Each month, “The Balance Sheet” provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that’s important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.
Q. Can you provide some tips that will help me be more positive and effective in evaluating my employees’ performance this year? What are some trouble spots that supervisors must be careful to avoid?
A. The most overlooked benefit of a performance appraisal is its potential to bring employees and their supervisor closer together as partners in maximizing the employees’ productivity. So, remember to view performance appraisals as a way to help employees improve, not as something that is punitive in nature. Performance evaluation meetings are a two-way street. Employees should never be surprised by your areas of concern. Ambushing them with previously unknown complaints about their performance creates distrust. Always end meetings where you are discussing performance by providing exact instructions on how your employees can improve, and be sure they understand how to earn better ratings in areas that you’ve marked for improvement. Focus on successes as well as shortcomings. Be sure to praise and thank individuals for tasks that they have performed well at various times during the year. Be specific! For example, when you praise an employee, say, for example, “You did an excellent job arranging that sales conference. I feel as if I can always count on you to take care of details like boosting registration.”
Q. I am not the only supervisor who dreads performance reviews, but is there a way I can make better use of them during the year rather than simply churning them out annually and saying goodbye to the employee until the next year?
A. Performance reviews and performance management systems are powerful productivity processes that can help drive an organization’s achievements through the roof. But when not used to their full potential, performance reviews can instead become a burden to both supervisor and employee. At the very least, use employee reviews as springboards for discussions with your employees about their goals and aspirations. Discover the degree of inspiration your employees possess to do their best work, and learn how to increase it. Chances are that you will discover something you did not know about your employees’ needs that, if met, would better serve the organization’s mission and goals. Also, be sure to let your employees hear from you first-hand the importance of what they are doing and how it fits with the organization’s mission. All employees look and hope for pay increases, but hearing that they are valued fulfills a level of need that the paycheck won’t achieve.
Q. When I meet with employees to go over their performance evaluation, what can I say to help those who receive unsatisfactory ratings to feel less hopeless and fearful about their job security without undermining their sense of urgency to improvement performance?
A. A straightforward approach with your employees is usually your best bet. Rather than saying something for the purpose of making your employees feel better, reframe how the issues raised in the evaluation amount to a “road map” that points to exactly what needs to happen in order to arrive at the goal. With this approach, motivation to “get going” will increase, and employees will be less affected by fear and hopelessness that can rob motivation. Ask employees if they understand the concerns identified in the review. Take the approach that you and your employee are on the same team working toward the same goal. This eliminates the “me vs. you” mentality so frequently found in supervision relationships. You’ll inspire your employees and greatly aid your employer.