Take the Pain Out of Conducting Employee Evaluations

If you absolutely dread conducting employee evaluations, you’re not alone.

Most managers and supervisors look forward to employee performance appraisal time with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for emergency surgery – and for good reason.
 
Why Evaluations Can Be a Pain
Employees may get upset or argue. The process is time-consuming. There’s lots of paperwork involved. You may not agree with the form or rating system you’re required to use. The list goes on and on. And after all that hassle, in some companies, no one even pays attention to the appraisals once they’re completed.
 
In a word, employee evaluations can be a pain. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Sandra Young-White, a consultant, author and researcher on human resources issues.
 
6 Steps to Pain-Free Reviews
Young-White recommends a 6-step process for turning employee evaluations into productive – and pain-free – sessions for those on both sides of the manager’s desk.
 
1. Use the term “review” rather than “evaluation” or “appraisal.”
“To think of it as a review rather than an evaluation takes the judgment aspect out of the process,” Young-White explained. Moving to a review isn’t just a change in terminology, it’s a change in concept. An appraisal, by its very nature, rates or evaluates. A review, on the other hand, is a look at past performance – and a time to discuss employee development that will enhance future performance.
 
2. Separate the discussion about performance from the discussion about money.
In a traditional review where a salary increase is discussed at the same time, “the employees are NOT hearing what you’re saying about performance, they’re waiting to hear how much money they’re going to get,” Young-White explained. By separating the two discussions, you get the employee’s full attention for the important talk about improving performance, or maintaining excellent performance. If company policy doesn’t allow this separation, at least wait until the next day to discuss money.
 
3. Reviews should contain no surprises.
“These should be no surprises whatsoever for the employee at review time,” she stressed. It’s a manager’s or supervisor’s job to give continual coaching and feedback to the employee throughout the year concerning any performance problems and behavior issues. So if managers are doing their jobs year-round, there will be no “bombshells” dropped during the review that will come as news to the employee.
 
4. Eliminate subjective terms and replace them with standards and goals.
“Creativity, initiative, leadership, cooperation, attitude – these terms are nebulous. Vaporous. They mean NOTHING,” Young-White says. The biggest problem with rating employees according to such terms is that such ratings are completely subjective. “The subjectivity of each supervisor is what gets us into trouble on performance reviews,” she added. To be objective in a review, a manager must have developed specific standards that are based on the job instead of the person – standards that are the same for everyone in that job, specific and measurable, written and clearly communicated.
 
5. Allow 1 to 1-1/2 hours for the review – in a neutral setting, if possible.
performance-evaluationMany managers rush the review because they’re busy and they’re uncomfortable with the process, Young-White notes. But this is the manager’s opportunity to talk with the employee about enhancing performance and development. What does the employee think he or she needs to further excel? A neutral setting such as the conference room or any quiet corner will put the employee at greater ease than holding the discussion in the boss’ office. If there are no other options, at least get up from behind your desk and sit next to the employee. Don’t answer the phone or multitask.
 
6. Don’t feel compelled to be negative.
“We’ve been trained to approach an employee review from a negative perspective. What are they doing wrong? We gotta tell ’em that!” Young-White said. Managers somehow feel they’re not doing their jobs during the review if they don’t find some area that needs improvement. However, she stressed that an employee who has worked hard all year and performed well may be devastated to be nitpicked at review time. Make the review positive – a morale boost and recognition for a job well-done. Even a mediocre review should include plenty of positives and encouragement.
 
Using this 6-step process, a review can become a productive discussion about the employee’s future with the department and the organization instead of an event dreaded by employee and manager alike.

In summary, looking at the employee review as an opportunity to focus on how you can help develop employees and enhance their performance in the future – rather than a session for finding fault – can change the whole process, Young-White concluded.

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