How to Perform Staff Evaluations (Part 1)

How to Perform Staff Evaluations (Part 1)

I have always loved both giving and receiving staff evaluations, but I know there is a considerable amount of stigma associated with this process to Perform Staff Evaluations. How honest should you be? How do you get your desired results without squashing or belittling your employee? How do you make this entire process a positive interaction, rather than a dreaded occurrence?

These are all very valid questions and concerns that can be completely avoided if you approach performance evaluations with the goal of educating both you and your staff members.

The general purpose of an evaluation is to remind workers of their job requirements and provide employers with valuable information to use when making decisions like pay raises, promotions, and yes, even layoffs. However, a well-planned and executed performance evaluation can expose much more–from company culture to morale, inefficiencies, and just about any other facet of day-to-day operations. That’s why it’s so important not only to perform them regularly but also to get the most out of these one-on-one meetings.

It starts with you.

Yes, a performance evaluation starts with the leader, not the staff member! So often the biggest concerns I have with my team stem from my not setting up expectations properly or providing the right educational opportunities. That’s a failing on my part, not my staff’s.

If your employee (or contractor) is constantly messing up on your computer system, ask yourself why. Where is the disconnect? Was he/she trained? How were they trained? Was there a follow-up discussion? Have you checked in with them regularly to address problems as they arose? Did you provide an open environment for them to approach you with concerns or seek further training?

If your employee isn’t performing their job properly, are you sure you properly defined it? Did you outline your expectations and the exact job description and requirements? Is that written down in a contract or agreement?

I’m not saying the answer to those questions will always point to your leadership capabilities, but it’s a good place to start.

Managing Mindset.

If your staff goes into an evaluation with the assumption they are going to get in trouble, then why wouldn’t they dread them? Even your best employees would be terrified of such an idea. With that in mind, it’s important that you manage the entire mindset of these meetings. You are not there to yell at your team, but rather to learn from them and help them perform their jobs better. That’s a win-win.

But shifting a mindset is easier said than done, and depending on each employee’s work history (inside and outside of your company), this can be a challenging endeavor.

How I like to approach this is with the Self-Evaluation. Before I hold a performance evaluation, I send each staff member a self-evaluation that helps them prepare for the meeting, as well as accentuate the positives they have seen in themselves.

My Self-Evaluations ask questions like:

  • What do you enjoy most about your position? What do you enjoy least? This allows me the opportunity to get to know my team better and potentially give them more work that they love, rather than assigning them tasks I know they hate.
  • What trainings (business-related or otherwise) have you sought this year? I want my team to feel recognized for the efforts they make. And maybe getting their Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do isn’t directly related to work, but it could have given them more confidence, or given you an opportunity to seek their advice when offering a company-wide self-defense seminar. Your staff wants to know that you acknowledge their hard work and see their value beyond their day-to-day tasks. Continuing education is always something to praise.
  • Are you happy with your compensation? If not, what do you want to be making? Many of my clients balk at adding this question to an evaluation, but knowledge is power. If I know my employee is unhappy with their compensation, it doesn’t mean I’m going to give them a raise, but it might mean I can steer them to another position within the company that can offer them higher compensation, or I can work with them on their sales processes so their commission checks will become higher. Moreover, if they are unhappy, I want to know before it becomes commonplace water-cooler conversation.
  • Is there anything I could provide that would help you do your job better/more efficiently? As the leader, I am not perfect! This question gives them the opportunity to call me out and get help. This is also the question that is most often left blank, probably for fear of upsetting the boss, but it still provides an avenue to open the conversation to improve the company.

I require all evaluations to be submitted to me before the actual meetings so I have time to go over what they say and plan my meeting to address specific issues. Again, I want to approach my meeting as an opportunity for me to learn and teach. My team sees aspects of my company—from customer service to bookkeeping to sales—that I might not directly see (at least not on a daily basis), so they are my eyes and ears! I want them to feel they can discuss concerns openly, even outside of an evaluation.

When to hold an evaluation.

There is no rule on when or how frequently you should have staff evaluations, but as a general rule, you shouldn’t go more than a year without one. I like to hold one every 6-12 months, and after the first 90 days for new hires. This is on top of my (minimal) once-a-quarter staff meetings, which are completely different. Traditionally, I have held these sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you could just as easily have them in April, or July, or whenever. Again, there are no set rules.

Now that you have prepared your staff and yourself for the meeting, it’s time to plan and execute it! In Part 2 of this post, we will discuss how to write your employee evaluation and structure your actual meeting. Stay tuned for next week’s post!

In the meantime, if you have questions, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments below.

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