Categorized | Workplace

Making Beautiful Music Together

Posted on 20 May 2009

The right way to conduct an annual review.

Any musician knows that practice makes perfect. Play a challenging piece often and it becomes smooth and graceful. Try it once a year and it’s hard even to finish–there’s no confidence, no understanding. The same applies to the “annual evaluation,” an event that, ideally, lasts all year.

A Harmonious Duet

Stretching the musical metaphor a bit further, the evaluation is a duet. Both supervisor and employee must work to make it sing.

Don Wood, operations manager at Renolds Power Transmission Corporation in Cincinnati, says an annual evaluation is “a key tool for general communications and a primary vehicle for coordinating expectations and responsibilities.” The review must go beyond a single annual encounter. Its conclusions should never surprise the employee. For Wood, every meeting with an employee is an opportunity to coach, monitor, and support.

Don’t agree to unclear goals, or goals that you lack time or resources to accomplish.

The evaluation can benefit both employee and supervisor by determining the employee’s work effectiveness and necessary changes, as well as the goals and performance standards needed to steer ahead. Clarifying these issues should enhance job performance, satisfaction, and commitment, meaning that everyone gains.

David Slone, principal in the management-consulting firm of Donovan, Slone, Inc. in Salem, MA, spent 25 years as a senior healthcare executive. He says an evaluation needs several qualities: It should both review and look ahead, recognizing the employee’s accomplishments, identifying and questioning unachieved goals, and setting new targets.

Goals should be quantitative and qualitative. How much will be done and with what qualities? When should goals be achieved and what percentage of the total work should each consume?

The review should link employee goals with the departmental work plan and the organization’s agenda.

“Evaluation is about achieving the employee’s full human potential. It should identify ways to grow, develop skills and try new approaches,” Slone says.

Good Evaluations: Supervisors

  • Show respect for the employee. Assure adequate meeting time and avoid interruptions.
  • Be prepared. Review the job description and copies of previous evaluation reports, as well as feedback from peers and customers.
  • Complete the organization’s evaluation form, and share it with the employee well before the meeting.
  • Elicit the employee’s comments, ideas and suggestions. A good review session is a conversation, not a monologue.
  • Invite feedback on your performance, too. For instance, ask employees how well you support them. Find out how you can share plans, strategies or procedures that will help them in their work.

Good Evaluations: Employees

  • Use your evaluation as a growth opportunity. This is an ideal chance to focus on making your work more satisfying and rewarding.
  • Prepare. Prior to the meeting, review your job description, noting inconsistencies between its contents and the work you perform. When your supervisor provides an evaluation document beforehand, review it carefully.
  • Identify specific goals, projects, and educational opportunities to pursue during the next year.
  • Be a participant, not a witness. Be sure you understand next year’s goals, as well as the schedule and necessary resources. Anything unclear? Say so. Not enough time or resources to achieve the goals? Say so.
  • Ask for a written copy of your evaluation and any related documents.

Bad Evaluations: Supervisors

  • Don’t hatch surprises. You should have been providing regular, frequent feedback.
  • Don’t ignore problems. Be positive but frank, advises Heidi Nelson, director of human resources at the Greater Providence Rhode Island YMCA. “It’s easier to say everything about an employee’s performance is fine, even if it’s not. But doing so is a disservice to the organization and to the employee,” Nelson says.

Bad Evaluations: Employees

  • Don’t agree to unclear goals, or goals that you lack time or resources to accomplish.
  • Above all, use this opportunity to make your job more satisfying and professionally rewarding.

“I believe that a competent annual review is one of the nicest and most welcome things a supervisor can do for an employee,” Nelson says. She notes that employees are hungry for clear feedback and guidance, and look forward to discussing their work. To Nelson, though, the key is preparation, for the evaluator and the employee. She says that the annual review is “an under-utilized and demanding art form” and one of the workplace’s most challenging responsibilities.

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