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Staff Performance Reviews

Annual performance reviews for staff are a key component of employee development. Due March 31 each year, the annual performance review is intended to be a fair and balanced assessment of an employee’s performance. UT Policy HR0129, Performance Reviews for Regular Staff Employees, specifies that the objective of the annual review is to provide all regular university staff and their supervisors an opportunity to:

  • Discuss job performance
  • Set goals for professional development
  • Establish objectives for contributing to the department’s mission
  • Discuss expectations and accomplishments

Staff performance reviews are completed in the Online Performance Review system (OPR). The OPR streamlines the annual review process for staff and making it easier to complete no matter where we are working!

To learn more about the technical OPR system and process, visit K@TE and search for the “Online Performance Reviews” training session. This session will walk employees and leaders through the detailed steps of their part process and/or cover the entire process for entering a review.

Monitoring performance and providing ongoing feedback to empower staff throughout the year is an incredibly important leadership responsibility. Similarly, staff are encouraged to take charge of their performance and engage in performance dialogue throughout the year. Think about performance and feedback as part of a yearly continuum of communication that you have with those around you.

To foster year-round performance discussion, Human Resources (HR), along with campus partners, is developing a Staff Performance Daily Series. The purpose of this series is to provide knowledge, resources, and support for the staff performance review experience… from the technical to the practical. The series can be taken in its entirety for a comprehensive view of the staff performance review process and ongoing performance dialogues at UTK, or a la carte, as on-demand refresher courses.

Virtual sessions are now available with a focus on employees, leadership, and also Diversity, Engagement, and Inclusion in our everyday work. Registration is now open in K@TE and will close the business day prior to each scheduled session. To register, visit K@TE and select UT Faculty and Staff, then select My UTK@TE Learning. From the home screen type the session title or topic of interest into the search bar. Note there may be multiple dates for each session, select the date that works best for your schedule.

Series Sessions

  • Online Performance Review (OPR): This on-demand training is pre-recorded and available in K@TE at any time. Employees and leaders can view a 30-minute, detailed walk-through (with screen shots) of all the technical aspects of the OPR process. Learn more about the steps of the online process, how to digitally review and sign, the role of proxies, and more!

 

  • OPR Video Tutorials: Quick video tutorials are available on the HR website at any time by selecting the blue button titled OPR Video Tutorials. These videos cover a variety of topics related to the OPR system and process to complete/submit a review. These may be helpful if you wish to quickly review a specific topic, rather than click through the entire K@TE session.

 

  • Take Charge of Your Performance: Employees and the Performance Review (Employee Session): This session is designed to help employees prepare for, and continue performance discussions throughout the year. Ideas such as self-reflection, emotional intelligence, collaborative goal setting, and connecting through conversation are featured.

 

  • Empower Your Staff: Leadership and the Performance Review (Leadership Session): This session is designed to help leadership, specifically those who supervise staff, prepare for, and continue performance discussions throughout the year. Ideas such as empowerment, emotional intelligence, collaborative goal setting, and connecting through conversation are featured. Learn ways to discuss what the numbers mean and how performance review categories relate to the mission of your team. Goal setting will also be discussed.

 

  • Staff Performance Daily: Diversity, Engagement, and Inclusion (New Review Category): This workshop is a collaboration between Human Resources and Office of Equity & Diversity. As part of our commitment to diversity, engagement, and inclusion (DEI), this workshop will explore one of the five categories in the staff performance review and is designed to help employees understand and enhance DEI in their everyday work and how it relates to the review process.

 

Coming Soon – We are developing the sessions listed below based on your feedback! More information will be provided once they are available.

  • Staff Performance Daily: Accomplishments (Review Category)
  • Staff Performance Daily: Service & Relationships (Review Category)
  • Staff Performance Daily: Accountability & Dependability (Review Category):
  • Staff Performance Daily: Decision Making & Problem Solving (Review Category):
  • Mid-Year Reviews
  • Just Getting Started: Probationary Period Overview
  • Supervising Student Workers

Other learning opportunities: Knoxville-area training sessions are scheduled through Learning & Organizational Development. Please contact Learning & Organizational Development at lod@utk.edu to learn more about training opportunities for leaders and employees.

The first step in the performance cycle is setting expectations. No matter the level of the position, it is critical that each new employee (whether newly hired or new to your supervision) understands what is expected from them in their role. Setting expectations includes clear dialogue around Position Description and performance expectations. This includes setting goals for the work period and adjusting those goals as priorities change throughout the year. The annual Online Performance Review (OPR) is both a reflective and planning meeting, looking back over the previous year and setting goals for the next year.

Need help with sparking ideas for SMART goals associated for a performance review category? Remember, SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

A new category has been added to the staff OPR as part of the overall campus effort to elevate diversity and inclusion and increase accountability. The newest OPR category is Inclusion, Diversity, and Engagement – The extent to which the employee treats others with fairness, dignity and respect, fosters inclusion, values individual and group differences, makes efforts to enhance inclusion, diversity, and equity, and contributes to departmental and organizational unit diversity strategic goals.

UTK is committed to providing an environment that is welcoming to all and hostile to none. As part of this commitment, each employee (beginning in CY 2021) will be evaluated on a new Inclusion, Diversity, and Engagement category. One way to approach goals for the newest evaluation category is to consider related educational opportunities that may make you stronger in your professional role and/or deepen your knowledge of how to create an inclusive work environment.

IDE SMART Goal Samples

SMART Goal 1: Attend a STRIDE for Staff Workshop by end of Q2 of 2021.

Next Actions:

  • Schedule workshop through K@TE
  • Utilizing workshop, assess current departmental search practices
  • Share findings with supervisor and propose areas for improvement
  • Communicate search process changes and rationale to departmental team
  • Implement changes by end of Q4 of 2021

SMART Goal 2: Complete at least 4 self-paced, eLearning modules focused on inclusion, diversity, and engagement by Q4 of 2021.

Next Actions:

  • Identify 4 courses in K@TE, LinkedIn Learning, or other learning platform
  • Schedule times to participate. Once per quarter would be a good timeline
  • After each session, reflect asking Start-Stop-Continue questions. “What should I start doing?” “What should I stop doing?” “What should I continue doing?” Write these down in a notebook or a Word document.
  • Share what you learned with a colleague or a manager
  • Focus on one item in which you can improve

SMART Goal 3: Start a “lunch and learn” book club with colleagues by end Q1

Next Actions:

  • Pick a book that promotes diversity, inclusion, and/or equity
  • Send an invitation to everyone in your office and select a good day to meet (i.e. every other Thursday, every 3rd Friday)
  • Have a different colleague facilitate a chapter each meeting
  • Create challenges for participants to partake in between meetings


Performance coaching means having conversations about performance throughout the year, not only during the annual Online Performance Review (OPR). In fact, one common error supervisors make is waiting until the annual review to discuss performance issues that arose during the year. Staff and supervisors are encouraged to check-in throughout the year to so that any concerns or issues can be addressed in a timely manner. These check-in conversations should not just be corrective; supervisors should provide ongoing positive feedback!

All newly hired regular staff employees, including those converting from temporary or student to regular appointments, shall serve one probationary period of six calendar months in an active pay status with the university beginning with the first day of regular employment. Each regular staff employee shall have his or her work performance evaluated during this period. During this probationary period, employees are subject to discharge without recourse. However, if a non-exempt employee is to be terminated for gross misconduct, the hearing requirement contained in the disciplinary action policy applies.

Employees hired after June 30 each year will only need to have a completed probationary review form on file for his/her annual performance review. However, departments are encouraged to meet with retained employees during their annual review period to familiarize them with the annual performance review process and to establish goals and objectives for the next calendar year.

Please note that 6-month probationary reviews are still completed via paper form. Submit 6-month probationary reviews to Human Resources, 105 Student Services Building or hr@utk.edu. Currently, the OPR system will prompt supervisors to complete an annual review online even for those hired after June 30. Supervisors may defer the probationary review in OPR for employees hired after June 30 until the following year, noting the hard copy will be submitted (before the six-month period end date). This can be done in the OPR using the manage button. The hard copy probationary review should be submitted to Human Resources when it is due. Visit the FAQs to learn more about how to defer a 6-month review in OPR.

Two optional tools are available to help supervisors make informed decisions about performance. The optional tools explained below can be used at supervisors’ discretion to help in completing the performance review summary form and to address improvement needs.

These optional forms may serve as tools to inform a score or narrative for the final review in OPR. However, they should not be attached in the OPR system. For example, the one-up manager could use an optional form to collect feedback from employees that report to a supervisor being reviewed. This feedback is not placed in the employee file and is not given to the supervisor for direct review as that might impede honest feedback. Therefore, it should not be attached in OPR either.

The Optional Administrator, Supervisor or Peer Review Form (PDF) (Word) allows supervisors to collect feedback about an employee’s performance from those who work with the employee. The form should be completed at the supervisor’s request and returned to the supervisor. These are not to be attached as supporting documentation in OPR.

The Optional Review Form for Employees with Supervisory Responsibilities (PDF) (Word) allows supervisors to evaluate an employee’s ability to lead others and/or manage a department. These are not to be attached as supporting documentation in OPR.

For questions regarding staff performance reviews, contact Human Resources at 865-974-6642 and select the option for Employee Relations.