Behaviors–Aside from identifying the performance issues, and developing goals, employees are usually expected to exhibit certain behaviors that categorize them as potential leaders. Behaviors can be learned, but they can also be difficult to classify. If an employee aggressively pushes a proposal, is that initiative or is it rude? Obviously, that depends on a number of circumstances. These can include company culture, the audience, the result, the behavior after the fact (if the proposal is rejected does the employee sulk?) Incorporating behaviors into a performance appraisal, then is certainly tricky.Many companies use a rating system that asks if an employee exhibits one behavior frequently, infrequently, or not at all. This is all well and good if the behavior is clearly defined–and the employee knows up front he is expected to exhibit it. At one company, a set of behaviors and there corresponding evidences is available to all employees, and at the onset of the year, the employee and his manager select several of these traits for the employee to work at exhibiting.

In this way, both the evidence of the trait is set up in advance, and the employee is not overwhelmed with a laundry list of behaviors he must have perfected in a limited time. This approach is positive for both managers and employees: managers can direct an employee to work on a behavior that needs improvement, employees can move toward being an even more valuable employee by working to achieve an extra component to his competency.Feedback–Another factor in building the ideal performance evaluation is feedback. Not only feedback from the manager, but feedback from colleagues and customers. An issue for many employees is the idea that they get “jumped” in annual reviews, because a manager has some problem or issue that has been sitting on her desk for months, and never bothered to bring it to the employee’s attention. This can be a strong de-motivator, especially if the employee has no idea this issue has been lying in wait for them. Often employees have wide blind spots when it comes to examining their own performance and behaviors.Regular feedback from all those who interact with that employee on a regular basis can be a tool that may not necessarily require the manager’s involvement.

If the employee is encouraged to solicit and elicit feedback from his co-workers on a regular basis, and the impetus is placed firmly on his shoulders, it may only be necessary for the manager to be involved at the feedback sessions that are actually scheduled with the employee and herself. The feedback sessions that are conducted with the employee and the manager should focus on the performance issues, goal status, and behavior updates.If the employee wishes to share the feedback received from his colleagues, it is his choice, but the manager should not expect it. The feedback that the employee receives should be used by the employee to develop his own thoughts on improving these other perceptions. In many companies, the manager may not have an opportunity on a daily basis to examine the outputs or work habits of the employee, and the employee, as noted before, may be unaware that there are any issues.It is important to note that feedback from colleagues should be reciprocal. One employee should not be led to the slaughter as it were, without being allowed to return the favor.

This should help avoid a situation wherein an employee is crucified. The confidential nature of this feedback should also be honored, to the point that a certain level of trust between the parties can be established, and honest exchange of information occurs. Employees should be trained in how to accept and give this type of feedback, in order to improve its effectiveness.Training–Which leads naturally to the next factor in the quest for the ideal performance evaluation.

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Training is so critical, both for the employees and the managers. Training should be considered a part of the package–a performance evaluation is not ideal until everyone not only knows how to use it, but can teach someone else how to use it, and it is used well by everyone. The first four factors in the quest for the ideal performance evaluation all deal with the pieces of the pie. Training is critical to understanding the recipe for building the pie. Training should be continuous.

It should not be a presentation given once by human resources when the program is implemented, and then forgotten about.As a component of the use of any performance evaluation, completed reviews should be examined on a regular basis by another level of management and human resources personnel to insure that they are being used properly and conducted consistently. A manager who is identified as being unclear on some aspect of the process should be approached and personally trained further, perhaps as an aspect of his own performance evaluation! Insofar as it is possible, every manager should be expected to attend some sort of refresher course on how to conduct the performance appraisal process on a regular basis (whether it be annual or every other year.)Continuous Improvement–Just as no company will ever declare that they have ‘finished’ their business (unless they are going out of business!), no company should consider their quest for the ideal performance evaluation a finite process. Just as a company must be ready to adapt to the business climate it finds itself in, so to must that same company be prepared to adjust their evaluation practices and process to the time and place of its use. This might mean refining the process to incorporate new hires differently, or developing a method of comparison for employees. It might mean changing the tool that it is used to collect the information, or defining new behaviors from one year to the next. The commitment of the company must be only this: if it can be better, it should be.

In the final analysis, a performance evaluation can and should be a strategic tool that is used to positively impact employees to improve their performance and guide the company toward the development of the best employees. Without some type of process in place to capture the actual performance of an employee, it is virtually impossible to determine termination or layoff strategies, allocate promotions, or fairly give merit increases without understanding who is on the top of the heap and who is buried in the pile. The perception that performance evaluations are time consuming, de-motivating, and ineffectual can only be eradicated by a company commitment to the quest for the ideal performance evaluation.That quest must be understood and communicated to all of the employees and managers as an essential key to doing business in today’s market. As companies shift the focus away from an annual accounting on the aptitude/ineptitude balance sheet, to a performance driven, goal oriented, behavior focused, well understood, quest for the improvement of employees, managers and employees alike will come to the conclusion that the ideal performance evaluation does exist–and they are fortunate enough to work for a company that not only understands the concept, but drives the process to fruition. The daily benefit of creating an environment where good performance is honored, and poor performance is eliminated, is the model that both employees and employers strive to achieve. Every person seeks to be valued for their contribution.

The quest for the ideal performance evaluation is the means by which a company can recognize and appreciate that contribution.BibliographyFlynn, Gillian, “Getting Performance Reviews Right”, Workforce, May 2001, pages 76 – 78 Flynn, Peter, “‘You Are Simply Average'”, Across the Board, March/April 2001, pages 51 – 55 Grensing-Pophal, Lin, “Motivate Managers to Review Performance, HRMagazine, March 2001, pages 44 – 48 Joinson, Carla, “Making Sure Employees Measure Up”, HRMagazine, March 2001, pages 36 – 41