Giving an evaluation can be equally stressful. No one ever taught me how to give a good evaluation in a behavioral sense. I’ve been trained on the tool, but not the rich and powerful philosophy behind it or how to use it to coach, motivate, inspire, and LEAD!
Most recently, my organization underwent a significant design process for evaluations and realigning job grades. Simultaneously, I hired several key positions and conducted evaluations of my direct reports. In the midst of it, the team debated the value of merit pay versus other rewards.
After long and bountiful conversations with my employees, colleagues, and HR professionals, I am convinced more than ever that evaluation processes harness transformative power for the individual, team, and organization. Monetary rewards pale in comparison as a motivating factor.
Done correctly, evaluations lay the ground work for:
- Working through performance deficiencies through coaching
- Growing a person’s natural gifts into powerful strengths
- Moving people into new positions or letting someone go if their abilities or desires no longer align with the organization’s needs
- Creating a linear career mobility map for driven employees, through internal promotion or preparation for the next career step
- Setting and reviewing goals and metrics
I propose a simple process.
- Keep notes throughout the year – things done well and things that can improve. Jot them on a post-it note when they happen and put them in a file.
- Pre-evaluation, have the employee fill out the document and give it to you so you can see where their head is at. Look for accomplishments they care about which you may have forgotten.
- Use both your notes and the employee’s self-evaluation to complete the form and be honest in your assessment.
- Take ten minutes before going through the evaluation and talk with the employee about your personal approach to the numbers.
- Excellence happens when a person’s innate gifts come into play and as a result, they truly shine. I can’t be excellent at everything and that’s okay. Learning what I’m great at will help me develop natural abilities into powerful strengths. In life, we may be excellent at a couple key things. The same is true in an evaluation. Talk with your employee about their gifts and how to grow them. Make a big deal out of it!
- “As expected” means doing your job. Did you accomplish the tasks on your job description? Great! Experience tells me that most tasks fall into this category. Here’s an example. The quarterback on a football team is typically excellent at strategy and passing or throwing the football. He may perform “as expected” when it comes to offense, defense, and running, for example.
- “Needs improvement” reveals areas of weakness. We all have them. It’s okay! These items present opportunities for self-awareness, skill improvement, and to grow as a person. I believe I’ve been successful because I'm receptive to my deficiencies. I can choose to improve. I can surround myself with support systems and people who supplement my weaknesses. It’s important to emphasize to employees that we all need improvement and devise a plan.
- Unacceptable should be no surprise on a job evaluation. If an issue rises to the level of being unacceptable it should have been discussed when it occurred. In the evaluation you can reiterate the plan, note improvement, or discuss next steps. If the employee continues to perform in an unacceptable manner, you may even set a deadline for improvement.
When it’s finished, take a look at the evaluation prior to your one-on-one’s with direct reports and be ready to talk through the plans you made. Give performance updates throughout the year and solicit feedback from the employee. As a result of processes like this, I’ve worked through very difficult conversations. I’ve also watched some team members blossom into their best selves. As a result, their careers took off! What a fulfilling and exciting experience for a leader.