Performance evaluations are part of the overall performance management process within any organization. Generally, the performance management process starts with the creation and implementation of a well-defined job description, then the assessment of an employee’s performance compared to the essential duties and responsibilities as stated in the job description, and then intertwines with a merit-based performance increase that aligns with a salary administration plan. While this is a very broad definition of performance management, making sure that performance evaluations are completed fairly is essential to its success overall.
There are two types of performance evaluations. The first is a standard form-based evaluation where employees are given a numerical rating based upon an achieved or sometimes a not achieved competency, hopefully related to the essential duties and responsibilities of the job. The second is a documented discussion that is conducted by a manager with an employee on either a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis to talk about the employee’s performance moving forward with regards to their standard job duties and competencies. Yes, the first is really a process that looks back at performance and the second looks forward at expected performance. Deciding upon which one is best for your organization depends upon the organization’s culture and how well trained the managers who conduct performance evaluations are on the process that they are engaged with at the time. However, whichever type of performance evaluation is used, managers need to remember to avoid the following nine pitfalls when conducting and/or completing the performance evaluation.
- Failure to Seek Input – The manager who is evaluating the employee’s performance should actively seek input from the employee with regards to their performance and work habits, or otherwise the evaluation will be one-sided. An effective performance evaluation involves the employee in establishing performance goals and obtaining buy-in.
- Evaluation is Not Timely – The performance evaluation should be done on time or the employee will believe it is not important to the manager, or the organization.
- Failure to Invest Enough Time – The manager should allow enough time to prepare and conduct the performance evaluation with the employee. One of the biggest mistakes managers often make is to try to prepare for and conduct the performance evaluation in a short-time frame.
- Lack of Verification – The manager fails to take the time verifying and observing the employee’s job performance and work habits.
- Devil Effect – The manager believes employees are all poor performers and that they have poor work habits, without having objective data to base having such low ratings.
- Halo Effect – This occurs when the manager bases a rating on one prominent characteristic of an employee. The Halo Effect results in all employees receiving a positive evaluation.
- Recency Effect – The manager bases the rating on work performed, or a work habit displayed most recently rather than basing the evaluation on performance or work habits over the length of time being evaluated or between evaluations.
- Central Tendency – This is the tendency of the manager to rate most employees’ performance near the middle of the performance scale.
- Leniency – This occurs when the manager groups the ratings toward the positive without having objective data to do so.
Managers who are responsible for preparing for and conducting performance evaluations need to remember that there are two things that employees may be evaluated on. The first is actual job performance related to the essential duties and responsibilities as defined in the job description. The second has to do with the employee’s work habits. These are things like absenteeism, tardiness, dependability with regards to meeting deadlines, physical appearance, etc. Employers need to remember that rating an employee based upon their attitude is not acceptable unless it is able to be related to their job performance with a specific task and/or a work habit. Making sure that there are facts and specific examples that relate to each job performance situation and/or work habit is essential in order to make sure that the statement is considered to be legally acceptable. Remember, performance evaluations become legal documents and are discoverable by a court, once they are prepared and discussed with the employee.
Evaluating an employee’s performance should be ongoing, meaning it should not take place just one-time per year. An employee should not be learning of an issue that the employer has with either their job performance and/or a work habit at the time of the formal performance evaluation discussion. Managers should be utilizing a progressive disciplinary action process, performance improvement process (PIP), or something of the like to address problems, issues, or challenges with employees in advance of the formal performance evaluation. The employee should be provided a copy of the written progressive disciplinary action at the time that it is given and also given time to improve. If the employee does not improve over time and with support and coaching from the manager, then it may be time for the employer to involuntarily terminate the employee. Thus, the last pitfall to avoid with completing a performance evaluation is as follows:
- Failure to Complete an Action Plan – The manager should provide a work improvement plan which encourages the employee to correct performance deficiencies and poor work habits, at the time the deficiency occurs or is witnessed by the manager.
Many organizations have access to Human Capital Management (HCM) software or a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) that is able to aid their managers in tracking the performance management process and the performance evaluation process for all employees. Adapting the software and/or a system and the tools within them to meet an organization’s needs is sometimes a challenge. However, if utilized appropriately may take some of the burden of the process off of the manager, thus making is more enjoyable for the manager to prepare for and conduct the annual performance evaluation with each employee. Like anything, with a successful implementation and training of all managers on how to utilize the software or system, the organization’s employees will be the benefactors over time, which may ultimately lead to a more successful and profitable organization.
For additional information on performance evaluations and the performance management process, please contact us at www.newfocushr.com.
Written by: Kristen Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP