Manager tip sheet – performance evaluations
When documenting performance, note both the “what” and the “how.” Performance goals define what an employee is tasked with achieving throughout the performance cycle; in other words, expectations for results. Performance competencies define how an employee completes these tasks; in other words, the behaviors they use as they work to deliver results. Goals and competencies are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they are interdependent parts of effective performance. For example:
- An employee who achieves outstanding results but who leaves bruised relationships in his or her wake is not likely to be able to maintain these results over time, especially if they require the help and support of others.
- An employee who is outstanding at maintaining excellent interpersonal relationships but does not deliver results undermines the performance of the team, function, and possibly the organization.
It’s only by documenting both the what and the how that anyone can accurately assess an employee’s performance.
- Ask employees to self-evaluate – Feedback from employees on their own performance provides their perspective and a starting point for the performance discussion.
- Seek feedback from key co-workers – This provides a full picture of interactions.
- Consider the degree of difficulty in assignments – Is this the same work as in the past or something newly acquired? Has their work expanded in scope or amount of responsibility?
- Judge performance, not potential – Focus on actual contributions and results achieved. This is a review of accomplishments, not potential.
- Judge achievement, not progress – Be diligent about reviewing successful attainment of positive results and contributions during a fixed period of time rather than crediting effort, activity, or progress.
- Review performance for the entire cycle – The evaluation must reflect an employee’s performance over the whole period of time covered by the review. One month of outstanding performance does not offset eleven months of mediocre performance, even if it occurred in the month immediately preceding the review.
- Review each competency independently – Do not let reviews of one competency influence the review of another. Employees often do better in some areas than others. Therefore, review each aspect of performance independently of others.
- Be a courageous, conscientious reviewer – This may be the toughest guideline of all. Managers who succeed here are scrupulous about giving a favorable evaluation of performance only when the employee has really earned it. They know that the easy, comfortable route is to give people a “break” or the benefit of the doubt – no conflict, no difficult review discussion.
Avoid rating pitfalls
- Leniency – The tendency to use a less stringent set of standards to rate an employee, resulting in an inflated rating.
- Halo effect – The tendency to give an employee an overall rating, either positive or negative, based on the evaluation of a single performance objective or competency, which results in an inaccurate evaluation of overall performance.
- Central tendency – The tendency to avoid rating employees at the high and low extremes and to cluster all ratings at the center of a rating scale.
- Impressions – The tendency to rate an employee on the basis of impressions and gut feelings rather than on concrete, observable examples of performance, behaviors and skills gathered over a period of time.
- Recency effect – The tendency to rate an individual on his/her most recent performance or contributions rather than on performance during an entire review period.
An important part of the performance review process is the meeting between the manager and the employee to discuss the review. During the meeting, the manager should be prepared to engage the employee regarding the following:
- Review the performance competencies and goals one-by-one
- Discuss themes and the overall performance rating
- Address career development and opportunities
- Work together to create performance goals and at least one development goal for the coming year
- Offer to answer any questions about what is expected of the employee during the performance discussion