4 Steps To Painless (And Effective) Performance Evaluations

Conducting effective performance evaluations is like painting a room.  If you do all the prep work diligently – all the sanding, spackling, taping and priming – the actual painting is easy. So too with employee evaluations.
Performance Evaluations, Performance Management, Employee Evaluations, Employee Appraisals… no matter what they’re called in different organisations… can be one of the most stressful aspects of management: a highly emotional “he said/she said” drama. Or it can be a simple, logical and satisfying process. But regardless of how they’re handled or what they’re called, one thing is certain: If you manage people, at any level, whether you’re a CEO or front-line supervisor, the time to do annual year-end assessments of your employees is coming shortly. It doesn’t have to be anxiety-laden. Here are 4 steps to help you with painless and effective evaluations.
Establish clear, measurable, agreed-upon objectives. This is foundational to sound management. If you have clarity about what the objectives are, and better still if the employee is involved in their development, that’s a great starting point. (Conversely, when expectations are unclear, that’s a recipe for problems.) To the extent that some of the objectives can be metrically based and easily measurable (for example, respond to all customer inquiries within 2 hours, grow sales by 7 percent, write 13 articles a month for Wolverine Magazine, etc.) , so much the better.  The more specificity you have at the outset, the less room there is later for confusion and dispute.
Thorough documentation. A first cousin to the establishment of clear objectives is the thorough documentation of results. Innumerable business events occur over the course of a year, and as a manager it’s essential you have a reliable record of the important stuff. Both the good stuff and the bad. It naturally has to be a fair and balanced account, recording successes and failures. If you come to year end without hard data – and you’re both just relying on memory – you’re inviting differing interpretations of reality… and wicked unpleasantness at evaluation time.
Formal Mid-Year Evaluation. Some organisations require this but many don’t. Regardless, do yourself (and your employees) a favor by doing a formal evaluation at mid year. This will impose rigor on the process and force you to gather the necessary data to make a meaningful assessment – plus it will make the process a whole lot easier when you get to year end. Some companies take this a step further and even do formal quarterly evaluations, but to me this seems overkill… a trifle bureaucratic and obsessive… as if you’re spending too much time assessing work rather than doing work.
Frequent meetings with meaningful feedback (no conflict avoidance!). This is first cousin to documentation, and is ongoing.  In addition to general discussion of regular projects, it’s the place for immediate feedback, both good and bad, and no time for sidestepping problems.  Personally, my preference was to hold weekly half-hour meetings  for relatively new employees (or for veteran employees if there were issues to be resolved)… and meet once every two weeks with employees who knew the job and were performing well. But there’s no right or wrong as to exact frequency – whatever suits your business needs. And of course there’s no point wasting valuable time in meetings; if everything is perfectly fine and there’s nothing to discuss, just end the meeting after two minutes and get back to work.
Now I realise, since this article is being posted in early October, that (even if you wanted to) you may well not have time to take all of these actions this year. But you can still incorporate certain elements – carefully documenting successes and failures, candidly discussing whatever needs to be said – to make this year’s process as smooth as possible… and then start the cycle in its entirety, with objective setting, next year.
In the final analysis, most manager-employee relationships (like any relationship, be it a marriage or a friendship) founder on the shoals of poor communication. In my own experience, when I’d done my job as manager well throughout the year, final evaluations were pleasant as apple pie. When I hadn’t, they were messy. And the fault was mine. As a manager, I hadn’t done what I needed to, avoiding the  hard conversations or the dull documentation or both, and in the endgame I paid the price.
So to return to my initial painting analogy… it’s all about preparation.  If you do the prep work diligently, there should be no surprises – and performance evaluations become an afterthought, just the final step in a orderly, well-managed process.

[Source: www.forbes.com]

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