Best Practices for Evaluating Employee Performance

May 12, 2014

If you always dread writing formal employee performance reviews, consider these 8 tips.

Report CardEver since your first report card landed on your desk in grade school, you’ve been used to the concept of performance evaluation. While grades were important then since they had some impact on your future education and career, the stakes are higher now. Employee performance reviews are often tied to bumps in salary.

Whether or not they are, they provide valuable feedback to staff members. Performance reviews can re-focus employees, and sometimes result in renewed enthusiasm for their job responsibilities. They can be useful exercises for you as a manager, too, helping you evaluate your department’s overall workflow and productivity, and making sure that each individual’s skills are being applied appropriately.

You’ve probably experienced the downside of some reviews and gotten a variety of reactions to negative feedback. But if you implement best practices that have served other organizations well, this process should be more palatable and positive. Here are some of them.

Prepare for employee evaluations year-round. Accountants try to instill this mindset in their clients when it comes to tax preparation. The more aware you are of the tax implications of income and expenses as they occur, the less stressful – and potentially expensive – your actual preparation will be.

CalendarYour staff performance reviews should begin as soon as orientation is over. Create an electronic or paper file for every employee and add notes to it throughout the year. Address concerns about work habits and results periodically throughout the year, just as you also call out positive achievements and milestones met. Send brief handwritten notes when employees have exceeded expectations.

Keep it professional. Even if you’ve developed a bit of a personal relationship with staff, as happens in many offices, stay focused and in charge.

Tie individual performance to the company’s values and goals. Help employees see the bigger picture. How does the way they act and work mesh with your corporate culture?

Be honest and firm if you get a negative reaction. It may be tempting to reassure employees if they become upset about your constructive criticism. You don’t have to sit stone-faced when faced with tears or other emotional reactions, but you must make sure that your message doesn’t change as a result.

Get a second opinion. If there are other managers who have regular contact with employees, consider getting their input.

Encourage employees to provide feedback. You might drop them an email a couple of weeks prior to the review and tell them to put together an evaluation of their own work. This will prepare them to respond and ask questions. It will also help you redefine expectations if an individual is overestimating his or her contributions.

Follow The LawFollow the law. If you’re at all unclear about what you can and can’t say, consult an HR professional when you’re preparing the review. As litigious as the workplace has become, you must be cognizant of employee rights.

Always have employees sign the written evaluation when it’s completed. If they won’t sign it or want it amended, refer the review to your HR staff.

Employee evaluations may not be your favorite professional task. But if you prepare them honestly, thoroughly and carefully, your efforts should result in increased productivity, improved communication with staff and a more effective workflow.

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