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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 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 in the 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.

For a sample of the performance review summary form for staff or performance improvement plan (PIP) template, click here.

In an effort to increase administrative efficiency, further reduce paper forms, and save supervisors and employees time, Human Resources has partnered with the Office of Information Technology to transfer the Probationary Period Review form into our Online Performance Review (OPR) system. Therefore, probationary period, annual, and mid-year performance reviews are all in one, easy-to-use system!

Who Needs a Probationary Period Review?

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.

A video tutorial for probationary period reviews can also be found on this webpage. Simply select the OPR Video Tutorials button, then the Probationary Period Reviews option from the table of contents on the left side of your screen (bottom of list).

Important things to note:

  • For questions, call (865) 974-6642 and select option 3 for Employee Relations.
  • Supervisors MUST meet with the probationary employee BEFORE releasing the form to the employee for review, especially in the event an employee will not be retained.
  • In OPR, select “Probationary Review” at the bottom of the drop-down menu to view and/or initiate a probationary review.
  • All employees will appear under the probationary review drop-down, however, those not eligible will be greyed out and labeled “not eligible” since they are not in their 6-month window.

To foster year-round performance discussion, Human Resources (HR), along with campus partners, offers 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 covering the staff performance review are available for employees and leadership. Registration is now open in K@TE – 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: This session will foster discussion around each of the five performance review categories and rating scale. Participants will gain an understanding of each category and examine case studies. Rubric and scoring ideas will be explored.
  • Staff Performance Daily: Just Getting Started, Probationary Period Overview: This session is designed to help leadership and new staff throughout the probationary period (first 6 months). We will discuss the purpose of the probationary period and how to successfully complete the process amidst onboarding.   
  • Staff Performance Daily: Mid-Year Reviews: This session will cover the mid-year review process and highlight the value of ongoing performance discussions.  

Other learning opportunities: Knoxville-area training sessions are scheduled through our Learning & Organizational Development team. Please contact Learning & Organizational Development at 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

SMART Goal Samples

SMART Goal 1: Attend a STRIDE for Staff Workshop by end of Quarter 2

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 Quarter 4

SMART Goal 2: Complete at least 4 self-paced, eLearning modules focused on an area for growth by Quarter 4

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

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 so that any concerns or issues can be addressed in a timely manner. These check-in conversations should not just be corrective; supervisors should also provide ongoing positive feedback!

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.