The Secret to Better Employee Evaluations

Performance evaluations tend to be overinflated for many reasons. Managers do not want to confront employees with shortcomings, feeling that lower marks will demotivate them. Or the managers simply don’t take much time and rush through these meetings.

If you fall into one of these categories, you could be missing an opportunity to bring more success to your business. Here are some strategies for employee evaluations that really work.

Evaluate Areas of Opportunity

An employee evaluation that focuses on “areas of opportunity” is more likely to motivate and engage growth-minded staff.
A simple way to start is to review the tasks listed on an employee’s job description. If workers are required to answer phones, how are they performing? Do you prefer that employees get up and find recipients instead of putting callers into voice mail? Evaluations are the perfect time to discuss new processes and set goals that are specific and measurable. This leaves less room for interpretation, which will decrease manager and employee frustration.

For example, avoid a poor goal that simply states “improve on connecting calls.” The better alternative would ask workers to reduce the number of calls directed to voice mail by 10 percent, and include a new process to proactively send follow-up emails to the intended recipients.

Let Employees Know Where They Stand

A five-point performance rating system is ideal. Some employers prefer only three points, but I recommend five. Any scale over five can blur performance lines and make it difficult to keep scoring consistent across a range of managers and employees. Here’s how my company defines the five points:

Exceeds expectations // Performance must be above and beyond the call of duty. This score should only identify core strengths and should be given no more than twice per evaluation.

Meets expectations // Performance is as you expect. Ideally, an employee would have 4s across the board.

Opportunity // Performing at a proficient level. However, there are some areas to improve upon to fully meet company expectations.

Improvement needed // The worker is not meeting the expectations of the role, and additional training may be required. Performance must improve by next evaluation.

Immediate improvement required // The employee is detrimental to the company’s business. An improvement plan must be put in place and reviewed again in 30 days.

Be cautious not to send mixed signals. If you give a poor performer a four or five, any upcoming termination could be questioned as inconsistent.

Scores of three or lower should be accompanied with comments, which give examples and set up solutions, to let each employee know you are committed to his or her improvement. Workers should leave feeling encouraged and motivated by having a clear path to success. No one likes to fail, and no failure should come as a surprise.

Ask Employees to Set Goals

Encourage your employees to think about personal goals to bring into their evaluation. You can streamline this objective by focusing only on improving current competencies or adding new feasible projects they are eager to tackle.

Remember to add the agreed-upon goals to the employee’s evaluation document, and follow up on the next review so their ideas are heard and not forgotten. This interactive process helps spark career development and drive your business plans toward success.