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Employee Evaluations…A Better Way

Have you recently participated in an employee evaluation? You know what I am referring to, those questionnaires where you rate an employee on a scale of 1 to 5, or 1 to 10, in various areas of performance such as attitude, leadership, and communication.

What do you feel about the process – as a manager, as a business owner, or as an employee? If you are honest, you likely dislike it, and probably have utter contempt and disdain for the whole thing. My question: Is there a better way?

People often continue to do things that don’t work and seldom stop to ask why they are doing it. So why do you do evaluations, and what outcome do you want? If the reason for employee evaluations is to motivate the employee to do better and improve performance, is that working? If the point is to correct wrong behavior, does your current practice remedy those issues? If the reason for evaluations is to decide on promotions and pay increases, how effective is your current process? If you don’t like what you have, you can change it!

My advice most often is to trash the current dysfunctional employee evaluation process and replace it with something much better. There are great systems and processes designed to encourage team improvement, discipline unruly employees, and provide feedback to help determine promotions and pay increases. I suggest that these three objectives should each have their own distinct process separate from the other two.

1. DISCIPLINE PROCESS: If a team member needs disciplined for a bad attitude or non-compliance with company policy, there should be a formal structured approach designed to address the issue head on and bring about a quick resolution. This process is to address issues such as absenteeism, tardiness, violation of company policy, and repeated failure to express company core values. This communication should occur at a time separate from your regular coaching for improvement and be a clear, direct, and rigorous communication. This is not as much a discussion, but more directive. It is still essential for the manager to be respectful, kind, and listen well and to fully understand the team member’s perspective and thinking. Such respect and patience is always appropriate so that the response is fair and targeted. The goal of the discipline process is the immediate resolution of the problem or the implementation of a specific process that leads to immediate compliance or dismissal.

2. PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT: The manager meets with the team member frequently in the role of a coach and functions as a facilitator.  He or she asks great questions and listens for the purpose of helping the team member discover their own weaknesses and areas needing improvement, and then works with the team member to create a plan to improve their performance and achieve results. The team member offers their ideas and also solicits help from their manager for suggestions, training, direction, and perspective. It is a cooperative conversation that culminates in the creation of a strategy, specific measurable goals, and an action plan for improvement.  The team member owns the plan, and the manager’s main role is to understand the team member by asking great questions and listening and facilitating a process that leads to creating the action plan for improvement.  The manager does provide accountability, but the team member is truly accountable to the co-created agreement. The manager’s ongoing role is to acknowledge effort, improvement and good performance and provide feedback as a mentor and coach, not critic.

3. PROMOTION AND COMPENSATION: I typically recommend that promotion and compensation not be exclusively tied to the performance of the team member. The manager must help the team member to understand that overall profitability and the current needs of the company also influence promotions and raises.  This issue is best addressed separate from performance coaching and disciplinary action. Opportunity for advancement, career path and pay raises should be discussed at regular intervals, at least annually at a preset regular scheduled time.  Without clear discussion and communication, people typically come to faulty assumptions and conclusions.

It is important to have understanding and clarity on what you are trying to accomplish when meeting with your team members. If the current employee communication practice is not getting the desired results, it’s time to rethink your approach and try something different.

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