How to Monitor Employee Performance

Monitoring involves conducting periodic checks to determine an employee's level of performance in relation to established performance standards. Monitoring provides the data by which performance is ultimately evaluated. It is important for the supervisor to monitor the employee's performance, not only to be able to conduct the performance evaluation itself, but also to be able to reinforce good performance or attempt to improve unsatisfactory performance soon after it occurs.

Ideally, the nature and frequency of monitoring should be proposed by the employee. In this case, the employee will have ownership of the process. It makes a big difference to the supervisor-employee relationship if the employee proposes that the supervisor simply show up to observe performance (say, in a customer service setting). Then when the supervisor appears, the employee will understand and accept the supervisor's presence.

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However, if the supervisor unilaterally decides to observe the employee's performance without any preliminary discussion, there is a strong possibility that the employee could perceive the supervisor's presence as harassment.

As a result, if there is some reason why the employee should not be involved in determining the monitoring plan, it is still imperative that the supervisor advise the employee.

Monitoring can take several forms, depending upon the nature of the performance that is being appraised. Wherever possible, it makes sense to use existing systems that will not add work steps for either the employee or the supervisor. Some monitoring approaches include:

(1) Reviewing work, either total output or samples.

(2) Observing employee work activities.

(3) Reading reports, charts, time sheets, work records, or logs, etc.

(4) Self-reporting on progress by the employee.

(5) Surveying other units, the public, or clients of the services.

(6) Noting and investigating complaints and commendations.

Some monitoring will be ongoing, designed to detect performance problems in the early stages. This might involve, for example, checking work samples or observing employee activities several times a day or several times a week. Other monitoring may be at more widely spaced intervals, either regular monthly or quarterly reviews, or on an occasional random basis.

Generally, new job or task performance requires more frequent monitoring than recurring work done by an experienced worker, as does follow-up monitoring of less than satisfactory performance.

To allow the supervisor to effectively counsel and appraise the employee, monitoring should be exact and the results should be recorded. However, this monitoring should focus on the performance of the key responsibilities for which performance standards have been established.

Monitoring should be conducted throughout the evaluation period, with the supervisor noting observed employee performance that meets, exceeds, or falls short of the established level for acceptable performance. The supervisor can then review these notations at the end of the evaluation period to make an evaluation of the employee's general performance of each of the key responsibilities.

Supervisors should communicate the purpose and intended frequency of planned monitoring activities to the employees. The emphasis of the monitoring should be on the improvement of an employee's performance, not on trying to "trip up" the employee to show the employee in a bad light. If poor performance is the issue, and counseling and remedial training have not been effective, then the supervisor should initiate progressive discipline rather than maintaining a frequent monitoring review that could be construed as harassment.

How to Monitor Employee Performance

Deborah Spring Laurel has been a trainer and a consultant in the areas of workplace learning and performance improvement for over thirty years. She has twenty years of experience as the President of Laurel and Associates, Ltd,, an international human resource development training and consulting firm that specializes in enhancing interpersonal dynamics within organizations. She has designed and delivered hundreds of different skill-building participant-based and accelerated learning workshops on various topics, all of which have been tailored to meet her clients' needs.

Deborah taught management and supervisory topics for the Executive Management Institute and the Small Business Development Center in the School of Business at the University of Wisconsin- Madison for over thirty years. From 1998-2002, she consulted with the JJ Strossmeyer University in Osijek, Croatia to design the first Eastern European participant-based Masters Degree program in Entrepreneurship.

Deborah is also a Certified Professional Consultant to Management, with over twenty-five years of experience in human resource management, organizational development, executive coaching, and performance consulting. She has her Masters Degree from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. For information about her workshops and consulting services, please visit her website at or contact Deborah directly at (608) 255-2010 or