The performance management evaluation offers managers and employees a chance to work together to accomplish high-level goals. Done correctly, the process rejuvenates employee engagement and improves overall company profitability and productivity. Include these five elements in your evaluations, however, and your employees will find their reviews about as helpful as a bicycle in an ocean.
1. Vague statements. The appraisal process is all about exploring specifics. Your employee wants to know exactly what he is doing right, what improvements he should make, and when and how to make those improvements. Vague phrases like “you’re doing a great job” or “you need to work harder” don’t offer the specific feedback an employee needs to propel him toward excellence. Fix: Tie all of your feedback to specific behaviors, actions, goals, and/or performance metrics. An example: “Your work on the X campaign was excellent. We increased engagement by 24%.”
2. A Twitter-esque attention span. As humans, we often focus most on the things that happened most recently. While this might be fine for everyday conversation, it dramatically reduces the effectiveness of a performance review. It’s like trying to judge the quality of a pizza by taking a single, small bite out of the crust.Fix: Whether your performance appraisals are every 12 months, every six months, or every three, make sure you pay as much attention to your employees’ successes and failures at the beginning of the time period as you do those at the end.
3. Lack of planning. The idea of the “on the fly” evaluation is tempting. It’s low-key, informal, and can be squeezed into moments when an employee and supervisor have to be together but can’t do anything truly productive (e.g., commuting on a business trip or before another meeting). Unfortunately, the allure is false. Instead of making employees feel comfortable, it makes them feel as though you don’t have time for them. Worse, the “on the fly” delivery often means you don’t have the time or the resources to remember the specifics of anyone’s job performance, which means vague statements tied to recent events are about all you’ll be able to give. Fix: Informal doesn’t have to mean unplanned. Jot down little notes throughout the year every time an employee does something particularly noticeable, good or bad. Keep them in a file, and then read through your notes before each evaluation.
Read our last blog post about Making Performance Management Evaluations a Team Process.
4. Misperceptions or outright bias. Almost everyone can take constructive criticism, if they feel it is truthful. If, however, an employee feels your feedback is inaccurate, dishonest, or coming from a place of bias, he will get defensive, which ruins the chances of improvement. Fix: Make sure you have a solid basis for every negative comment, and use specific language when providing negative feedback. Example: “You need to work on your punctuality. Last month, you were 15 minutes late to the X meeting, and it cost us the account.”
5. Lack of recognition. An evaluation that’s focused solely on the negative will kill an employee’s motivation. So will ignoring any major achievements or ways in which an employee continually and consistently goes above and beyond the scope of his job. Fix: Be appreciative. If an employee is doing the work of three people, assure him it hasn’t gone unnoticed. If someone’s extra effort landed a big client, saved the company significant money, or otherwise contributed to your success, mention it.
Learn more about keeping your talent engaged:
Executive Brief: True Colors: A Career Development Approach to Career Development
Collateral: TalentGuard Performance Management Datasheet