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How to Write Performance Standards

Learn about standards of performance, or written statements describing how well a job should be performed.

Performance standards are usually developed collaboratively with employees, whenever possible, and explained to new employees during the first month on the job.

1. Review general guidelines.

  • Standards should be objective and written for the position, rather than a particular person.
  • Performance standards are different from procedural manuals, though they may be included in a manual.
  • Performance standards explain how well a job should be done. A job description explains what should be done.
  • In departments where more than one person does the same task or function, standards may be written for the parts of the jobs that are the same and applied to all positions doing that task or function.
  • Standards for solid performance should be exceedable. It is discouraging to employees to think that they can't do anything to merit a higher appraisal. It is always possible to exceed expectations.

2. Identify the significant tasks, functions, or goals for which you want to write performance standards.

Focus on the tasks that have the greatest importance. It isn't necessary to write standards for absolutely every task.

3. Determine success criteria for performance.

  • Indicators of successful performance include:
    • Accuracy
    • Timeliness
    • Customer satisfaction
    • Leadership
    • Resource management (cost, material, personnel, space, technology, etc.)
    • Quantity or productivity
    • Initiative
    • Resourcefulness
    • Innovation
    • Leadership
    • Quality
  • Indicators of quality often are signs of performance that exceeds expecations:
    • Consistency with professional protocols
    • Professionalism
    • Ease of use of product or of service interaction
    • Appropriateness
    • Completeness
    • Polished appearance
    • Continued growth or stability
    • Going the extra mile
    • Judgment shown
    • Sophistication of technique
    • Interest generated
    • Comfort
    • Satisfaction
    • Attention to detail
    • Materials used
    • Freedom to operate
    • Anticipation of needs
    • Finding imaginative solutions

4. Write the performance standard including any of the elements to the right that are appropriate to the task, function, or goal.

  • Desired behaviors or outcomes described in specific, objective, verifiable terms.
  • Measures or verifiers of performance. It is not always possible or appropriate to measure performance, but performance can always be verified.
  • Margins for error or degree of perfection required. To determine what to use here, ask yourself: How many times in a year would performance have to be less than solid before it would be fair to consider giving the person a rating of Improvement Needed? This may be expressed in terms of an error rate, percentage of correct results required, or other meaningful indicator.
  • Provisions for contingencies or special circumstances. If there are circumstances beyond the control of the employee that could affect their performance, include in the standard statements that recognize those considerations.

5. Write performance standards for solid performance first.

It is a good idea to write standards for above expectations and exceptional performance as well.

  • Solid performance consistently fulfills expectations and at times exceeds them.
  • Above expectations performance is consistently beyond expectations.
  • Exceptional performance well exceeds expectations and is consistently outstanding.
  • Use one of the following formats:
    • Solid performance will be demonstrated when...
    • Incumbent will demonstrate solid performance when...
    • Incumbent's performance will be considered above expectations when...

6. Clarify specific expectations for UCSD Campuswide Performance Standards as they apply in your area.

  • See UCSD Campuswide Performance Standards.
  • Applying campuswide performance standards is more meaningful if employees understand the behaviors and outcomes that would indicate solid performance or better.
  • Include the same elements as those described in step 4 above.
For more information, contact Staff Education and Development, (858) 534-4890.
Notice: The information on this page summarizes provisions of university policies and/or collective bargaining agreements. Refer to the Personnel Policies for Staff Members (PPSM) and local implementing procedures or applicable collective bargaining agreement for full text of referenced information.