Chapter 9 – Project Closure and Evaluation

9.8. Performance Appraisals

Value of Performance Appraisals

Evaluation of the team including each member and the Project Manager post project is an important step in encouraging modifications in conduct of members, support the team member’s career growth, and continue their benefit to the organization through continuous learning.  Each member is measured, using specific criteria, that measures the goals of the projects against the criteria.  Prior to the project, as indicated in 9.7, all the criteria, expectations, and standards are developed.  The supports from the organization are put in place for success.

Performance Appraisals Can Fail 

There is evidence to support that performance evaluation is not effective in many organizations. Mackenzie, Wehner and Correll’s study (2019) in the Harvard Business Review reveals, ” ….while we may strive to be as meritocratic as possible, our assessments are imperfect and all too often biased. As innocuous as the typical form [appraisal form] may seem, our research has found that it often allows for our implicit biases to creep in.” The failures are attributed to ambiguous standards, bias of the raters, time consuming and wrong selection of the criteria.  Sometimes, the performance appraisals are confusing as well as the process itself.  Other reasons for failure are:

  • The performance evaluation is left only to the Project Manager who lacks skills in evaluation,
  • The evaluation may be carried out by the team member’s direct supervisor who had nothing to do with the project,
  • Projects are only measured on scope, costs, times and deliverables, and there is no focus on the performance of the team

HR in Focus: Human Resources & Performance Appraisals

Project success depends on the team performing at a quality level to satisfy the customer. It is Human Resources role in the organization to educate stakeholders on the importance of performance evaluation for all projects.  As well, it is important that Human Resources be involved in all the steps of the Performance Evaluation, including the performance appraisal.  Stakeholders need to understand the skills of the Human Resources Specialist, and be valued by the project stakeholders. Human Resources professional skills and involvement ensure all the criteria, standards and processes are in place prior to the project starting, during the project, and post project.  They will guarantee the individual and team goals are aligned with the organizational goals, and that the implementation of the performance evaluation are met to satisfaction by all stakeholders.

There are key aspects of a project evaluation that need reviewed prior to the project.  At this stage, Human Resources involvement is to meet with stakeholders and the team to find answers to specific questions.

Questions to Ask Prior to Project to Establish Expectations and Criteria:

  1. Are the standards in place for measurement of performance?
  2. Are the goals clear for the team members?  (use SMART goals process:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely)
  3. What are the challenges going into this project?
  4. Does everyone understand their own roles and responsibilities?  And, the standards they need to meet?
  5. Does the team understand how to deal with stress management and conflict resolution?
  6. Has this team worked together before?  If so, what was the dynamic among the team members?  If not, will they trust each other?
  7. Do the team members understand what a high-performing team looks like?  The characteristics?  (high performing team:  aligned with the purpose of the project, have clear roles, trusting, good communication skills, able to collaborate, encourage diverse thinking, manage conflict well, willing to learn, adaptable, flexible)

Answers to these questions helps the Human Resources Specialist build an evaluation plan, review process, and appraisals.  As well, where there may be deficiencies, Human Resources can provide training and support to build a high-performing team ie.  Stress management training, trust building workshops, training in SMART goals, conflict resolution training)

Meeting this criteria, answering the above questions and developing the evaluation plan will support the teams and the success of the project.  Progress of the team is measured through regular contact with Human Resources during the project.  The final evaluation and appraisals are conducted post project.

Performance Appraisal Functions

Performance appraisals focus on the team member’s strengths and weaknesses, and developing strategies for improvement.  Also, the evaluation appraisal includes assessment of how well the team members performed on the project.  Some projects attach performance appraisal to salary increases, promotions and bonuses.  An accurate performance appraisal helps Human Resources determine a wage increase or decrease in wages, often referred to as pay for performance.  Training and development can be identified during a post evaluation to further the team member’s opportunities within the organization, or for future projects.  The documentation from the appraisal supports future work assignments, any disciplinary action required, and promotions or terminations.  They serve as recognition of work performed.  This helps esteem and empower team members for future work.

Overall, performance reviews fulfill several purposes and help bring the team together and align with the organization.  Human Resources wants to ensure a strong culture of working together for the good of the entire organization, and performance appraisals are one way to provide positive results of this strategic goal.

Individual Performance Reviews

The Human Resources Specialist and team member need to be prepared.  It is the role of the HR Specialist to assist the team member with preparation.  The Human Resources Specialist needs to gather all the information related to the employee while working on the project.  As well, prepare any notes, set the agenda, schedule the time that is convenient for both parties, and set expectations for the review with the team member.  The Human Resources Specialist may meet with the Project Manager prior to the individual appraisal.  This may serve helpful in gathering information unknown to the HR Specialist.  This meeting may also be a hindrance and set the tone for rater bias (positive or negative).  The HR Specialist needs to consider the advantages and the disadvantages of meeting with the Project Manager prior to the team member appraisal.  Then, make an informed decision on how to proceed.

Human Resources Specialists are trained in asking the right questions.  Some of these may include:

  1. What accomplishments are you personally proud of while completing the project?
  2. What obstacles stood in your way?
  3. What impact did your contributions have on the team as a whole?  On the project as a whole? On the organization?
  4. How do you feel HR supported you throughout the project?
  5. What development goals do you see for yourself going forward?
  6. How can the organization support you with these goals?  How can HR support you with these goals?

These types of questions are not judgmental.  They do not make the team member feel uncomfortable.  Rather, they are offered in a coaching manner to encourage the employee to answer. The team member feels they are having a conversation, contributing to the performance appraisal, and you are working together with them.  Some Human Resources offer the specific questions ahead of the performance appraisal so the team member has time to contemplate the answers in advance.  It may also make the team member feel more comfortable, and it speeds up the performance appraisal process.

However, it is important to write out the specific questions prior to the meeting.  As well, they need to ensure they are being a good listener.  The performance appraisal needs to end with an agreed upon next steps between the raters and the team member.

Along with providing the questions in advance to the team member, the Human Resources Specialist may ask the team member to complete a self-evaluation using a structured approach.  This eliminates any surprises for the team member,  allows for discussion if the HR Specialist and the team member have difference conclusions about the work performed, and the team member may feel it is more fair when they have input into the process.

During and at the end of the performance appraisal it is important that the HR Specialist offers praise as a motivator, tell the team member they are valued, and be supportive (show they care).  A good technique for engaging the employee is to ask, “What can I do to help?” This shows the team member the organization wants to help them get what they want out of the next project, or the next role within the organization.

Team Performance Reviews

A team performance review is an extension of the individual performance review.  In a team review, it is not always possible to separate an individual’s contribution.  However, a Human Resources Specialist may set up the review where individuals can offer their personal achievements and how it contributed to the success of the project as a whole.  Team performance reviews assist in breaking down barriers between individual team members, and encourages a joint effort of the evaluation of work performed.

The Human Resources Specialist would set up a group workshop/meeting.  Questions could be forwarded to all the team members prior to the meeting.  These questions may be similar to the questions asked in an Individual Performance Review.  Along with individual goals that were established prior to the project, the team may have established team goals.  The HR Specialist would establish a direct correlation between the work individuals completed, and the outcome; as well, as the team goals.  They must also be careful to ensure there is equal participation.  Some team members tend to contribute more than others.  Recognition of the team goals provides an equal playing field for those who may have contributed less.  And, at the same time, the individual goals are recognized in the workshop for the extra effort.

Some typical team performance questions could include:

  1. Where the deadlines met or exceeded?
  2. Was the budget met? Increased? Reduced?
  3. Was the customer satisfied with the product/service?
  4. What did you enjoy most about working with your team?
  5. Was there anything you did not enjoy working with your team?
  6. Did the team communicate effectively?  How?  Or what were the issues?
  7. How did you help each assist each other?
  8. Were you able to ask your team for help when needed?  What did you ask for?
  9. How did you motivate each other?
  10. Did you share ideas with each other?  How were you valued and respected for your ideas?

Project Managers would be involved in the team performance review as a participant.  This is sometimes difficult for team members as they may not “speak up” when the project manager is present.  However, the HR Specialist needs to ensure to create a safe space for exchange of information. The important consideration by Human Resources is the design of the team performance review.  It must be specific to the team goals, and the individual goals.  High performing team members need to be recognized, yet not at the expense of those who contributed less.  All the moving parts need to work together to ensure all team members are recognized.

Project Manager Performance Review

Project Managers are often involved in performance reviews of the team members.  When a Project Manager receives a traditional performance review other stakeholders may be involved.  They may include a Regional Project Manager (someone who manages many projects at the senior level), executives of the organization who have a vested interest in the project, the customer, and Human Resources.  The same best practices apply to a Project Manager’s performance review.  Human Resources would design the criteria and questions, set up the meeting, and invite all the participants. They usually would facilitate the meeting.

The differences between the team members’ performance review and that of the Project Manager is leadership and management of the project.  They are evaluated based on budgets, deadlines, process improvements, relationships and communication, risk management, and customer satisfaction.  They could be asked all the same questions as the individual team members, plus questions related to leadership and management of the project.

A popular performance review process is multi-rater appraisal or 360-degree evaluation. It includes several sources and combines the ratings.  People see things from different perspectives.  The customer sees the quality of the product. The finance department sees the project from a financial perspective and wants to ensure compliance, on-budget, and no overages.  Human Resources views the project from a “people perspective.”  They want to ensure the team members were treated fairly and equitably, communication was efficient, and relationships were built with harmony.  As the name suggests, 360-degree evaluation attempts to receive feedback from many angles.  Others who may be included in the evaluation process are outside managers, peers, team members of the project.

Once Human Resources has designed the criteria and questions, the information is compiled into a document.

Human Resources want to ensure quality and acceptance by building in protections:

  1. Ensure there is anonymity.
  2. Make the appraisers accountable by following the rating scales appropriately.
  3. Check for invalid responses.  Some appraisers may discuss the evaluation with another appraiser, and give them a higher or lower rating (collusion).
  4. Use weighted averages or combine all the evaluations.
  5. Check for prejudices or preferences related to age, gender, ethnicity, or other group factors.

This approach is not without its faults.  There are advantages and disadvantages.


  1. It is a comprehensive model because the information is gathered from several sources.
  2. There is less bias and prejudice because it does not come from one person’s judgement.
  3. The feedback from various perspectives helps improve self-development.


  1. The model is complex (having to combine all the reviews).
  2. The feedback can be intimidating because it comes from many sources (a feeling of being “ganged up” on by other employees).
  3. Raters are not trained in the model.
  4. Raters may give invalid ratings (lie, collude with others).

Human Resources needs to ensure everyone providing a rating understands the process and its importance to the Project Manager.  All the raters need to remain objective when observing and providing feedback. Training will improve the process  to ensure the responses accurately reflect the Project Manager’s leadership and management skills.   Once the raters are selected, trained and understand the process, Human Resources can move on to set up the performance review.

The document(s) is sent to the appraisers to be completed.  No names are included on the documents. The information is then compiled and used as the tool for performance review.  The performance review is conducted included all those with a vested interest.  The information from the 360-degree evaluation is reviewed with the Project Manager.  Other important information would be included from the Project Manager.  This could include a self-evaluation where the Project Manager is asked to evaluate themselves on a pre-designed self-review document.

360-degree can be a valuable tool for performance reviews as long as the information is used fairly.  Although there are many approaches to performance reviews, the important things to remember are to involve the person in the process from setting goals before the project begins, monitoring the team members success frequently throughout the project, and ask the team members for input on their perspective of the success of the project.  This all leads to higher satisfaction, shows support and care for the team members, and establishes rewards for a project well done.


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Strategic Project Management Copyright © 2022 by Debra Patterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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