Performance Evaluation: Are You Friend or Foe?

by Michael Haberman on July 28, 2011 · 0 comments


Ok, I have a confession to make. Regardless of all the bad publicity that performance evaluation has gotten the last couple of years (e.g., Get Rid of the Performance Review! by Samual Culbert, Business, 2010) I am still a friend of performance evaluation. I think as a properly constructed tool and a well delivered process it helps greatly in employee development and goal attainment. Typically the fault that is found with performance evaluation is with the improper use and poor delivery.

I do NOT like checklists with generalized categories delivered once a year by a manager who has had no training in how to be an effective coach. Just as with anything els that is well done, performance evaluation takes time and effort in its construction and delivery. This is where most organizations fall down. They are looking for a “quick” fix to put a piece of paper in a personnel file and to pay lip service to the fact that the pay attention to “employee development.”

According to many attorneys that quick fix is the quick road to trouble. Many of us have had the experience of dealing with a manager who wants to terminate an employee because of their ongoing problems. However, as we investigate the situation we discover that the manager rated the employee satisfactory or better in their last performance evaluation. When asked why we are told it was “to be nice.” Or they are afraid to deliver bad news so they avoid it. But that is not the fault of the idea of performance evaluation, that is the fault of the execution.

I have constructed a tool that I use that relies on goals developed in a mutual discussion of employee and manager and an agreement on the necessary competencies, behaviors and technical skill necessary to do the job. No amorphous terms such as attitude, ability to get along with others, attendance, etc. I focus on productivity and goal achievement. I train client managers in delivering feedback on a consistent and constant basis. They are taught that there are no surprises. When there are no surprises it is easy to be very honest on performance. I get managers to evaluate the past performance but to focus on the future. If course corrections need to be made in either goals or job descriptions they can be made on an ongoing basis.

The advantage of my system is that it keeps the manager up to date on what the employee is working on. Thus if they need to replace the employee due to promotion or otherwise they have a current job description and current performance data from which to start the next discussion with the new employee.

I think with this type of arrangement performance evaluation is not the great evil it has been made out to be. The failure is not in the tool or the process it is in the delivery. Proper training and holding the managers accountable on their performance evaluation will often solve the problem.

I would like your feedback on this, as I know there are alot of performance evaluation “haters” out there. Let me hear from you.

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