Small Business Services

Employee Evaluation Do’s and Don’ts

How do employees enter your office or meeting area when it’s time for a performance review? Do they seem apprehensive? Downright scared? Defiant? Loaded for bear?

It doesn’t have to be that way. An employee evaluation should be the logical culmination of the ongoing performance feedback that you give your staff all year ‘round.

That is, if you’re managing your group well, there shouldn’t be any major surprises come time for a performance review. Just as tax planning should occur throughout the year rather than just prior to your deadlines, employee evaluation work should start as soon as you’ve finished the previous session.

Here are some ways to make that happen.

Do:

Give new employees a thorough blueprint of what’s expected. You don’t have to hand them your official blank evaluation form on their first day (though you could), but have a conversation about performance reviews early on. If you assign weights to individual sections of reviews, explain upfront what the highest priorities are. If you’ve done a good job crafting job descriptions, employees should have a good idea of how they’ll be assessed.

Create an easy way to keep logs on your employees. This isn’t the HR folder that contains official paperwork. It’s your private employee evaluation prep file. Use whatever method is simplest and fastest for you so it’s not a chore to take a simple note now and then. You might even keep an electronic or paper copy of the evaluation form with your notes.

If you’re constantly running around putting out fires and find it difficult to document employee performance regularly, schedule 30 minutes or so every week to fill in the blanks in your logs while your memory is still fresh. It’s not fair to your employees to wait until the last minute and shortchange them on this important feedback. And you don’t need the added pressure at crunch time.

Check in with each employee occasionally throughout the year. This depends entirely on how the flow of your days go and how often you interact with your staff individually. Maybe you do this as a matter of course as you’re discussing tasks and projects, but if you don’t, make it a practice.

A week or two prior to the evaluation, give your employees a blank copy of the evaluation (if they don’t already have one) and ask them to make some notes on it. They don’t have to fill it out completely, just document their own appraisal of their success in fulfilling their job duties. Don’t ask them to show it to you, but have them bring it to your meeting.

Be creative with your evaluation criteria. Don’t just focus on numbers or outcomes or skills or concrete results, important as those things are. Color outside the lines a bit. What unique contributions does each employee bring to his or her job and the department or company?

During the review session itself:

  • Ask employees to tell you three things they’d like to do that they aren’t doing now.
  • Ask employees whether they’re getting the support/guidance/supervision/feedback they need to do their jobs well. This is especially important if they’re weak in a particular area.
  • Ask employees to evaluate the evaluation. Did it seem fair? Did it emphasize areas that were unexpected and/or gloss over job responsibilities that should have been emphasized more?

Don’t:

Back down when an individual questions a negative point (“constructive criticism”). Respond honestly. You aren’t doing your employees any favors if you couch your remarks to spare feelings. If you do, chances are you’ll face the same issue at the next session, and you’ve missed an opportunity to encourage growth.

Rush it. Schedule more time than you think you’ll need.

Pontificate. Encourage participation and feedback.

Continue to push when pushing isn’t getting you anywhere. Maybe the employee is uncomfortable expressing negative thoughts about co-workers that are causing problems (or about you).  Maybe he or she is screamingly dissatisfied with the company or the job but can’t express it.

Be too hard on yourself if you have a problem employee who just doesn’t get it. Individuals can become apathetic or uncooperative or just plain dissatisfied with their jobs for any number of reasons, and that’s an issue you’ll have to take up with your HR department or consultant.

One of the reasons you became a manager may have been the challenge of helping employees achieve their potential. If that’s the case with you, performance reviews can play a major role in that goal.

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