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Step 4: Meet personally with your employees to discuss the performance evaluation. Employee performance evaluation meetings are much more effective when they are conducted in person instead of via mail, e-mail, or telephone. Select a location for your meeting that’s comfortable and free of distractions, and be sure to make the
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meeting positive and upbeat. When you discuss performance problems, bring the discussion around to discussing ways that you and your employees can work together to solve them.
Step 5: Set new goals, expectations, and standards. The performance evaluation meeting is the perfect opportunity to review and discuss the things that worked well and the things that, perhaps, didn’t work so well, and to set new goals, expectations, and standards for the next review period.
Step 6: Link to areas of personal development. The best performance evaluations place the job in a larger context of the employee’s career and journey toward increased responsibilities in the organization. Look for opportunities for personal growth and development, and discuss strategies for helping the employee achieve those goals.
WATCHING OUT FOR EVALUATION TRAPS
Managers have to be careful not to fall into one or more of the many evaluation traps. Here’s a comprehensive listing of the most common mistakes that managers make when evaluating employee performance:
• The halo effect: This trap occurs when a manager ignores the bad things an employee is doing because he or she is good in other areas. You might, for example, ignore for some time that an employee is the subject of numerous complaints of sexual harassment because she happens to be your top salesperson.
• The recency effect: It’s natural for managers to most remember what employees have done most recently. An employee can be performing poorly all year, but two weeks before the performance evaluation is initiated, his performance becomes outstanding. A manager might “forget” about the months and months of poor performance
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and remember only the outstanding performance that commenced only recently.
• Stereotyping: As hard as we try, it’s hard not to believe in stereotypes or preconceived notions of how someone believes or will act. You might, for example, be certain that women make better customer service representatives than do men. This stereotyping works to give female employees higher ratings, and men lower ratings.
• Comparing: It’s hard not to compare the performance of two or more employees who you are rating at the same time. Your high-performing employees will naturally make your lower-performing employees look bad in comparison. In the same manner, mediocre performers are going to look good when stacked up against poor performers.
• Mirroring: This occurs when you fall into the trap of rating highly those employees who are most like you (same likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies, and so forth) and rating lowly those employees who are least like you. While the employees who are most like you will appreciate the favor, the employees you don’t favor won’t.
• Nice guy/gal: Many managers absolutely dread conducting performance evaluations because it forces them to acknowledge the failings of their employees and then talk to their employees about those failings. Most managers would much rather give their employees good news rather than bad, but sometimes bad news is all you’ve got. But every manager must be prepared to give both if employees are to improve in their jobs and become more effective.
ONGOING PERFORMANCE FEEDBACK
In today’s dynamic, fast-paced workforce, enlightened companies recognize that employees want an environment that encourages a constant
dialogue between employer and employee. Today, employees want and
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need continuous performance feedback. They want to be recognized and rewarded for their accomplishments, and, at the same time, most employees want feedback if their performance is missing the mark so they can make changes as appropriate. “Men and women want to do a good job, a creative job, and if they are provided the proper environment they will do so,” says Bill Hewlett, cofounder of Hewlett-Packard (quoted from The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America by Robert Levering, Milton Moskowitz, and Michael Katz, New York: Signet, 1984).
Employees want to know how they’re performing, and they want—and need—to know more frequently than annually. “Continuous, supportive communication from managers, supervisors, and associates is too often underemphasized,” says Jim Moultrup, consultant, Management Perspectives Group. “It is a major, major motivator.” After all, a motivated workforce, willing to take initiative when they see the opportunity, is a powerful advantage for a company (quoted from “Success Through People: A New Era in the Way America Does Business,” Incentive, by Aaron Sugarman, May 1988, pp. 20-24, 156-157). People want to learn new things, to feel they’ve made a contribution—that they are doing worthwhile work. Few people are motivated only by money. Indeed, today, a performance appraisal program that effectively motivates employees may give a company its greatest competitive advantage.