How to Implement Manager Performance Appraisals—Best Practices


February 10, 2022

Most organizations have some type of performance review process for employees. But what they don’t always consider is a performance review process for managers. 

Manager performance appraisals are different from employee appraisals . . . or at least they should be. 

In order for these appraisals to be effective, you won’t just be able to use your standard employee review form. Manager performance appraisals will have their own process and questions that are specific to managers. 

In this article, we’ll share how to successfully implement manager performance reviews, along with the key benefits of having employees review their managers.

Benefits of Employee Feedback for Managers

Feedback is important for employees at every level of an organization to help improve performance, identify strengths, and determine opportunities for personal growth and development. 

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For managers, this kind of feedback can be especially insightful, especially when it comes from their direct reports. Managers can benefit from employee feedback in a number of ways, including the following:

More Sources of Feedback

It’s likely that managers receive feedback from their own managers, but it can be difficult for a manager’s manager to see how they interact with their direct reports. 

Since most managers will have more than one direct report (and often many), additional feedback from a manager's direct reports can help company leadership, HR, and the managers themselves see how they’re performing from multiple perspectives.

Better Communication

Manager performance appraisals give employees the chance to share how effective their managers are in providing them with the coaching, resources, and support they need to perform effectively. 

When given the chance to provide upward feedback, employees feel that their input matters. Upward feedback also provides a formal opportunity for employees to openly share their thoughts and feelings with their manager, helping improve communication between managers and employees.

Improved Leadership

Manager performance appraisals can help managers tap into opportunities for growth that might otherwise never have been uncovered. Feedback from multiple sources should provide managers with many ideas and opportunities to improve their leadership skills. 

Like any employee, managers can benefit as much from learning about what they’re doing well as they can from learning about opportunities for improvement. Getting feedback from their direct reports will help managers understand what they should keep doing and where they need to make adjustments. 

How to Implement Manager Performance Review

Manager appraisals are different from employee appraisals in a couple of key ways:

  • Manager appraisals focus more on employees' interactions with their manager than on a manager’s operational performance.
  • Manager appraisals assess how effective the manager is at getting work done through others, rather than how they get their own work done.
  • Manager appraisals typically include multiple sources of feedback, which can be helpful in seeing different perspectives.
manager performance appraisal

Because of these distinctions, there are some best practices that can help you establish an effective manager performance appraisal process. 

The process you implement should provide HR with the information it needs to assess managerial performance, managers with the knowledge they need to continually improve their management skills and approaches, and employees the opportunity to share their voices. The following three best practices for implementing manager performance reviews will help you to accomplish those objectives. 

1. Consider Soft Skills

Management is primarily about interactions, relationships, and engagement, all of which require soft skills that can be challenging to measure. 

Collecting information on these critical management skills requires a thoughtful approach for gathering feedback. 

As mentioned earlier, multiple sources of feedback is a major benefit of employee feedback for managers. 

Because of these multiple sources, it’s possible to compare “outlier” responses. For example, 8 of 10 employees may rate their manager as a 10 when it comes to “communicating in a respectful manner,” but the other 2 employees may rate their manager as a 1. HR may do a deeper dive into what’s behind those ratings in order to find out why the 2 employees responded differently than the others. 

Additionally, HR should measure the soft skills that are specific to the manager’s role and type of work. Employees in IT and financial services have different needs for interaction and support from their managers than employees in customer service or marketing.

2. Ask Questions That are Unique to Managers

The questions you ask in manager performance appraisals should be unique and specific to a manager’s role. This isn’t just a matter of repurposing your standard employee performance evaluation form and asking employees to use the same form to evaluate their managers.

Carefully considering the types of competencies effective managers need will help you develop an assessment that’s specifically focused on managers and not just general questions that could apply to anyone. This will also provide you with richer input to identify competencies across the organization that need improvement.

3. Use Performance Rating Scales

While open-ended questions in manager performance appraisals can be useful, not all employees know how to give high-quality feedback. Because of this, you may consider using a performance rating scale to quantitatively measure managers' performance.

While the responses will be based on personal opinions, having them on a scale allows HR to consider collective responses and make comparisons between individual competencies across departments.

Google’s manager survey is a good example of how to assess managers’ soft skills along with company-aligned strengths. Google gives 13 quantitative “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” statements addressing eight competencies.

For example, a statement like: “My manager gives me actionable feedback on a regular basis” can effectively indicate how communicative a manager might be. A statement like: “My manager assigns stretch opportunities to help me develop in my career” assess more Google-specific corporate goals related to their managers’ roles in driving employee development through stretch opportunities.

Google then uses two open-ended questions:

  1. What would you recommend your manager keep doing?
  2. What would you have your manager change?

These open-ended questions give the employee a chance for qualitative responses. 

You may consider adopting some of Google’s practices and adding both a quantitative and qualitative way of gathering feedback to your manager performance appraisals.

By considering soft skills, asking questions that are specific to managers, and using rating scales in your manager performance appraisals, you can implement effective manager performance appraisals in your organization. 

If you’d like to learn more about manager performance reviews, here are a few of our favorite articles to get you started:

Examples & Questions for an Upward Performance Appraisal

What is Upward Feedback?

360 Reviews: Self, Manager, Peer and Upward, Which Ones Do You Really Need?

What to do next.

Here are three ways you can continue your journey to a more modern and effective performance management strategy:

  1. See PerformYard In Action. Find time with one of our product experts to get a live look at what it's like to use modern performance management software. Every call starts with a 5 minute discussion of your approach and then immediately dives into a live product demonstration that's based on your organization's process. Or start by watching a 2-minute video overview.
  2. Learn more about modern performance management. Start with our Guide to Building a Modern Performance Management System, or visit our blog to see the latest ideas from our team.
  3. If you know other HR Pros who would appreciate this article, share it with them through email, LinkedIn or Twitter.