Employee performance evaluations are one of the most crucial factors contributing to business success. However, it’s an often stressful situation for those in charge, who have to monitor and keep track of progress, and give accurate feedback without having a negative impact on employee morale. The truth is, both managers and employees often dread performance evaluations. Managers are reluctant to give critical feedback and find the preparation time-consuming, while employees might feel like they are back at school being graded.
But, this is not the way it should be. Properly handled performance evaluations are important for managing the performance of employees, as well as increasing their job satisfaction and commitment to the business. Companies should implement frequent performance evaluations to ensure that company morale is high and that employees are successfully doing their jobs; while also ensuring that employees are given space to grow and improve which will benefit themselves and the company.
Although the methods and approaches used for performance evaluations differ from organization to organization, there are some universal principles when it comes to talking to employees about their performance. Here are some of the top tips for those conducting performance evaluations.
The fairness factor
Fairness is at the heart of improving an employees work experience. When an employee believes that the outcome of their evaluation is connected to how well they performed, they are more likely to consider the evaluation to be fair. Research has suggested that one of the best ways to demonstrate fairness in an evaluation is by comparing an employee’s current performance to past performance; giving feedback on how much the employee has, or hasn’t, made progress over time. This is known as temporal comparison evaluations.
When employees are compared to colleagues (social comparison evaluations), their perception of fairness decreases. They believe that managers fail to account for specific details on their performance and thus deem the evaluation as less accurate. On the contrary; when they are compared only to themselves, employees feel that the evaluation is more individualized since the manager incorporates specific information about them. This makes them feel like they have been treated in a more respectful way.
Give constructive feedback throughout the year
It’s important that performance evaluations are periodic and structured. Have you heard of the saying; what is not asked, never gets done? Well, this couldn’t be truer when it comes to performance evaluations. If managers don’t give feedback, employees get the impression that they don’t care about the work.
Goals need to be set, and they need to be tracked. Tracking goals at all levels ensure that the businesses goals are achieved. This shows the employee that the organization has interest and is committed to achieving their goals. During the evaluation, the feedback should be objective and factual, and there should be dedicated time assigned for the discussion.
Share the performance review process
It’s important that the employee understands how the organization will assess their performance. This will give them insight into what’s expected of them and won’t leave them surprised at the end of the review. Some organizations use critical incident reports - document positive and negative occurrences over the performance review time - and ask the employee to do the same thing. Then at the time of review, you can take a comprehensive look at performance together with the employee and compare the incidents that they have documented.
If employees are well prepared for the evaluation, they are more likely to present data of value to the table. You should never go into a review without preparing for the discussion with the employee. If you aren’t prepared the performance evaluation will fail - you are likely to miss key opportunities for feedback and improvement, and this will leave the employee feeling demotivated about their success.
Conversation is key
Employees need to feel like they can have open and honest conversations with their managers. If you genuinely want to help your employees to improve, and the two of you have a positive relationship, the conversation will be a lot easier and more effective. It can’t just be you doing all the talking in the evaluation - then it becomes a lecture. Employees need to feel like their managers care and have an interest in their success. Ultimately, you want employees who are excited about their potential to grow, develop, and contribute to the organization.
Don’t only give negative feedback
There is always room for improvement, but if you only focus on the negative, your employees will be left feeling unappreciated. In fact, generally, you should spend more time discussing the positive aspects of performance. This will leave employees feeling motivated and appreciated. Having said that, don’t neglect to discuss the areas that need improvement. This is especially true for underperforming employees. The point is, you need to find a balance. When addressing negative feedback, also be sure to mention what the employee does well.
Performance evaluations are the key component to measuring an employee's performance in each and every organization and essentially reflect on the success of the organization. If done correctly, evaluations can boost employee engagement and productivity, which will work in favor of the organization.