Best Practices for Rating Goals

**This version of Coach was retired in 2019. Please do not refer to these articles unless you are still on the legacy version of Coach.**

If you have created some goals, gone through a few rating periods, given coaching tips, held 1:1 meetings with your employees, but are still seeing misalignment, you are in the right place. Everyone has their opinion about what At, Above, or Below expectations are in regards to performance, so follow these best practices to get everyone on the same page.

Guidelines for rating

At Expectations

This is the rating that should be given the majority of the time. If someone is performing at expectations, that means:

  • Goals are appropriate for the skill level
  • The employee is meeting their objectives and commitments week over week
  • Work is being done at a satisfactory level

Above Expectations

If an employee is performing Above expectations they are:

  • Turning out exceptional work that exceeds their skill level
  • Going above and beyond their objectives and commitments
  • Completing work ahead of schedule

Below Expectations

Unfortunately, there will be times when we are not performing our best and will be rated Below expectations. Behaviors indicating a Below expectations rating are:

  • Missing deadlines
  • Not meeting objectives and commitments
  • Performing below skill level

In any case, a Below Expectations ratings should always be accompanied by a detailed description to support the rating and specific coaching tips from the manager to help the employee improve. If an employee is consistently rated below expectations, then it is a good indication that there is a problem either with expectations or performance.

Address misalignment

If your rating as a manager is consistently misaligned with your employees, work with them to close the gaps. Here are a few of our suggestions. 

Manage expectations by adjusting goals to a more realistic level if needed. Goals can always be modified if the original is too aggressive. Consistent negative feedback can sometimes have the opposite effect and employees might lose motivation if they can never meet their manager's expectations. Some may adopt the mentality "Well, since I will never be able to meet expectations and I am just going to get negative feedback every week, why bother trying?". To avoid the risk of losing team members, talk with your employees to adjust the goal and set a plan to help them achieve it.

The second case of managing performance requires consistent coaching and monitoring from the manager. It is the job of the manager to coach employees to facilitate their success. If an employee is performing poorly, managers should be working with them weekly to discuss progress and detailed performance improvement plans to get back on track.

Keep all meeting notes in Coach to track these discussions so you can look back to see the history. Sometimes, employees just aren't the right fit for the job and will need to be transferred to a more suitable position or let go. Having your entire history of ratings, detailed coaching tips and meeting notes directly in Perform will provide support to these difficult decisions and managers and HR leaders won't have to scramble around trying to piece information together bit by bit to make the final decision.

Provide rating details and coaching tips

The two text fields in the rating workflow are incredibly important to proper coaching. Teams work more effectively with a clear direction. According to Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, a mere 7% of employees today fully understand their company's business strategies and what is expected of them in order to achieve company goals*. Remember that the manager's job is to ensure the success of the team. And employees are not mind readers (shocking!) so the managers have to be communicating transparently in order for the relationship to be successful.

The rating details box in Coach allows the rater to justify their rating. I know if my manager rates me Below expectations, I am certainly going to want to know why. So here is your opportunity. Let the other person know why they were rated that way.

Even more important is the coaching feedback box. Today's workforce (read: Millennials) want more consistent feedback all throughout the year, unlike Baby Boomers who are satisfied with a once-a-year an annual review. Let employees know exactly what skills they can work on to improve. Millennials also value mentor relationships so the more you engage with them, the happier and more motivated they will be. Record coaching feedback in Coach and also use this field to document some tasks you would like for the employee to accomplish before the next rating period.


A properly rated goal with details and coaching feedback 

  • Goal description: Launch a new version of the company website by May 31st. 
  • Manager rating: At expectations
  • Rating Details: Good work this week. I rated you At expectations because you finished all of the tasks you set out to accomplish. I am thrilled that you were able to collect three customer testimonials to meet your target.
  • Coaching Tips: I think you are doing a great job working with the rest of the marketing team to get the project done, however, I would like you to work more closely with the design and development teams who are coding the new website. Working with them will help you improve cross-team relationships and overall communication skills because you'll have to clearly document and transfer your ideas to help them make the design into a reality. Before the next rating period, I would like for you to:

          - Start a daily status meeting with the development team to make sure the project stays on track. 

          - Check their work to make sure the layout and copy are correct on the actual website.

          - Provide a final version one week before the launch (05/24).

A poorly rated goal without details or coaching feedback

  • Goal description: Launch a new version of the company website by May 31st.
  • Manager rating: Below expectations
  • Rating Details: ____________________________
  • Coaching Feedback: ____________________________

Imagine getting a bomb like this dropped on you! If you rate Below expectations with no explanation or suggestions to get better, it creates an alarming and distressing situation for the employee. As a best practice, if you rate Below, always give an explanation and coaching feedback to help the other person avoid this rating next time.

General Do's and Don't's


  • Write rating notes and coaching feedback for each and every goal.
  • Give a clear explanation and a plan for improvement if you rate Below expectations.
  • Think about the individual employee's performance towards shared goals. Avoid looking at your direct reports as a group when reviewing shared goals. You should evaluate each employee and their performance towards the goal individually. One person should not be undeservedly penalized or praised if their performance does not match that of the rest of the group.


  • Rate every goal Above expectations. This is typically an indication that goals are too easy. You want to challenge your employees to keep them interested in their work, so make sure the goals matches the skill level of the individual.
  • Rate goals Below expectations without giving an explanation and a plan for improvement. We cannot say it enough; employees cannot get better unless you tell them how. It is your expectations they are trying to meet after all.
  • Rate goals Below expectations just because they have not been met yet. Avoid rating Below expectations if the employee is making sufficient progress towards the goal. Just because they are on their way does not mean they are not making good progress.
  • Fall into a routine. Try to approach each new rating period with a fresh perspective to accurately evaluate performance and provide constructive feedback. Set yourself a time limit of 15-25 minutes each rating period to give thoughtful feedback to each employee.


Did you find it helpful? Yes No

Send feedback
Sorry we couldn't be helpful. Help us improve this article with your feedback.