Understanding Documentation Of Employee Performance: Forms, Records, Processes

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In most companies, managers are expected to complete forms or otherwise document what occurs during performance review meetings. We’ll explain why this expectation exists. But before we get to that, let’s discuss some issues about performance reviews and forms. Confusion about the use of forms is one of the major reasons why many performance reviews fail.

The Form Is NOT The Process

First, the forms you use should not be the focus of your performance review process. The forms serve a purpose, an important purpose, and that’s to keep a record of the discussions that have taken place and any decisions or commitments made during the review process. However, they are not the reason why you do performance reviews.

Performance reviews are not about forms. They are about the communication between manager and employee for the purpose of looking at past performance, identifying ways to improve performance in the future, and planning for improvement.

The Review Form Is Like A Marriage Certificate

Think about it like a marriage. Having a marriage certificate isn’t the same as the “process of marriage.” While the marriage certificate tells you a couple is officially married, it clearly doesn’t mean the marriage is working or will endure. The marriage is a process that changes over time. The piece of paper isn’t the marriage. The two people interacting in certain ways is the marriage.

It’s the same with performance documentation. The performance review is a process. The communication about work is the process. The documentation (much like the marriage certificate) may be useful, but it’s not the review and by itself it’s not likely to improve performance or work to anyone’s benefit. Marriage certificates don’t guarantee a good marriage. Forms don’t guarantee a useful performance review or improve performance. People do.

One Size Fits All Forms Don't Work And Are Flawed

Second, most companies use the same form across a wide range of jobs. That means they are often so generic that their worth for any specific job is severely compromised.

Third, it’s an unfortunate fact that the forms provided by companies for managers to use to document performance are often extremely flawed. If you focus on the completion of flawed forms, you are going to have extremely flawed reviews that have limited value.

Managing Performance Means Making Things Work Despite Poor Corporate Tools

Fourth, there’s no perfect way to document performance or, for that matter, to evaluate performance. Each method has strengths and weaknesses. So, regardless of the forms given to you, you have to learn to work with them and sometimes to work around them, in order to make the most out of performance reviews. If you look at the performance review as a communications process, you’ll be able to do that. If you look at performance reviews as filling out forms, it’s going to be a wasted paper chase.


Succeeding in Spite of Forms
Even if the review forms you’re forced to use by your company are absolutely useless,it doesn’t mean that performance reviews with your employees need to be useless too. When you concentrate on your discussion with the employee and work on solving problems to improve performance, the poor forms have less impact.


About Company

Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992 by consultant and book author, Robert Bacal. Robert's books on performance management and reviews have been published by McGraw-Hill. He is available for consultation, training and keynote speaking on performance and management at work.


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  • Performance management and appraisal MUST be a partnership between manager and employee where BOTH benefit.
  • Performance management can be the lever for improved employee engagement.
  • The review process is the LEAST important part of performance management
  • If managers aren't managing employee performance, why are they there?

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