Annual Staff Performance Evaluation Update

We are pleased to share we are making a major shift in the timing of our Annual Staff Performance Review process commencing in January 2021. The staff annual process is moving to a calendar year, a decision driven to align the annual staff evaluation process with the annual merit pay process. This has been an issue for both staff and their supervisors for which the Staff Council has been a strong advocate for making this change.

This shift in timing will provide the opportunity for all staff reviews to be written and delivered by the end of March each year, well in advance of annual pay process. While our merit pay funding has been frozen in 2020, university leadership is working diligently to restore it at some point in the near future. This change in timing will link performance results with pay distribution when this happens.

What’s staying the same

The current format and content for the self-evaluation and the performance evaluation forms remains largely the same as last year. The annual staff performance evaluation is an opportunity to formalize the accomplishments, discuss opportunities for growth, and align on the expectations for the role and new goals for the coming year. The annual performance review process should reflect the continuous and timely feedback provided throughout the year.

What’s new

In this year’s performance evaluation, staff will be rated in performance categories only. We will no longer have the numerical rating scale of 1-5. The Performance Categories are not changing, e.g., Meet Expectations continues as one of the Performance Categories. We are removing the numerical ratings as they often convey a “3” rating is a “c-level” performance when in fact, it is not, Meet Expectations equates to someone fully performing in their role in a consistent manner, meeting the expected contributions for their position responsibilities.

The process

The process will kick off this year with an email to all campus staff. This email will contain a link to enter EngageSU and begin completion of the self-evaluation. The EngageSU portal will also provide additional information for training and support. After the self-evaluation period is over, the supervisor will have time to complete the review, followed by a period of next level review by the supervisor’s leader. Once these steps have been completed, the supervisor will meet to discuss the review with their staff member.

Seattle University is committed to ensuring all staff receive a formal performance evaluation with their supervisor. Receiving and providing feedback fosters both a confirmation for our contributions and provides an opportunity to learn and grow. While annual performance evaluations normally launch in early June, we recognize the current campus work environment has presented challenges which create a level of uncertainty around the process. In addition, I would like to acknowledge the thoughtful feedback and suggestions that have been shared in various staff fora related to ways which the process itself might be changed or improved.  

As shared previously, the annual staff evaluation process aligns well with the Jesuit imperative for reflection and discernment and our mission’s focus on professional formation.  Our campus community is encouraged to engage in continual feedback throughout the year. These changes to the formal evaluation process allows us to further strengthen our resolve to honor the efforts, commitments, and accomplishments to our staff and by our staff. 

Performance Evaluation Timeline

Year Ending 2020

Performance review process opens with a self-evaluation Staff member receives an email to log into EngageSU and complete a brief self-review. Human Resources & Staff Member December 1, 2020
Self-evaluation is completed Staff member completes self-evaluation by this date and system submits to supervisor. Self-evaluation no longer available after this date. Staff Member January 20, 2021
Supervisor writes evaluations Supervisor completes staff evaluation draft, and it is available for next level reviewer. Supervisor January 21, 2021 - February 19, 2021
Next level review completed Supervisor’s leader has opportunity to review the drafts and provide feedback. Next Level Reviewer February 20, 2021 - March 5, 2021
Staff evaluation is conducted by the supervisor Supervisor and staff member meet to discuss performance and review evaluation. Supervisor & Staff Member March 6, 2021 – April 9, 2021
Evaluation system closes  All evaluations are final and stored electronically.   Human Resources  April 10, 2021 
Compliance reporting  Compliance reporting is provided to campus leaders.  Human Resources  April 15, 2021

Please note that the system will automatically advance the form to the next step at the end date. However, supervisors and reviewers can agree to complete these tasks in advance of these dates. 

Helpful Resources

The Employment Lifecycle

Thinking Beyond Performance Evaluation

While much attention is given to annual performance evaluations and their connection to merit-based pay, this annual event represents only one aspect of the overall career engagement cycle which is a continuous, year-round process that includes:

  1. Ensuring clear job expectations and role clarity
  2. Working in partnership with your supervisor to develop of annual goals with key measures
  3. Creating a dynamic plan to foster your professional and personal growth and development
  4. Engaging in constant, two-way feedback to ensure professional formation and progress toward goals are occurring
  5. Reflecting on and capturing all of these activities through the annual performance evaluation process at the end of the fiscal year which then leads into planning for the next year

While supervisors are ultimately accountable for assuring this cycle occurs, we believe our employees share the responsibility to participate and fully engage in the process and outcomes. This mutual accountability and respect is at the core of honoring this process and our people.

Why Performance Evaluations Matter

Here are some frequently asked questions on performance evaluations at Seattle University and some improvements that are being made to the process.

What is the purpose of performance evaluations?

At Seattle University, we are committed to ensuring all staff receive a formal performance evaluation with their supervisor once per year. Receiving and providing feedback fosters both a confirmation for our contributions and provides an opportunity to learn and grow. The annual performance evaluation is a time set aside each year to reflect on the year that has passed and celebrate achievements. It is also a time to look to the future and think about areas for development or improvement that will help advance the individual both personally and professionally, within the context of the goals and mission of the university.

How does the performance evaluation process relate to Seattle University’s Jesuit identity?

The performance evaluation process aligns well with the Jesuit imperative for reflection and discernment. While it should be something that occurs informally throughout the year, we set aside this time to make sure that we honor the efforts and commitments that have been made.

Because of this we ask that the employee as well as the supervisor put their best effort into this endeavor and fully engage in the process including completion of a self-evaluation, a robust and balanced evaluation and discussion with the supervisor and employee, and a focus on personal and professional development as an outcome of the evaluation. Finally, there should be time devoted to establishing goals for the upcoming year.

What changes are being made to Seattle University’s performance evaluation process for the upcoming cycle?

We have added some minor edits to the questions to try to clarify that the focus should not only be on what was achieved over the past year, but that it is equally important that these results occurred in alignment with our mission and values. We are also moving to utilize a new automated module within engageSU that will provide greater transparency, and access to evaluations while also establishing a platform for future evolution of the evaluation process.

How does the performance evaluation fit into the bigger picture of the employee-supervisor relationship?

As shown in the career engagement cycle, the annual review is only one component of an ongoing process that should occur throughout the year, starting with development and growth.

The annual performance evaluation process obviously aligns well with the Jesuit imperative for reflection and discernment. While it should be something that occurs informally throughout the year, we set aside this time to make sure that we honor the efforts and commitments that have been made.

Michelle Clements Vice President, Human Resources

Development and Growth

While the performance evaluation can serve as springboard for individual growth and development, it is important to devote time to capturing this dialogue in written form as an Individual Development Plan or IDP. The IDP can take the form of skills, capabilities or knowledge that improves the current work experience, as preparation for career advancement, or related to some areas of interest outside of work. Each area identified should be accompanied by an activity that will help promote development and there should be timeframes or outcomes that are agreed upon. IDPs are best implemented as “living” documents that are discussed at regular intervals with the supervisor and employee—hopefully as part of regularly scheduled one-on-ones devoted to this purpose. The best way to construct IDPs is to focus on learning activity followed by an application or deliverable. For example, attending a professional conference could be a valuable learning activity but it could be accompanied by a deliverable of preparing a summary or highlights that are shared with the remainder of the team who were not able to attend.

Seattle University offers many unique opportunities and benefits for development including tuition remission to further one’s education as well as numerous lectures, cultural events and volunteer opportunities. In addition, plans are underway to provide access to a large library of online material that can be utilized for individual or group learning focused on professional development and skill building. This library will be accessed through the engageSU platform that already contains some university-wide resources. The beauty of this format is that the material is always accessible for just-in-time training or refreshers.

Role Clarity and Expectations

One of the most common sources of conflict in any organization is a lack of communication and mutual understanding related to the expectations around an employee’s job duties. While job descriptions are a helpful starting point, they rarely capture all the day-to-day issues that come up in any given role.

In addition, job descriptions do not provide clarity around prioritizing activities when inevitable questions arise over what needs to be done first. Regular dialogue around expectations is therefore critical and should be part of regular one-on-one meetings. This dialogue also forms the basis for why the self-evaluation is such an important part of the evaluation process since it gives the employee an opportunity to outline all of the areas they have worked on during the year, some of which might not be readily apparent to others, including the supervisor.

Goal Setting

Along with role clarity, goal setting is another key way for supervisors and employees to establish more transparency and a foundation for success. Taking the time to establish goals, action plans to achieve these goals and timelines for check-ins or completion helps to set priorities and provides a clearer picture of what success looks like. The best goals are aligned with the success of the department or institution and are clear in terms of how success will be measured. Goals should also be reasonable in terms of the number of areas that can be successfully addressed. For example, it is recommended that goals range from three to five in total, and be constructed in a way that provides measures, milestones or observations to facilitate completion. While goals should be formally discussed each year, there should be ongoing dialogue about their feasibility based on new areas of focus that might that might require a goal to be adapted, postponed or dropped.

In order to better facilitate, record and update goals, engageSU has a module that will be activated and can be utilized by supervisors and employees.


Feedback and communication are an ongoing responsibility for both employees and supervisors. Another source of conflict or dissatisfaction occurs when there is a lack of communication. Both employees and supervisors should schedule time for quick, regular check-ins to provide feedback, inform, ask questions or get clarity around the work or environment. Since this is a mutual dialogue, all parties should come prepared to contribute as well as actively listen. Frequent feedback provides an opportunity to celebrate or discuss success or identify opportunities for improvement in a timely manner, before they become much larger issues. It is highly recommended that feedback and communication take place in face-to-face discussions and that the use of e-mail be limited to memorializing or capturing the outcomes of the discussions. This allows for all involved to avoid misinterpretations and bring their “whole self” to the interaction.