For much of the world, January represents the time when last year’s performance evaluations are completed and this year’s performance plans are drafted and communicated. I’m sure there was a certain percentage of the readership that shuddered at that sentence but if you are a true manager at heart, this is a wonderful time of the year! If you are a data specialist that functions as a manager under the category of ‘other duties as assigned’, bear with me, there’s stuff here for you too! If you are an employee with no knowledge if your coming evaluation will be good or bad, you definitely want to pay attention.
For the true manager there is no time that should be more important and exciting than the time you get to talk with your staff about what they did over the last year and what you expect them to do for the coming year. One of the worst things you can do is toss a completed form in their general direction as you walk by and ask them to sign it and have it back on your desk before you return. Even worse is forgetting to do evaluations altogether, or asking staff to do their own because you simply don’t have the time. Many managers fear what their employees will say when they see their evaluations. If any evaluation comes as a surprise to an employee, you haven’t done a very good job as their manager.
If you consider your employees to be underachieving, perhaps they are not the problem. Perhaps they don’t have a sufficient understanding of what they are supposed to do to properly perform their job. Perhaps their job duties haven’t been sufficiently documented and communicated. Perhaps you are expecting them to read your mind to know what you expect for them to meet, or even exceed, your expectations.
For those of you whose first love will always be data - don’t think of this as a series of potentially grueling meetings with your staff to get though as quickly as possible. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to crunch all of the data on each employee’s performance over the past year and compare it to their expected performance. How else can you tell them how they did? How else can you say if they deserve a promotion or a demotion? How else can you fairly evaluate them? What’s that you say... You don’t have either the data or the expectations? In that case, don’t let another year go by without properly planning now for next year.
Job duties should be clearly defined, specific to the job title/classification, measureable, achievable, agreeable and clearly explained at the beginning of the evaluation period. In addition, any changes in job function during the evaluation period should be fully documented with appropriate additional or new job duties added and old duties lined through or deleted.
Performance should be periodically reviewed during the overall evaluation period so you can provide your version of a status report to your employees on how they are doing. Ask them for input on how they think they did and the accomplishments they feel are worthy of being recorded as part of the documentation that will be used to support the final year end rating/ranking.
If your team members have repeatable tasks as their primary functions, start recording their individual results on a regular basis (weekly/monthly/quarterly) so you can see how they do against the overall team average. Of course you have to take into account such things as the number of hours/days/weeks the tasks are performed for some staff versus others to be sure to be comparing ‘apples to apples’.
For those with more cerebral duties, it may be harder to put a quantitative number on everything they do. Perhaps shifting to a qualitative analysis in those cases will help. How well do they perform the work they do? If their function is to draft documents, how many errors are there, how many times do they hit their deadlines or how often do they misrepresent their understanding of the topic?
Another thing to watch out for is the halo effect – where a personal favorite always scores on the far end of the scale, regardless of whether their performance actually warrants such a score or not. In such cases there is usually an individual on the other end of the spectrum being marked down because of a personal bias against them.
Organizational policy and best practice should help you assure that you are at least meeting the minimum requirements in terms of evaluating your team but why settle for the minimum? If you are at all unsure of what is required of you as a supervisor, contact your HR department and ask them for a refresher.
Regardless of why you are in the role, remember that you have an obligation, so do the best you can for your people and they will in turn do their best for you!