CAREER-CLEAR: An Employee Evaluation and Career Development System

CAREER-CLEAR is a system for doing fair, consistent and constructive employee performance evaluations and determining employee rank, title and compensation. It is meant to be used by supervisors to identify areas for improvement for their employees and to guide their career growth.

Employees are scored in a total of 5 categories. Upto 10 points can be earned in each category for a total of upto 50 points. The final score is then multiplied by a factor of 2 to give a standard scale of 0 to 100. Using a normalized 100 point scale allows it to remain consistent (by adjusting the factor) even as companies add/remove categories and items.

If you want to jump directly to the system first and then come back and read the text, click here.

The scoring for each item follows a simple but strict 3-level scale of 0 (below baseline), 1 (at baseline) or 2 (better than baseline). There are no fractional “in between” scores. For example, you must not score someone 1.5. You must pick either 1 or 2. This 3-options-only scale is meant to minimize vagueness. For the same reason, a wider scoring range like 1 to 5 (commonly seen in star rating systems) is not used. A score of 0 in an item is not neccessarily bad. If you are not seeing at least a few 0 scores for most employees, you have set your baselines for each item too low.

The baseline for each item is the same for everyone from the programmer-apprentice to the VP of Engineering. The baseline level — i.e. what quality of performance in that item rates a score of 1 — must be defined in advance for each item as unambiguously as possible. This can be done by senior management or by management consultants hired for this purpose. Doing this in consultation with the employees (who are to be rated) and clients/stakeholders is recommended.

The resulting total score is meant to be mapped to the employee’s level of seniority/rank for title and compensation. That means within a job functional area, employees at senior levels should score higher than employees at junior levels.

For example, a score of 81-100 could map to director/VP levels; 61-80 manager; 41-60 engineer/contributor; 21-40 junior level/apprentice. Since different functional areas — for example, software engineering and quality assurance testing — may have different pay scales, this score maps directly to rank/title, and those are mapped to salaries corresponding to the functional areas’ market rates.

You will notice that a lot of emphasis is given to leadership and management qualities. This is designed for the system to work across the wide range of skills from intern to VP. At first, this may seem like the system is unfairly skewed in favor of seniority and higher level employees. The system, however, is designed to favor skills and better level of performance in multiple areas.

The first four categories are described below. The fifth category is defined as discretionary/user-defined. CAREER-CLEAR is designed to be used in the real world, in a diversity of organizations and on a regular basis. The system won’t succeed if it is too rigid. On the other hand, the system must meet its goals of being fair, consistent and constructive for all employees. To accomodate and balance these goals, 20% of the criteria is meant to be user-defined at descretion of the manager within the fair, consistent and constructive guidelines.

It is inspired by systems described to be in use at Microsoft, Construx, FogCreek (Joel on Software) and Conde Nast Digital Technology. The latter was developed by Bobby Chowdhury, Brian Murphy, Janet Kasdan and Rajiv Pant.

The 5 categories are: Caliber, Leadership, Expertise, Role and Discretionary.


This section measures the talent of the employee in general (non-technical) areas.

Scoring: Above Average=2, Average=1, Below Average=0. Add the score for each of the heuristics. Max Score=10 points.

  1. Ownership – Has identifiable long-term ownership of projects. This is a measure of the criticality, complexity and / or number of projects the employee has ownership in.
  2. Responsibility – Is consistently reliable in terms of deliverables and time.
  3. Communication – Communicates effectively with peers and other colleagues. Listens to and understands others’ viewpoints, challenges, needs and desires.
  4. Consistency – Is approachable, predictable, receptive and consistently applies good judgment in all interpersonal interactions in the work place.
  5. Innovative – Innovates and stays abreast of emerging technologies and finds ways to incorporate those technologies into systems.


This section evaluates the positive influence the employee has on others.

Scoring: Above Average=2, Average=1, Below Average=0. Add the score for each of the heuristics. Max Score=10 points.

  1. Teacher, Coach & Motivator – Mentors others, makes great use of all information sharing tools available and is an active presenter. Rallies the troops and improves morale.
  2. Enabler – Empowers and enables others to succeed.
  3. Exemplary – Leads by example and goes above and beyond the ‘requirements’.
  4. Maturity & Humility – Embraces others’ solutions, even when incompatible with one’s own. Incorporates feedback from others to find the best solutions.
  5. Connector – Has familiarity with the ecosystem beyond one’s own projects. Functions as a hub which others are drawn to for a quick answer or a quick redirect towards an answer.


This section quantifies the skills and experience of the employee related to the job function.

Scoring: Above Average=2, Average=1, Below Average=0. Add the score for each of the heuristics. Max Score=10 points.

  1. Fundamentals – Understands of the core technical concepts aligned with the given job function. This may include data structures & algorithms, testing, networking, etc.
  2. Breadth of Expertise – Is a subject matter expert and go-to person for many areas of technology.
  3. Pragmatic – Has a demonstrated ability to identify the best solution to balance what’s most theoretically ideal against what might be the most practical due to concerns about security, scalability, time to market pressures and cost.
  4. Automator – Consistently works to drive improvement in processes and systems.
  5. “Boy/Girl Scout Rule” – Leaves code and systems better off than they found them.


This section enumerates the employee’s role and areas of contribution within the organization and beyond.

Scoring: Above Average=2, Average=1, Below Average=0. Add the score for each of the heuristics. Max Score=10 points.

  1. Strategic – Provides sound vision for broad, long-term goals.
  2. Tactical – Oversees many projects or activities that move the organization towards strategic goals.
  3. Operational – Steers day-to-day processes that achieve the tactical goals.
  4. Executional – Implements repetitive tasks that make up the operational processes. A measure of quantity and more importantly, quality of work produced.
  5. Industry Recognition – Is recognized externally as a leading technologist through contributions to open source projects, blogging, writing books, participating in technical committees, speaking at conferences, etc.

The following are some examples to illustrate strategic, tactical, operational and executional.

  • Strategic: “Our new Web application will become one of the top three, preferably #1, in its space in the US market.”
  • Tactical: “We will hire a small team to develop and launch it. An office location would be required to meet partners and clients. We will also need additional funding.”
  • Operational: “We will hire a great software architect, 2 expert engineers, set up office in Manhattan, and have goal of reaching $500,000 in additional funding by the end of the year.”
  • Executional: “The architect designs the Web application in collaboration with the engineers. The engineers and the architect implement it. The team then makes it live and markets it via social networks and other channels.


Please be sure to adhere to the goals of being fair, consistent and constructive for all employees in using this discretionary section. This category is not meant to be used to justify favoritism nor meant to be arbitrary. Good descretion comes from rational, reasonable and relevant criteria. Place items here that are not already covered in other categories and are important to your organization. A good rule of thumb is that you must be able to justify any criteria you apply here.

Scoring: Above Average=2, Average=1, Below Average=0. Add the score for each of the heuristics. Max Score=10 points.

  1. discretionary / user-defined item 1
  2. discretionary / user-defined item 2
  3. discretionary / user-defined item 3
  4. discretionary / user-defined item 4
  5. discretionary / user-defined item 5

CAREER-CLEAR version 2.1 2010-Oct-13


6 responses to “CAREER-CLEAR: An Employee Evaluation and Career Development System”

  1. Atul Naik

    Nice concept!!

    1. Thank you, Atul. I plan to continue improving this system and publish related articles on technology management.

      1. this is possible how do you rate yourself as good employee of the company…based on the performance level of the employee appraisal,how did we motivate the employee without consulting him about her /his performances?

  2. How much is it, Rajiv?

    1. Anyone is welcome and free to implement and customize this system for doing employee evaluations in their organization. There are no license fees for using it.

  3. Robin Palley

    I"m liking it. I think there is some complexity about "role" since every org needs excellence in each of the categories and they are not hierarchical (except of course when they are!). Thanks!

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