Making Performance Evaluations Meaningful Again

A man pointing at his laptop while in a meeting with a woman

Over the years the effectiveness of performance reviews has come into question because so many supervisors fail to avoid some common mistakes.  When that happens the review becomes unproductive and can contribute to low morale because the employees don’t feel like they are being fairly treated or evaluated.

The first thing to remember when you are evaluating your people is that performance evaluations are a small piece of performance management.  Nothing you put in the evaluation should be a surprise to the employee, you should have formal and informal meetings throughout the evaluation period to keep them informed.  Poor employees can’t improve if they are not aware there is a problem or skill gap, and the good employees will become discouraged if they only receive recognition at the evaluation.  As a supervisor, you should try to keep a shadow file on all employees to put accolades and corrective actions in for you to reference to complete the review.

Evaluations should be objective ways of determining the quality of an employee’s performance and they should understand the expectations that they are being held to in the review.  In the performance review, you should set new goals and identify skills and behaviors that might need to be developed. Your evaluation should provide specific examples, have positives and negatives in it, if applicable, but not with any specific ratio and avoid contradictions…

Your employees should be able to answer yes to 3 questions:

1- Are they aware of the standards that they are being evaluated on?

2- Do they feel their contribution and performance is evaluated fairly?

3- Does their supervisor assist them in evaluating strengths and opportunities for improvement throughout the year?

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Evaluations:

  • The “Halo” effect – Allowing one thing you like affect your overall assessment of performance
  • The “Horn” effect – Letting one thing you dislike affect your overall assessment of performance
  • Central Tendency – Clustering everyone in the middle-performance categories to avoid extremes of good or bad behavior
  • Recency – rating only recent performance (whether good or bad) and ignoring the rest of the review period
  • Favoritism – overlooking flaws of favored employees
  • Bias – letting bias influence an employee’s rating, this can sometimes be non-job related discriminatory reasons
  • Grouping – excusing below standard performance because everyone does it
  • Guilt/Halo by association – rating of someone on the basis of who they associate with instead of the work they do
  • The “Sunflower” effect – Rating everyone high to make you look good as a supervisor

If you take the time to correctly complete the performance evaluations it will be an invaluable tool to you, your employees and your organization.

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