Making Performance Evaluation Easier

Some of my clients are in annual performance evaluation season and they tend to fall into two camps: Spending a lot of time they don't have cleaning up on the back end, or spending less time because they did the work on the front end.

I'm not a big fan of most formal evaluation instruments and managers tend to echo this. But it doesn't matter what the format is, if you're prepared. Certainly, before you write a review, you'll want to prepare yourself by gathering information: employee files, notes you've kept, examples of work products, emails, and more. I like to have clients do a quick sketch of the top two or three aspects of the person's work that really shine, and at least one thing the person could do better or more of. All of this helps with the writing.

Hopefully you're writing and not just assigning a score. A score or rating without substance to support it is meaningless.

But the real preparation starts at the beginning of the performance period; often a fiscal or calendar year cycle. Expectations and goals are set. Project plans are made. Priorities are discussed. We get organized for the year. No rocket science here.

But sometimes this is where performance management stops until the formal review. Sure, managers and staff meet and talk all the time. If something goes wrong, they're likely talking about that. But there's more to managing performance than chatting about work or pointing out a mistake. Often managers say things like, "I'm putting that in the review" or "I addressed that problem in last year's eval." Okay, so it's documented, but so what? Do your people know where they stand along the way, from the positive to the not so positive? Do they feel appreciated? Are there consequences for ongoing poor performance?

Good performance management means that people are set up for success at the top of the cycle, then coached and mentored throughout the year. They receive positive feedback when they've produced well and negative feedback when problems arise. Problem solving happens and agreements are made. Periodically we step back from the day to day and review the goals, looking at progress, clarifying desired results, adjusting as needed. A feedback log is maintained so the manager doesn't have to remember everything. By the time the annual formal review comes around, it's mostly a summary of the territory we've covered all year. 

People rarely say they are looking forward to their review. Managers don't like writing them and employees worry about them. It doesn't have to be this way. Managers don't have to spend hours and hours agonizing over a formal written review. Do the performance management work throughout the year and the end game is easier. 


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