Performance Standards: What Are They and Why They’re Important
Updated June 24, 2022
A company's performance standards outline the expectations of its employees, including their roles and how they should act while in the workplace. Employers typically give new employees these standards while they're onboarding to explain common employee goals and requirements. You may be interested in learning what performance standards are so that you can make or revise your employee guidelines to incorporate performance standards. In this article, we discuss what performance standards are by defining them, explaining why they're important and listing different types of them, along with tips.
What are performance standards?
Performance standards are guidelines the employers give to their employees to outline what the company expects of them as a part of its team. They explain job duties and qualities and to what quality the employee should complete them. Though employers use performance standards for all employees, they typically give these guidelines to new hires to help them understand their roles and responsibilities. Employers may also use performance standards to help evaluate team members. Performance standards should treat all employees equally and should be specific, measurable and easy to understand. There are three common levels of performance management:
Strategic: This level refers to goals on the organizational, or company, level. Strategic standards should align with the company's vision, objectives and values.
Operational: This level of performance management emphasizes how departmental activities work to achieve the company's goals. Employers may make performance standards that apply to the company's departments.
Individual: This level focuses on the individual employee to ensure that all employees are performing their tasks well. Individual standards evaluate employees' work and seek to improve the quality of their performances.
While there may be some core performance standards that could apply to many companies, various industries may have different expectations for their employees. For example, teacher performance standards may vary from accountant performance standards.
Read more: How To Set Employee Performance Goals
Why are performance standards important?
Performance standards and important because they provide employees with a framework of how the company expects them to work. This allows for open communication between the employer and the employee, which can help the employee understand their responsibilities. It also explains how employees can meet these goals. For example, communication might be a performance standard, and then the employer might explain what communication means to the company and how the employee can meet this standard. Performance standards are also important because employers can use them as evaluation tools.
Types of performance standards
Here are some common types of performance standards that you could use for your company:
This standard refers to how an employee acts within the workplace. Many companies value a respectful and serious workplace, which means that employees should act professionally. Professionalism in the workplace may include being calm and composed, polite and supportive toward other team members. It could also refer to other aspects of workplace culture, such as being punctual and dressing according to the company's dress code. Professionalism can be especially important in a company where employees work as a team or work with customers. For example, it's important for teachers to be professional around their students.
Example: The employee demonstrates a professional demeanor in the workplace, including both their actions and language. The employee also maintains respectful relationships with other employees, management and customers.
Employers may include performance standards regarding teamwork if their employees often work together. Teamwork is the ability to collaborate and work well with other people to complete certain tasks. In a work environment where employees may complete projects together, teamwork is a valuable performance standard to include. Companies may expect employers to help each other when necessary. For instance, employees have to be willing to share work-related information to their team when doing a project. Employers may emphasize that the workplace should be collaborative and employees are committed to helping each other.
Example: The employee actively helps other team members when necessary and appropriate. Employees may either ask for help or provide help to other employees.
This is the ability to convey messages or information clearly to other people. Communication refers to both written or oral conversation, such as writing an email or presenting on a topic. This requires clear language and strong writing skills. Employers may include this performance standard to promote open lines of communication between employees. In many situations, communication is a valuable skill for an employee to have because it can increase productivity and collaboration. When employees work together, they often communicate to complete a task. Communication can also refer to speaking with clients, which is essential to customer service positions.
Example: The employee clearly communicates with managers, team members and customers. The employee communicates accurate information when appropriate.
Employers may add problem-solving as a performance standard as well. Problem-solving is the ability to assess an issue and provide possible solutions based on the situation. This is a common standard because most jobs require problem-solving skills regardless of the industry. For example, a dietitian may have to problem-solve to create a diet that works for a client's specific needs. A hiring manager may use problem-solving to create corresponding schedules for multiple employees. Problem-solving standards can evaluate how an employee reacts and resolves a challenge.
Example: The employee demonstrates strong problem-solving skills when faced with an issue. The employee can think of creative solutions and is flexible when problem-solving.
This refers to taking responsibility for one's actions. Accountability is an important performance standard because it shows employees that they have ownership over their decisions. This performance standard also informs employees that the company expects them to work independently at times. Employers typically value when employees are determined and can complete tasks without direct management. Accountability can also mean that employees understand their roles and responsibilities as a team member. Employers can use accountability to evaluate an employee's independence and ability to take responsibility.
Example: The employee takes responsibility while at work, meaning they take ownership of their actions and obligations. The employee is able to work independently with limited supervision from management.
This is the ability to complete a set of given tasks by a deadline. Time management often requires organizational and prioritization skills. Employers may include time management as a performance standard to show that they expect employees to complete their duties by an indicated time. Time management is an important performance standard because many jobs require their employees to perform and complete multiple tasks during the workday or week. Employers can use this performance standard to evaluate how their employees spend their time while working.
Example: The employee finishes their duties by a given deadline. The employee uses prioritization to determine which tasks they should complete first in order to finish their projects on time.
Tips for establishing performance standards
If you're interested in creating or revising performance standards for your company, then you can follow these tips for establishing them:
Be specific and measurable
Try to be specific and measurable as you create your performance standards. Your employees should know exactly what you expect from them after reading the standards. To create specific standards, make a list of company goals, and use them as a starting point for your standards. Use measurable standards when possible. This means that you can measure your employees' performances over a period of time.
Use clear language
When writing performance standards, use clear language. This means that you describe what the standard is and how the employee can achieve it. Using clear language can help your employees easily understand your company's goals. You can implement clear language by using plain wording that concisely states the meaning of the standard. Try using active verbs and short sentences or phrases as well.
Have a proper difficulty level
This means that your standards aren't too easy or too hard to achieve. A proper difficulty level can challenge your employees in a productive way. If the goals are too easy, then your employers may start to lack determination. If they're too difficult, then their performance rates may decrease. You can determine a proper difficulty level by evaluating your employees' performances based on your current standards.
Include essential tasks
An important aspect of creating performance standards is only including essential tasks. While you want enough standards to encompass your company's goals and values, you may also want to limit how many standards you add. You can balance this by only including tasks that are essential to your company.
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