Performance Evaluations

Reverberating in your brain are two ominous, relentlessly, chilling notes from Jaws warning you danger, danger; the unspeakable danger is heading your way. The dreaded year-end performance evaluation is lurking ever closer on your calendar.

Unsurprising, research confirms what you already know; performance evaluations haven’t had much of an impact in improving performance. Willis Towers Watson’s, Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey confirm 63 percent of employers think yearly evaluations don’t do anyone any good. And according to CEB, your human resources managers don’t feel any better about the process with only 4 percent of them thinking their system for assessing employees is effective at measuring performance—and 83 percent saying their systems need an overhaul.

Despite the reams of research exposing performance evaluations for what they are—an inefficient system for correcting the behavior of poor performers or patting the back of your high-performing employees— for most of you, evaluations are not going away.

I know as a manager, with an employee, who requires improvement feedback, it often seems a futile process because you’ve found as Joseph Grenny’s research supports although nearly two out of three employees say they’ve received negative feedback; only about one-third of those asked to shape up have shown any noticeable improvements. Why? It seems 87 percent said they left their bosses’ office without a specific plan for fixing what was wrong.

It’s tough to take the appropriate time with never-ending deadlines on your plate, but to do a less-than-a-stellar job is to abdicate your responsibility. So, what’s a great manager like you to do?

  1. Eliminate the Stress: Having an open-ended dialogue with your employees throughout the year reduces any year-end stressors, surprises and allows your employee to adapt their behavior without pressure. It’s vital you are direct, explicit, results-focused, and change directed with clarity on the desired outcome you expect. Following-up on their progress or lack of progress is crucial. A collaborative survey between Workforce Magazine and Virgin Pulse reveals forty-eight percent of employers report they don’t track increased engagement and 53 percent report they don’t measure improved productivity.
  1. Co-Partner With Your Workforce: Consider, scheduling collaborative growth sessions where you ask: “How would you assess your performance?” “What areas are you focusing on improving?” “How can I help?” Such a conversation helps employees understand that part of a successful career journey is about bettering yourself in preparation for where you intend to go.
  1. Recognize The Whole Year: Don’t fixate on your employee’s most recent performance rather take into consideration the entire year. After all, it is a yearly performance evaluation! Often managers are so “what have you done for me today” focused they neglect the big-picture! Don’t fall into this trap; keep a file on each one of your direct-reports where you put in notes of the good-the bad-and-the-ugly performance issues during the year.
  1. Take Personal Bias Out of the Equation: Research tells us 61% of your rating of another is a reflection of you. You’re probably shaking your head, and yet psychology studies found that more than half of the variation in a manager’s ratings could be explained by the unique rating patterns of the individual doing the rating—in the first study it was 71%, the second 58%, the third 55%. Check your “preconceived notion pulse” you probably don’t even know you have! Don’t replicate “mini-yous” throughout the department rather your goal is to employ a diversity of outstanding contributors.

Are you ready to transform this year’s performance evaluation on its tail, so those two notes from Jaws no longer pulsate in your head?

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