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Employee Evaluations - Is There a Better Way?

Have you recently participated in an employee evaluation process? You know what I am referring to, those questionnaires where you rate an employee on a scale of 1 to 5, or 1 to 10, in various areas of performance such as attitude, leadership, and communication.

How do you feel about the process, as a manager, as a business owner, and as an employee? If you are honest, you don’t look forward to it, and probably have an utter contempt and disdain. My question: Is there a better way?

People continue to do things that they don’t like and that don’t work and seldom stop to ask why they are doing it and what outcome they want. So why do you do evaluations, and what outcome do you want? If the reason for employee evaluations is to help the employee improve performance, how is that working? If the purpose is to correct wrong behavior, does your current practice remedy behavior problems? If the reason for evaluations is to provide a basis for promotions and pay increases, does your current process help? If you don’t like what you have, change it!

My advice is typically to trash your dysfunctional employee evaluation process and create a better system and process designed to encourage team improvement, discipline unruly employees, and provide feedback to help determine promotions and pay increases. I suggest that these three objectives should be distinct process not directly associated with the other two.

1. DISCIPLINE: First, if a team member needs discipline for a bad attitude or non-compliance with company policy, there should be a formal structured approach designed to address the issue head on and bring about a quick resolution. This communication is designed to deal with issues such as absenteeism, tardiness, violation of company policy, and repeated failure to express company core values. The conversation should occur at a time separate from your regular coaching for improvement and be clear, direct, corrective and rigorous. This is not as much a discussion, but a direct reprimand. It is still essential for the manager to be respectful, kind, and listen to understand the team member’s perspective and thinking. The goal of this process is the immediate resolution of the problem or the implementation of a progressive discipline process that leads to compliance or dismissal.

2. PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT: The manager needs to meet regularly with the team member in the role of a coach. In this role, the manager functions as a facilitator and asks great questions and listens. The purpose of the questions is to help the team member discover their own weaknesses and areas that need improved, and work with the manager to create a plan to improve their performance and results. The team member offers their ideas and can also solicit help from their manager for suggestions, training, direction, and perspective. It is a cooperative conversation that culminates in the creation of strategy and specific, measurable goals and action plans for performance improvement, The manager’s role is to facilitate discovery and understanding by asking questions, listening, and offering help to create an action plan for improvement. The manager provides assistance, but the team member is accountable to the plan. The manager’s focus is to provide resources and support. acknowledge improved performance and help the team member discover and correct mistakes and weaknesses.

3. PROMOTION AND COMPENSATION: I typically recommend that promotion and compensation be not exclusively tied to performance evaluation. The manager must help the team member to understand that there are many dynamics that influence compensation, increase like the overall profitability and current needs of the company. Issues of compensation and promotion are best addressed separately from performance coaching and disciplinary action. Opportunities for advancement, career path and raises should be discussed at regular intervals, at least annually at a preset scheduled time.

It is important to have clarity on what you are trying to accomplish when meeting with a team member. If the current system of employee communication is not getting the desired results, it’s time to rethink your approach and try something different.

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