Make Performance Evaluations Painless

iStock_000006570863XSmall - Nov 2015 EtipTHREE KEY PRINCIPLES

  • Do you dread performance evaluations?
  • Does your organization’s performance evaluation process bring on nightmares?
  • Why do they have to be so painful?

Performance evaluations don’t have to be painful. With a plan and a few simple tools, you can use the practice of performance management to multiply results and build relationships.

Public agencies across the country are realizing that performance evaluations don’t have to be an awful experience. In fact, with the right approach, it can be painless for everyone involved. To create a painless process that boosts performance, cutting-edge organizations adopt three key performance management principles:

  1. No surprises!
  2. Employee-driven.
  3. Future-focused.

No Surprises! – The “no surprises” rule means that no issue or concern is raised in the performance evaluation meeting that has not been previously discussed.  The performance evaluation meeting is not the place to solve all of the employee’s performance challenges.  It should be a summation of the previous rating period’s discussions. It is nothing more than a summary.

Surprises are avoided when you and the employee talk regularly about the employee’s progress.  If there is a problem or concern about the employee’s performance, you should discuss it immediately when the situation or concern arises. If the employee has had a success, you should recognize it on the spot. Trust is enhanced when specific feedback is a regular part of the work environment. If these conversations are saved for the end-of-year meeting, uncomfortable surprises will arise.

By the time the performance evaluation meeting rolls around, you and the employee should have already explored any concerns with performance.  Without surprises, the conversation can take on a more productive and positive tone. A more productive and positive tone lends itself to the second element of a painless performance evaluation: employee-driven.

Employee-driven – A performance evaluation is painless when it is a two-way dialogue.  The typical evaluation conversation, where the supervisor does all the talking, doesn’t allow for the employee’s point of view.

Before your next performance evaluation meeting, try giving a copy of the evaluation document to the employee prior to the meeting, so that he/she can come prepared to discuss its contents. To begin the meeting, ask the employee his/her thoughts about the evaluation. The goal is to keep the employee talking for at least three to five minutes and even more if possible. After the employee has fully shared their perspective, you can begin sharing your opinions about the employee’s performance.

It’s not uncommon that the employee highlights most of the issues you were going to discuss and, because it came from the employee, he/she feels an increased sense of ownership for the performance. It opens the discussion to future possibilities and activities, which is the third element of a painless performance evaluation.

Future-focused – A performance evaluation is painless when the conversation is future-oriented and hopeful. You can’t get to this by rehashing the past and focusing on what has or hasn’t been accomplished. The past is history, and focusing on it for the entire length of a performance evaluation conversation is pointless. It is fine to recap the highlights of an employee’s performance, especially the positive points. Still, the conversation will be more productive when spent talking about the future.  Use the evaluation meeting to plan future performance goals, to clarify expectations, and to create a sense of excitement about what is ahead.  It is much less painful and enormously more fun.

Public sector organizations are defined by the performance of individual employees. How you manage that performance determines the success of your agency.

Learn more about taking the pain out of performance evaluations in our Painless Performance Evaluations recorded webinar series. The first webinar in the series is devoted to the concepts presented in this article. To learn more, see a demo video of the Painless Performance Evaluations Webinar series and download an overview of the series and accompanying discussion guides.

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