Unfortunately, written employee evaluations are often ineffective for many reasons. They are, understandably, designed to capture as much information as possible, but it’s also the design itself and how it’s captured that becomes most detrimental to the process.
The following advice for completing employee evaluations is meant to increase the ROI on employee evaluations, and also hopefully increase the effectiveness of the tool over all.
6 Tips for Writing Employee Evaluations
1) Keep It Short
I’ve worked in several organizations where written employee evaluations tend to go on for several pages. At a point, these evaluations tend to become a bit too nebulous about the details of an employee’s performance. Many employers rely on boxes to check, and often tend to boil feedback down to a quantitative measure in lieu of a qualitative one. Employee evaluations should be short, simple, and should have the bottom line up front. Some parts should be “check the box,” however, strong narratives about the employees’ performance are key to providing useful feedback to the employee. Additionally, narratives are a very effective tool in “building a paper trail” in case an employee become eligible for a promotion, or possibly termination.
2) …But Not Too Short
I’ve also worked at organizations where evaluations are too short. This is also a problem because, again, the quality of information captured does nothing towards adding to an employee’s history. Beyond tracking performance, when supervisors begin working at a new organization they should review past evaluations to see how employees have performed. If the information isn’t there, all the new supervisor will have is a box that says “retain employment.”
3) It’s Not Mail
Supervisors should understand that employee evaluations are not just something to have the employee sign and turn in to human resources. A solid block of time should be taken where the supervisor reviews the appraisal with the employee to discuss each item, and reinforces what is communicated. It may be a bad experience if an employee receives a negative evaluation and doesn’t have a chance to either explain poor performance or accept it and develop a performance improvement plan.
4) 360 Isn’t Necessarily Bad
While some question the reliability of 360 degree performance appraisals, these types of performance appraisals are a good opportunity for all involved to capture what the current operational tempo and setting is. Often times, employees will be caught off guard if a supervisor asks for feedback about that supervisor’s leadership style, current concerns about their expectations and so on. It’s important to remember that an employee who feels free to verbalize their concerns, both good and bad, will tend to both be more loyal to their supervisor, as well as more willing to accept any directive that supervisor provides.
5) Perform Employee Evaluations Often
Another pitfall at many organizations is that they only really conduct evaluations annually. Only conducting a yearly employee evaluation creates a problem for several reasons. The main problem is that most of the employee’s accomplishments (or issues) tend to be forgotten in time and aren’t captured on the evaluation. Additionally, managers may also forget about the proper use of the tool, and evaluations may tend to be awkward and performed ineffectually. By conducting evaluations on a more steady schedule, the quality and amount of feedback is improved, face time with each employee increases, and supervisors will become more efficient at the process. Even if the supervisor casually speaks with the employee on a regular, if not daily basis, the event of an evaluation is still valued by the employee as a marker for their performance.
6) Look Both Ways
The final step in an effective evaluation is taking a look forward. Often enough, evaluations only reflect on the past and fail to look forward. Looking forward should capture not only goals, but also desired personal development, possible side projects, as well as professional development. The evaluation should capture all aspects of the employee’s development because as the employee grows as a person they will also strengthen as a worker. This looking forward process could potentially also include a short narrative written by the employee discussing what they believe their strengths and weaknesses were, as well as what their future growth could be.
Evaluations, although sometimes dismissed as a bureaucratic obstacle, play a very strong role in employee development. Poorly executing an employee evaluation could send the message that the supervisor doesn’t have a vested interest in the performance and growth of the employee. Multi-dimensional feedback is vital to a strong working relationship as well as a healthy work environment.
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