Every organization has a system for how employee performance is measured and reported. However, many managers are not well prepared for the performance appraisal process beyond knowing how to complete the associated checklists and forms. Christine Zalar, a founding partner at Fitch & Associates, shares tips to avoid common pitfalls in the performance evaluation process.
The performance appraisal process is an important communication event with employees, and if done right, can be a valuable contribution to employee satisfaction, productivity and performance. Follow these steps to conduct a successful evaluation:
Managers set the stage with pre-meeting communication of the evaluation process and tools. Employees should prepare self-evaluations or similarly written reflections of their performance over the previous year and goals for the next.
Consistency is critical when providing feedback to the employee, starting with ensuring that scores and manager’s comments align. Also, the manager should compare the current appraisal to the previous year. Document any significant negative changes prior to the annual performance review, and ideally addressed during midyear meetings or through formal improvement plans.
2. Be timely
The performance appraisal should not be an isolated event, but the result of a year-long process. Employees generally require ongoing guidance, support and encouragement more frequently than is provided in an annual appraisal.
At the same time, the date of the annual review should be honored. Late performance appraisals indicate to employees that the manager does not consider the process important.
When conducting an annual performance review, the natural inclination is to give greater weight to recent events over those that occurred earlier in the year. Being disciplined about documenting the employee's work throughout the year will help avoid overemphasizing his or her most recent work.
3. Be honest
The most difficult job of a manager is confronting performance and behavioral issues. Do it objectively and without allowing emotion or bias to influence the conversation. Provide data and specific examples of areas for improvement. Reinforce desirable, positive performance.
Some managers feel uncomfortable giving negative feedback and avoid delivering constructive criticism that employees need in order to improve. As a manager appraising someone's performance, you must give an honest, balanced evaluation. Avoid using absolutes such as “always” or “never,” as they can be dismissed with just one example to the contrary. Absolutes are also quite difficult to defend.
Take care not to judge an employee's intent with statements such as “you weren’t trying.” Intent is difficult to prove or measure; focus instead on the employee's actions and their outcomes.
Recognize staff when they perform well throughout the year and include specific examples of exemplary performance in the appraisal.
4. Provide constructive advice
Managers should be careful to balance critical feedback with constructive advice on how an employee can improve. If you don't explain how the employee can improve, he or she is likely to miss the validity of what's being said and simply think they are being treated unfairly.
This holds true for both your highest and lowest performing employees. Your lowest performers may need the most suggestions on how to improve – but often the highest performers are the ones who seek constructive advice.
Measuring what matters when evaluating officers, training: