Performance Management

All administrative/professional and support staff at Harvard participate in the annual performance management process. In this employee-focused, interactive process, staff members set goals, clarify expectations, express development needs and preferences, and discuss career aspirations.

The goal is to help employees and Harvard be even more successful—and to engage managers in the success and growth of every employee. As the University changes, the process helps to align our talented people with the University's organizational priorities and future opportunities.

Annual Planning Cycle

Although it varies across schools and departments, in general the annual performance management process coincides with the fiscal/academic year and looks like this:


What happens


Goals discussed and agreed upon for the year ahead, individual performance plans completed


Mid-year discussion and assessment (not all schools/units have this step)


Annual self-assessments and performance reviews completed; merit increases awarded for July 1. Departmental goals set for the year ahead.

Online tutorials are available to support employees and managers at each step along the way.


The process ideally begins with departments setting and communicating goals for the year ahead, after which employees set their individual goals online in PeopleSoft. This overview explains how to set individual goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, aligned, realistic, and time-bound). Once that’s done, completing your performance plan online in PeopleSoft is a snap; take this tutorial to learn how.

Defining competencies

A key part of the performance management process is defining the competencies needed to perform jobs or roles.  It’s helpful to think of goals as “what” needs to be accomplished; competencies are the “how” – the behaviors needed to get things done effectively. There are two "core" competencies for all staff members:

  • Teamwork and collaboration:  Actively participates to move the team forward; aligns with the team to achieve mutual outcomes; maintains strong, personal connections with colleagues and stakeholders. 
  • Embraces change: Identifies problems and opportunities, implements solutions; maintains effectiveness when experiencing major changes; adjusts effectively to new work structures, processes, requirements, or cultures.

And for managers, there are two additional core competencies:

  • Resource allocation: Manages finances and organizational resources to enhance department, school or University goals. Deploys funds,staffing or resources economically and effectively.
  • Building a high-performance team: Develops a capable, diverse and cohesive team; motivates others to achieve the organization's goals; recognizes and rewards contributions.

Your school, unit, or manager may identify additional, specific competencies. Employees are expected to attain these competencies, and are rated each year on how well they are demonstrated. Training through the Center for Workplace Development can be a resource to employees in reaching their competencies.

Rating Scales

At the end of each year, both employees and managers are asked to provide a rating for…

…using these rating scales.

Overall Performance

5 - Leading performance
4 - Strong performance
3 - Solid performance
2 - Building performance
1 - Not meeting expectations


4 - Advanced
3 - Proficient
2 - Developing
1 - Does not demonstrate


Partially met
Not met

Feedback and Performance Discussions

The online system will guide and help prepare you for performance discussions at mid-year (if applicable) and year-end. In advance, each employee does a self-assessment, and the manager provides written feedback; at year-end this typically includes a summary of feedback gathered from peers, those served or supported, and direct reports, if any.

The main purpose of performance discussions is to mutually “take stock” of how things are going, constructively share feedback and observations, and get re-aligned (if necessary) on goals and priorities as things change. For tips on how to be well-prepared for your review, consult this tutorial. (Access to lyndaCampus at Harvard is available here.)

Help and Support

If you have any questions, your local Human Resources office can provide more information, support, and access to training.