Does Your Performance Eval Stack Up

If you’ve ever dreaded delivering a Performance Evaluation or if employees would rather get a root canal than sit through their review, your evaluation may need to be updated. The only reason for a manager to dread the process is if they know the feedback will lead to pushback and conflict. Employees hate them because they are tired of hearing opinionated fluff. If the Performance Evaluation is fair, focuses on opportunities, and gives clear direction for improvement, all parties can learn from it and walk away better than they came in.

Compare and Contrast Your Document
We never know how good or bad we are at something until we see someone else doing better or worse. I always love looking at the way other successful organizations (with great employee retention & production) structure their evaluations. I assume that they are doing something right in regards to their feedback…and that it is building up their employees so that they want to stay and be productive in that environment.

Being recently tasked with updating my organization’s performance eval, I took the evaluations of similar organizations and literally laid them out side-by-side. My goal was not to simply copy or use the other documents and slap our name on it, but to see how they differed fundamentally, psychologically and aesthetically…as all three make a difference to the rater and the employee that is being rated.

If another company has something that stands out to you, take that piece, imagine your workplace and ask yourself the following:

  • Would something like this speak to what that employees actually do in their particular job functions?
  • Does it give them room to grow or does it speak doom and gloom on their career?
  • Will it encourage healthy dialogue and help the employees to see what they are doing as it relates to the mission and values of the company?

Focus On Facts
Too often evaluations are highly subjective, which opens managers up to conflict, accusations of favoritism and discrimination. Everything in the review should be backed up with fact and documentation. If it can’t be proven, it shouldn’t be brought up.

This also means that managers cannot wait until the last minute to observe and gather information. From the moment an employee walks out of a review meeting, managers should be documenting, following-up and reviewing goals in preparation of next years evaluation.

Bad Formatting Can Turn People Off 
If you need a separate 20-page guide to explain how to complete your 5-page eval, it will not be effective and you’ll hear a collective sigh when your Performance Evaluation reminder goes out.

Short, concise and easy to understand documents eliminate the hassle of preparing them and if they are easy to explain, they are more likely to be understood by employees. Additionally, it’s best to include 2 to 3 employee-chosen goals because you actually want employees to reach them and be/feel successful in their roles. I do encourage managers to include an achievable stretch goal or 2 (with resources and activities) to challenge them, not to discourage.

Scoring Should Make Sense
If your organization isn’t Pass/Fail, your employees shouldn’t feel like it is. If there are too few rankings (1, 2 & 3) on your evaluations, employees just might feel like they are either Great, Average or out the door. Also, managers may be forced to overrate someone if their only options are Great or Sucks. And if I’m numerically falling short, what encouragement do I have to get better if I’m merely Average, especially if I’m giving it my best effort.

I recommend enough options to provide a fair range of strengths and weakness, but also a way to let employees know that they are doing precisely what they’re expected to do and that that is ok.

Superior – Exceeds Expectations – Meets Expectations – Needs Improvement – Unacceptable

Only positivity should come from a Performance Evaluation. Not that all feedback should be positive – that would be a lie – but positive because the employee should either be told things that compliment what they do & will help them to take their performance to another level or they are getting feedback that will encourage them to perform to higher standard. They shouldn’t feel as if they were just hit in the face with a negativity brick, even if they are not your favorite employee.


2 thoughts on “Does Your Performance Eval Stack Up

  1. Great and very relevant article Justin. We have likewise found that the performance evaluation process in many organizations is subjective and doesn’t provide employees clarity on how to demonstrate superior performance. Employees often don’t become aware of how they’re performing until it’s too late.

    While we agree that employees ‘never know how good or bad we are at something until we see someone else doing better or worse’, many organizations don’t have the luxury of referencing performance evaluations of similar organizations to enhance their own. They would need to leverage past experiences from external hires or services from a consulting firm with this expertise.

    Regardless of how organizations approach collecting this information, we recommend they use a competency-based approach. By defining clear competencies (e.g., skills, knowledge, abilities, behaviors) required for successful performance in each role being evaluated, organizations can ensure an objective performance management process, provide employees clarity on what ‘success’ means and offer employees room to grow in their career.

    We also believe that the performance evaluation process is not a one-time thing. While a formal process typically occurs once a year, managers and employees should be having informal conversations throughout the year. While this may viewed as time intensive, it is critically important for employee satisfaction and productivity in alignment with performance goals. Through use of a competency-based approach, informal discussions are not as time intensive, managers and employees can easily be aligned on employee performance and competency assessments can be used to evaluate employee progression throughout the year.

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