culture.

In a performance-driven culture, feedback is ongoing, and initiated both by the managers and the employees. There are regular opportunities for formal and informal catch-up conversations. The formal ones are documented in the PMS. It’s the famed “mid-year review” or even “quarterly discussions”.

Of course, you should still have your checklist for when managers leave.

And to tell the truth, if these mandatory feedback points at mid-year or each quarter are still perceived as an “HR requirement” or administrative process, then, employees may still fall through the cracks and end up without objectives for most of the year.

Yet, when these regular feedback points take place and are genuine, you almost eliminate the risk of having some employees without performance appraisal.

So it is time to get started on changing the culture at your company, and getting support from the top of your organisation ! You’ll find here a few tips to get started.

On to you now : Have you ever been faced with employees arriving at year-end and not having objectives set yet ? How did you handle it ? Beyond the quick fix, did you implement any changes to your processes, or even your performance management philosophy ? Please share your experience in the comments below !

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  1. What would you suggest is the best way to true up the employee’s rate if they missed a year?

    • Great question Anna ! Maybe the employee missed a year and you need to have a rating in your system, or maybe an employee has not had a rating because his/her position was not eligible to appraisal, but you have to calculate a salary increase for example (that was the case for new graduates at one of my former clients’).
      One way to handle it is to assign a “3” or “met expectations” rating for these people, by default. Why ? Because that’s the target rating, meaning the one you’re expecting as an organisation. It’s also the rating of the majority of employees receive. And it’s the rating that you usually use as an assumption when calculating target bonus.
      Another approach could be to replicate the employee’s performance rating from the previous year. Why ? It could represent a better indicator of the employee’s personal performance – although, as in all financial commercials, “past performance is not a guarantee of future performance”.
      There is no right or wrong. What’s important is that you apply the same approach to all employees in that situation so that there is consistency of treatment across this population.

  2. Muhammad Usman says

    For the missing PA I would use “3” as default or avg of last three years so no one is worse of better off. However, the story doesn’t end here because this might infuriate people who worked extremely hard throughout the year and now because of someone else’ mistake or absence their efforts will be left unnoticed and unrewarded. This is where HR has to do pay special attention to top performance, high potential employees and those who worked on special projects. This can be done by allowing people the opportunity to showcase their achievements throughout the year. Ideally they shouldn’t be more than 20% of the total population in a department and generally claims can be validated by peer, project managers and other managers from the same function.

  3. why does components like accountabilities, objectives and standards, development achievements, the stake holder input and employee comment component are missing in several performance appraisal form? what are the reason

    • Hi Vinaa,
      Each company has their own form.
      * Accountabilities and standards are often listed in the job description, which can be used in parallel to the performance appraisal. So maybe the company does not include it again in the performance appraisal form.
      * In some organisations, development achievements are part of a talent/career discussion which is separate from the performance discussion.
      * Formally requesting feedback from all stakeholders, while a great idea, may require way too much time on everyone if it deployed ona company-wide basis, and it may not always ring a lot fo value to the evaluation, depending on the role of the employee.
      * Now, when it comes to objectives, I do believe that these are an integral part of the employee appraisal process and should be included. However, if the performance process is one of continuous feedback (for example weekly performance discussions), usually in those scenarios the form is less “formal” as the goals are broken down on a weekly basis and are more likely to evolve over time.
      * And finally, regarding employee comments, I am a firm believer that this should be included (and it should lead to action being taken from time to time). Some companies don’t want to officially give an opportunity for employees to challenge their rating and evaluation, so they don’t include it in the form ad rely on employees who are really not happy to raise the topic through a different channel. I’d say that it’s better not to have the field available, if no-one is going to read it and (sometimes) act on it, including HR.

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