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Consider these questions when developing a process for your chief staff executive’s performance evaluation.

1. Who initiates the performance evaluation process?

Ideally, the employment contract for the chief staff executive should specify both the timing of performance evaluations and individual(s) responsible for scheduling a meeting. The chief staff executive or the volunteer leaders may be responsible for setting up the meeting. If it is the volunteer leaders’ responsibility, the chief staff executive needs to be an advocate for himself or herself and be diligent about initiating the process and/or following up. If this information is not specified in the employment contract, or if no employment contract exists, then the process should be documented elsewhere, such as in a policy manual or an offer of employment letter.

2. How often should a performance evaluation be conducted?

Frequency will depend on the goals, strategic plan, and other factors. Generally, an evaluation should be conducted at least annually. Some associations may choose to conduct evaluations more frequently by tying them to quarterly reports. Ideally, a newly hired chief staff executive should be reviewed at the three-, six-, or nine-month anniversary dates to ensure expectations and objectives are being met and to offer feedback regarding performance.

3. What is the timeframe for conducting the evaluation?

A common practice is to conduct the performance evaluation during budget season or in the last quarter of the year. Often, the evaluation is conducted at or near the hire date anniversary.

4. Who conducts the performance evaluation?

The most common practice is to appoint an evaluation committee that includes the president, president-elect, and immediate past president. Another common practice, depending on the size of the association, is for the Executive Committee to serve as the evaluation committee. In state associations and large local associations, the number of evaluators may be significantly larger. In any case, consistency is important: some members of the evaluation committee should carry over from year to year. The composition of the evaluation committee should either be documented in the chief staff executive’s employment contract or in association policy.

5. On what criteria will the chief staff executive be evaluated?

Goals and objectives established during the prior year’s evaluation should form the basis for the current evaluation. Other evaluation criteria should include achievement of results outlined in the strategic plan, adherence to budget, association compliance with the Core Standards, and criteria related to style and operations (see samples provided).

6. Is the evaluation process tied to merit increases and bonuses?

Generally speaking, the evaluation should be tied to merit increases and bonuses. Bonuses can also be awarded at other times during the year to recognize a significant achievement or accomplishment.

7. How can the chief staff executive prepare volunteer leaders for the review process?

Incoming volunteer leaders need to be informed of the value of conducting an annual performance evaluation for the chief staff executive. Association staff can refer incoming leaders to this section of resources as well as to NAR’s online Volunteer Leadership Guide, which includes an overview of staff and volunteer leadership roles and responsibilities.

8. Should current leadership have access to previous years’ evaluations?

Yes, having access to the previous years’ evaluations can establish a basis for how the current year’s evaluation can be conducted. 

9. What confidentiality issues should be considered?

All evaluation documentation should be kept confidential and should not be shared beyond the evaluation committee. The only exception to this is in the case of a subpoena.

10. Should legal counsel or an HR professional be involved in the evaluation process?

Guidance from an employment law attorney or HR professional should be sought prior to the review if any performance issues need to be addressed or documented.

11. What are the chief staff executive’s legal rights in the evaluation process? Is there an appeal process if the chief staff executive feels he or she has been unfairly evaluated?

The chief staff executive should have the opportunity for an appeal. The appeal process should be outlined in the employment contract or association policy manual. The chief staff executive’s written rebuttal would become part of the evaluation.

12. What reference tools can leaders access during the evaluation process?

Leaders can access the resources available in the HR Toolkit on

13. What should be considered when the evaluation coincides with the employment contract expiration date?

The evaluation should be conducted well enough in advance of the contract expiration date to allow time to decide whether the contract will be renewed. Associations must be sure to adhere to contract provisions outlining how much notice must be given before terminating a contract.

14. What happens to the evaluation after it is complete? Who maintains a copy? Does it go in the chief staff executive’s personnel file?

HR Toolkit for Association PresidentsThis section of the HR Toolkit is of use to AEs and association leadership alike.
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