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Employee evaluations: 9 tips for more effective performance evaluations

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In the hustle and bustle of daily work, employee performance evaluations can easily fall through the cracks.

The truth is managers and employees often dread the annual evaluations. Many managers find the preparation time-consuming and are reluctant to give critical feedback. Meanwhile, employees can feel like they’re back at school being graded.

However, properly handled employee evaluations play a crucial role in both managing the performance of employees and increasing their job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.

A meeting to discuss performance is the yearly opportunity for employees and managers to sit down for an uninterrupted one-on-one discussion centred on the employee’s strengths, challenges and future plans. The goal is to provide fair, constructive, honest feedback to recognize the employees’ achievements and help him or her to improve in the months ahead.

Follow these rules to make your annual performance evaluation meetings more beneficial.

1. Avoid surprises

An employee shouldn’t be surprised by anything said during an evaluation session. They should already know how they are doing through regular feedback from managers over the course of the year.

Your evaluation should be based on realistic, measurable and attainable objectives you set and wrote down at the beginning of the year with the participation of the employee.

2. Do your homework

Prepare concrete examples of the previous year’s accomplishments and challenges so you’re not dealing in vague generalities. To be able to do so, you should keep a record throughout the year of how employees are performing and solicit input and feedback from other managers. Outline the employee’s strong and weak points and be ready to listen to their comments in response.

3. Think about the setting

Schedule the meeting a few days in advance and be sure to reserve sufficient time for a full discussion. Choose a meeting place that is comfortable and private. Make sure you won’t be interrupted.

4. Get things off to a good start

Begin with the employee’s major accomplishments during the year. Express appreciation for his or her efforts. It’s important that satisfactory performers know you recognize their contribution to the team.

5. Be candid and keep it specific

When discussing challenges or areas of poor performance, focus on what happened, not on the person. For example, don’t criticize an employee for being too slow. Instead, describe a specific deadline that was missed and then discuss how it could be avoided in the future.

6. Come up with an action plan

If the employees’ rating is satisfactory, set objectives (which could include development areas) for the next year. If there’s room for improvement, work to come up with a plan that concentrates on one or two major areas. For example, in the case of negative feedback from customers, the plan might involve looking into the cause of the feedback and arranging for the employee to receive coaching from a manager.

7. Discuss ideas for development

Ask about career aspirations and discuss possibilities for training and other learning opportunities. Avoid being the only one who’s doing the talking. Ask employees for their opinion.

8. Summarize the session and end on a positive note

Thank the employee for the discussion and briefly review the actions you’ve agreed to take.

9. Follow up

Once you’ve agreed on next steps, be sure to provide follow-up support to help the employee meet the goals you have set together. A mid-year performance update discussion should be part of your performance management system.

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