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Performance Management Handbook (Appraisal Section) Chapter 2

Chapter 2. Definitions

Acceptable Performance is performance that meets the acceptable level of performance for the Department’s 5-level rating scale.

Agency is the Department of Commerce.

Appraisal is the act or process of evaluating the performance of an employee against the prescribed performance standard(s).

Appraisal Cycle is a one-year period established by the Department's Performance Management System, which an employee's performance will normally be reviewed.

Approving Official is normally the supervisor who assigns, controls, and is responsible for the work of the rating official, and is usually the rating official's immediate supervisor. However, operating units or Departmental offices may designate a higher level official in the management chain as the approving official, provided this designation does not conflict with any other provisions of this document. The approving official is responsible for approving the final performance rating.

Critical Element is a component of an employee's position consisting of one or more duties and responsibilities which contributes toward accomplishing organizational goals and objectives, and which is of such importance that unacceptable performance on the element would result in unacceptable performance in the position.

Generic Performance Standards are performance standards that can be applied to all employees covered by the 5-level performance management system. (See Appendix A for more information)

Interim Rating is a rating that should be prepared during the course of a rating period when an employee has spent the minimum appraisal period (120 days) in a covered position and then changes to another position. This may happen more than once during the rating period.

Major Activity is a task, duty, or project to be accomplished in support of a critical element.

Meritorious Step Increase is an increase in a foreign service employee’s rate of basic pay from one step of his or her position to the next higher of the grade. Only an employee who receives a rating of record at Level 5 or equivalent is eligible.

Minimum Appraisal Period is the minimum length of time an employee must perform under a performance plan prior to being appraised. The minimum appraisal period is 120 days.

Opportunity to Demonstrate Acceptable Performance is a reasonable time period within which an employee, whose performance has been determined to be at Level 1 in one or more critical elements, has an opportunity to demonstrate performance at a level above Level 1.

Performance is an employee's accomplishment of assigned work as specified in the critical elements and as measured against standards of the employee's position.

Performance Award is a one-time cash payment to recognize the contributions of an employee and is based on the rating of record. A performance award does not increase base pay.

Performance-Based Actions are the reduction in grade or removal of an employee based solely on performance at the unacceptable level.

Performance Improvement Plans (PIP) are developed for employees at any point in the appraisal cycle when performance becomes Level 1 (unacceptable) in one or more critical elements. This plan affords an employee the opportunity to demonstrate acceptable performance and it is developed with specific guidance provided by a servicing human resources office.

Performance Management is the integrated process by which an agency involves its employees in improving organizational effectiveness in the accomplishment of agency mission and strategic goals. Performance Management consists of: performance planning, monitoring employee performance, employee development, evaluating employee performance, and recognition.

Performance Plans are the documentation of performance expectations communicated to employees from supervisors. Plans define the critical elements and the performance standards by which an employee's performance will be evaluated.

Performance Standards are statements of the expectations or requirements established by management for a critical element at a particular rating level. A performance standard may include, but is not limited to, factors such as quality, quantity, timeliness, and manner of performance.

Pre-appraisal Meeting is a meeting, although not mandatory, which may be requested by an employee prior to the formal appraisal meeting with the rating official. During this meeting the employee may: (1) present an assessment of his or her accomplishments during the appraisal period; (2) cover aspects of his or her work of which the rating official may not be aware; and (3) identify what he or she would like to include in the next cycle's performance plan.

Progress Review is a formal feedback session at which the rating official and employee discuss: the employee's progress toward meeting the elements in his or her performance plan, the need for any changes to the plan, and any performance deficiencies the supervisor has noted.

Quality Step Increase is an increase in the General Schedule employee's rate of basic pay from one step of his or her position to the next higher step of the grade. Only an employee who receives a rating of record at Level 5 is eligible.

Rating is the written record of the appraisal of the employee's performance in each critical element and the assignment of a summary rating level.

Rating Official is the person responsible for informing the employee of the critical elements of his or her position, establishing performance standards, providing feedback, appraising performance, and recommending the performance rating. Normally, this is the employee's immediate supervisor.

Required Performance Elements are performance elements that apply to all employees in an organization. Customer Service is a required element for all employees. An additional element, Leadership, is required for all managers and supervisors.

Summary Rating (or Rating of Record) is the overall performance rating for the most recent performance year. This rating is established by combining the individual ratings on each element to arrive at an overall evaluation of an employee's performance for an appraisal period.

Supplemental Standards define performance in terms of results (what is to be accomplished) and process (how it is to be accomplished). Supplemental standards are expressed in terms of quality, quantity, timeliness, cost-effectiveness, or other relevant measures, rather than tasks or specific duties.

Unacceptable Performance is performance that fails to meet the established performance standards in one or more critical elements of an employee’s position. It is referred to as a Level 1 rating on the Department’s 5-Level rating scale.

Within-Grade Increase (WGI) a periodic increase in an employee’s rate of basic pay from one step of the grade of his or her position to the next step of that grade.