Maximizing the Performance Evaluation Process

April 23, 2018

What a Performance Evaluation is NOT

The evaluation is not a weapon and it is not disciplinary. Everyone involved tends to get up in arms about it but they don’t need to be sources of stress. The essence of evaluation is to use the entire process as a staff development tool. Evaluations are critical when determining productivity. They take time and effort, but the benefits outweigh any hesitation there is in completing the process. They’re not intended to be an opportunity to recount all the things someone did wrong or a time to pit the employee against the manager. Performance issues that occur within the rating period should be addressed at the time and only summarized in the evaluation as needed. There should not be any surprises.

Performance Management is an Ongoing Engagement

Performance management is not a task to be performed annually. While the report might be annual, we need to engage with employees more frequently. Issues that arise with performance need to be addressed in real time. Feedback, coaching and counseling are not effective if they’re discussed months after an incident occurs. The evaluation should only serve as a formal, annual summary of performance. It’s difficult to capture everything in one annual report and you may find quarterly evaluations are more effective. If you use more frequent evaluations, they can feed into an annual evaluation. Documenting the informal meetings and debriefing sessions you have are an effective way to memorialize events. You don’t have to wait until a certain day on the calendar and it’s best to address issues when they still have temporal relevance. Don’t rely on your memory or recall.

Use Sufficient Standards

How can you tell if someone is doing a good job? What are you looking at? Are they meeting expectations? Are the factors you use to determine satisfactory performance based on the current job description and duties? Standards can change over time and will need to be updated accordingly. Don’t continue using the same outdated check boxes and rating scales because not everyone works in a production environment where you can count how many widgets they make in a shift. There should be a combination of quantitative and qualitative standards to assess technical skills and soft skills. Quantitative standards measure how many things you produced and qualitative standards look at the quality of the work being produced. Without sufficient standards, there’s no way to identify skill gaps.

Give Balanced and Comprehensive Feedback

The evaluation should be content focused. Employees complain that evaluations are often too generic. It’s the same content year after year with the same boxes checked and the same narrative. Not taking the time to put together an appropriate evaluation is a missed opportunity. The entire performance should be considered and in a year’s time, everyone will have good days and bad days. You have to balance how much weight you’ll give to each factor. I never praise people for meeting basic expectations that don’t speak to their work product (coming to work on time, dressing appropriately, etc.) and I also don’t “ding” them for the occasional misstep.

Consider implementing a self-appraisal and goal setting as a part of the process. Whether you’re dealing with a new hire or a veteran employee, their input goes a long way to quell some of emotions involved in dealing with evaluations.

Stay on Top of Employee Evaluations

Evaluations are like taxes, you can either prepare for it all year or scramble at the last minute. An evaluation is no good if it’s late or doesn’t tell the whole story. If you’re three years behind, what’s the point? Your most important resources are your human resources and that should take priority over other tasks. In my experience, I have seen a direct correlation between lack of evaluation and discipline or performance management issues. If someone is doing an amazing job or they are barely getting by, they need to be evaluated appropriately. Overlooking good things or highlighting poor things is a sure way to kill engagement and morale which impacts retention and succession planning. You don’t want to have your good employees leave for lack of acknowledgement or have your underperformers stay because they’re coasting and aren’t being corrected.