Performance or staff evaluations are an integral part of creating a well-working team within your company.
In Part 1 of this blog post, I highlighted the role of the leader in an evaluation, the importance of mindset, and when to schedule your reviews. This week I am covering the actual format I recommend for staff evaluations, as well as the follow-ups. Let’s dive in:
Why is an Evaluation So Important?
Do you even need to perform an evaluation? What’s the big deal, anyway? If my previous post didn’t convince you of the importance of this task, consider this: an evaluation can be used to assess a new employee during a probationary period, to motivate your team, and express new company and individual goals, to ensure everyone has the valuable skills necessary to excel at their positions, to offer new opportunities to the right internal candidates, and so much more. That’s why it is so important to make sure you take the time to really give insightful and constructive feedback to your employees, and get their insights, as well.
How do you Write an Employee Evaluation?
1. Make it specific to each employee. If your staff member has already filled out their own self-evaluation, then make sure to tailor their individual assessment to what they did and did not address in that paperwork. Sometimes the subjects and challenges I want my employees to mention themselves, go completely over their heads, so this is where you can make sure to draw attention to the important parts you need discussed in person.
2. Review their individual job description. If you already have employee or independent contractor agreements, then this should be relatively straightforward. Before the actual meeting, I make sure to carefully read the job description for which each employee was hired. Has the position changed? Are there different responsibilities? Has another department taken over a task? I want to make sure I have the proper context for the meeting and I’m not asking too much or too little of a staff member. Are they doing what is required? Are they going above and beyond consistently? Make notes of everything they do well and everything they could use improvement on, especially if these areas are directly stated in their job descriptions. These notes will help guide your meeting.
3. The Shit Sandwich. The Shit Sandwich is a popular term for hiding the worst of the meeting in the middle. Always start and end on the positive.
4. Note improvements. If you have worked with this employee for more than one evaluation, make sure to look at the previous evaluation to see what, if anything, has changed. Did they make improvements where you noted at the last evaluation? Are they having the same issues? It’s important to really consider the year (or the 6-month period, or whatever timeframe you decide) in its entirety. A lot can happen over months of work, so you want to look at everything, not just the last several weeks. When you highlight areas of improvement, be as specific as possible. Where exactly have you noticed improvement? By being specific and giving examples, you are more likely to see that kind of improvement continue.
5. Evaluate strengths and weaknesses. There is no such thing as the perfect employee. When compiling my perceived list of strengths and weaknesses, I like to use the SWOT method. SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) will help you assess each employee’s most valuable skills and most volatile vulnerabilities. Depending on the employee, it may be easy or hard to come up with answers in each column, but you should try to keep it as accurate as possible, for your records, and for the benefit of the employee.
If in analyzing a fitness instructor’s class schedule, you see they have zero attendance at 9:30 am, but excellent attendance records at 10 am, you can then suggest they address their schedule. If a front desk assistant consistently avoids taking or returning calls that directly affect the company’s client retention, then that also needs to be addressed with specific examples and support. Your arguments, positive or negative, will carry more weight with specific examples.
6. Give constructive feedback. As I said, no employee is perfect. Use this time to address areas where they may be lacking (for whatever reason). If they don’t understand your booking system, set up a time for additional training. If they consistently have poor ratings in customer service, arrange for them to shadow an exemplary employee. Providing constructive criticism means you are offering possible solutions, rather than just telling them what they did wrong.
7. Design actionable goals. No matter how great your suggestions are, they mean nothing without an action plan after the meeting. Consider working through SMART goals during the meeting. It can be hard for anyone to design an action plan on the fly, so your guidance can often make the difference between a goal said in passing and a goal that comes to fruition. Consider your employee’s job description, past performance, self-evaluation, and any stated goals to recommend actionable goals that will help them excel individually, and as a team member.
Why is this important? A well-planned goal can mean the difference between a promotion, a new position within the company, or an ample sales commission. There are lots of reasons (besides company profits) to empower your team to achieve more!
8. Provide ample time for employee input. I always make sure to leave plenty of time in the meeting to really talk with my team member. Was there anything specific you wanted to address from their self-evaluation that wasn’t mentioned in the meeting? Are there any sensitive topics that need attention? Does your employee have suggestions for you, or maybe even equipment or program requests that will help your company run more effectively? This is also the perfect time to discuss any questions or concerns (or disputes) they had with your evaluation. You want to make sure your team feels heard. You might not take their advice (or their word) on everything they mention, but their ideas and input are no less valuable. Your team can supply you with a lot more than gossip!
9. Provide further recommendations. If anything new comes to mind, you can always add it to the end of the meeting. Did you think of a particular book that might interest them? Or a company seminar that could help them market? Now is the time to mention it. Just make sure you always end on a positive note, if possible.
10. Follow up. Just because the meeting is over, doesn’t mean your work is. Be sure to follow up with your employee (yes, every single one) after a performance evaluation. A lot of information comes out in these types of meetings so you want to give your team another open invitation to have a discussion with you after all of that intel has settled.
I usually start my email by thanking them for taking the time to meet with me and with a quick recap of the meeting, including a summary of what we discussed as an attachment. You don’t have to include all your notes, in fact, I would suggest that you don’t, but make their actionable goals very clear in this email. Literally, spell it out. If you want to see a 15% increase in sales through cross-promoting by the end of Q2, make sure you list that as one of their actionable goals within your follow-up. If they didn’t get the message that this was important to you in the meeting, they will certainly have a clearer picture with a follow-up email.
Pro Tip: Not every evaluation ends with an automatic pay raise. Sometimes it is just an evaluation. Don’t feel pressured to give pay increases if the employee truly has not earned it. This is especially important as a small business owner. You honestly might not have the money to give everyone a raise and pay the bills, and that’s ok. Believe it or not, employee satisfaction isn’t based solely on financials. If you are listening to your team and working to achieve goals together, you might be surprised how far small incentives go (monetary or other).
*This is not permission to be a jerk-face; just permission to go easy on yourself.