Evaluating the performance of an employee is a key part of organizational success, and the proper policy and process will serve organizations well as they head into 2020 and beyond.
In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, “Appraisals are where you get together with your team leader and agree what an outstanding member of the team you are, how much your contribution has been valued, what massive potential you have and, in recognition of all this, would you mind having your salary halved.”
Quite the witty take, but it does ring true – for employees, this is the typical thought when there is talk about performance evaluation. There is always the cynical belief that no matter what one does as an employee, the evaluation process will not be fair and will grant far less a hike in pay – if at all – than deserved.
Employees seem like a complaining lot!
Employers too do not exactly relish the performance evaluation process. Aside from the obvious disdain on the part of the recipients (read employees), there is the belief that far from boosting confidence and taking the company to the next level, the evaluation process actually drags some people down.
Is there nothing good about evaluations?
Au contraire – there are a number of great things about the process of performance evaluation.
- Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of an employee: An assessment of what an employee is good at v/s what could be done better is key to assigning work as per qualifications and capabilities. This also shows what talent is available in which team or department.
- Training and development: The evaluation makes it easier to plan the training needs of an employee so that he or she is brought up to the required skill and performance level. This will aid both the employee and the employer.
- Documentation: This allows the evaluation process to become part of an employee file, a valuable addition to the career record. It allows perusal of the record and tracking how the performance has changed over time, what the positives or setbacks were, and other such points. This is particularly helpful in the case of promotions and hikes, or when you let an employee go.
- Feedback: Every employee wants it, and every employer wants to give it! The employer can clarify the expectations of the organization from the employee. The employee, in turn, can explain what he or she wishes to achieve, and also gets to know what goals were achieved and what needs to be developed.
So everything is great!
Not quite. There are a few shortcomings that are worth being mindful of:
- One-sided feedback: rare is the employer who implements or conducts a feedback system where the feedback is shared with the employee so that the latter has a chance to explain before the evaluation is finalized.
- Bias: an employer could knowingly or unknowingly favor an employee similar in character and traits, which means glossing over performance that might actually be very good or very poor, as the case may be. A favored employee thus gets no guidance on what to better, while an unfavored employee could feel ignored.
- Complacency: performance evaluations spaced out too far apart could lead to employees staying complacent between evaluations. This is particularly true when raises are strictly tied to the performance review.
- Time-consuming: the process could be tiresome, given that the employee and employer – and sometimes other managers and colleagues – need to fill in an appraisal form. These are compiled, reviewed, evaluated, and discussed. Then there is the matter of deciding when and where to discuss the same. All this takes up time.
There must be a way to make it better…
There sure is. No one-size-fits-all formula can magically solve the conundrum that is an evaluation. There are, though, steps that you can take:
- Prepare ahead: constant, close monitoring does not substitute the need to prepare in advance of a meeting. Note the things you need to discuss, and anticipate and prepare for any questions or rebuttals.
- Be regular: evaluations need not be just once or twice a year, and feedback should be constant so that employees can immediately fix what needs to be bettered.
- Be transparent: make employees aware of how their roles and work contribute to organizational success and the expectations therein. This helps them to stay motivated and focused.
- Set targets: evaluations must not just look back but look ahead too. Give employees goals that align with those of the organization, so that they have a direction to work towards.
- Offer suggestions: an employer must offer help and inputs to solve employee problems. Often, a lack of proper tools and technical applications blunts performance.
- Follow up: an evaluation does not end at, well, the evaluation! Monitor and follow up at reasonable intervals, to encourage employees to put in their best.
How can an employer set better appraisal goals?
Setting the right goals is key, and creating a successful performance appraisal plan is more than just checking off some generic items. You cannot, for instance, ask an IT employee to complete a candidate hiring process satisfactorily! Let us look at some of the things an employer can do to set sensible performance goals:
- Discuss career goals with employees.
- Balance goals of the employer with those of employees.
- Seek employee inputs when you set goals.
- Have a limited, manageable number of goals.
- Set challenging, specific goals that are realistic.
- Plan goal achievement by breaking down the targets.
- Establish clear checkpoints, and offer guidance when needed.
- Do not micromanage or handhold all the time.
- Offer the requisite rewards and recognition.
- Facilitate the attainment of personal development goals of employees.