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Employment evaluations can be daunting – especially if your staff isn’t receiving regular feedback about their performance (which, by the way, isn’t advised). We recommend that employees always know where they stand with your business, and they shouldn’t be surprised when evaluation time rolls around and you deliver either positive or negative feedback.

As difficult as they can be from both an employer and employee perspective, employment evaluations are a necessary evil of running or managing a business and crucial to a positive employee relationship management. Not only is it highly productive to have discussions with employees about the work they’re doing, but evaluations also provide some added motivation for staff to consistently “show up” to work. The thought of a future evaluation makes an employee think twice about the decisions they’re making on the job.

Despite the fact that evaluations serve a distinct purpose and are beneficial to your business, the process can be especially tense if you typically fire under-performing employees, or promote high-performing employees, during this time. Luckily, we’ve got some suggestions to help you make employee evaluations as painless as possible!

10 Tips for Better Employee Evaluations

1. Refer to Your Notes

An employee evaluation will run smoothly if you can cite specific instances of when your worker performed well, and when they missed the mark. The less room you leave for ambiguity, the more responsive your employees will be.

If you haven’t been regularly documenting employee behavior, initiatives, or improvement, take some time prior to the evaluation and list as many examples as you can recall for each employee. Your list should include positive feedback as well as criticism, where necessary.

You might consider beginning a practice of regularly documenting employee behavior and performance throughout the year, which will mean less prep work for you as evaluation time rolls around. Keep a running log for each of your staff members of the times they’ve gone the extra mile, as well as any instances where you’ve noticed room for growth. Update it weekly or bi-weekly for increased organization.

2. Communicate Clearly & Effectively

It’s important to be honest during employment evaluations, and specific about any improvements you’re suggesting to your staff. If you fail to clarify how you really feel about an employee’s performance – perhaps because you’re afraid of pushing buttons or creating tension – you’re passing up a valuable opportunity to encourage true growth from your workers, and you’re more likely to be dissatisfied with employee performance down the line.

If you fail to be clear and forthcoming with your staff, don’t expect them to improve or modify their workplace practices. Failing to communicate effectively will be your fault, not theirs.

Alternatively, having a candid conversation with a worker during their evaluation should result in the kind of changes you’d like to see take place. Always conclude by asking an employee if they have any questions after you communicate a clear expectation.

Two Woman Talking

3. Make the Evaluation a Dialogue

Keep in mind that an evaluation, much like any successful discussion, should be a two-way dialogue rather than a soliloquy. You should be open and keen to hear an employee’s response to your feedback, and should always invite questions or concerns during the conversation.

If you raise a concern, or cite a specific example of when an employee failed to meet your expectations, allow him or her the opportunity to explain where things went wrong. If they were facing a major personal issue that day, listen to them. If they made an honest mistake under pressure, or due to a miscommunication, affirm them. Then, proceed to have a discussion about how similar oversights can be avoided in the future.

Beware of excuses from regularly negligent or careless employees, but be compassionate toward staff members who truly strive to do their best. Usually, intuition will tell you much of what you need to know about an employee’s character and integrity, but always allow your employees to respectfully defend themselves during an evaluation. Listening to their perspective can help you form a clearer and more accurate opinion of their performance.

4. Avoid Comparison & Bias

As tempting as it may be, avoid comparing an employee to another staff member during their evaluation. Doing so tends to breed resentment, and can create workplace conflict between the employee in question and the person to whom you’re comparing them. Instead, focus strictly on the employee in front of you, and their wins/growth opportunities at work.

In addition, you might not always gel as well with one employee as well as you do with another, but do avoid playing favorites, if possible (or don’t let you preferences show). It’s completely unfair to evaluate an employee with merely a different personality based on how well you get along with him or her – the focus should be on how well the employee performs at work. Period.

5. Ask Genuine Questions

It’s important to ask your employees questions during their evaluations. Doing so will make the process feel more like an open dialogue, and will convey to your workers that their thoughts and feedback are just as important as yours.

During an employment evaluation, consider asking the following questions:

  • Do you have any questions or concerns about your current role?
  • Are there any workplace conditions you feel can be improved?
  • Do you feel you have a strong understanding of the expectations of your job?
  • Are there any specific positions within the business to which you could see yourself advancing? How can I help you get there?
  • Do you have any specific feedback for me?

Of course, if you’re in the midst of an employee evaluation with a worker who has regularly under-performed – and if you’re planning to fire said employee – these questions become irrelevant.

6. Don’t Get Emotional

It’s not worth getting emotional during an employee evaluation. For one thing, your workers are counting on you to display your competence as a manager, and to act as a firm but collaborative authority figure. You’ll fail to meet both of these expectations if you let your emotions get the better of you.

No matter how upset an employee makes you, avoid raising your voice or acting passive-aggressively during an evaluation. Regulate the mood of the discussion by keeping a cool head. Stick to the facts and cite specific examples.

If an employee is going to receive feedback poorly, consider whether it’s really worth having them on your team. For true growth to occur, people need to be receptive and open to feedback as well as criticism.

7. Spend Equal Time on the Positive and Negative

As important as constructive criticism is during an employment evaluation, there should never be an overwhelming emphasis on negative performance during the discussion, unless the situation truly calls for it.

For every specific instance you reference of an opportunity for growth, you should mention an area where the employee is meeting or exceeding your expectations. For instance, you might say something like: “I’ve noticed that you’re struggling a bit with greeting employees at the front of the house, but that your seating charts keep the restaurant extremely organized during rushes! Let’s set a goal for improving your customer communication so that it’s at the same level as your organizational skills.”

…You get the idea. Praise and critique in equal measure, and your feedback will be more digestible to your employees.

8. Set a Specific Amount of Time

Employment evaluations are a lot of pressure for all involved, so set a time limit and stick to it. Generally, one hour to ninety minutes is plenty of time for an in-depth discussion about growth opportunities, performance satisfaction, and a follow-up discussion. Anything longer can take a mental toll on you and your employees.

Keep in mind that you’ll be in multiple evaluation meetings – not just one – and you don’t want to reach a point where your feedback becomes less thoughtful simply because you’re drained! Thus, setting a hard cut-off time will be beneficial to everyone.

9. Develop Annual Metrics & Clear Job Descriptions

If you have ample time before your employee evaluations take place, or if you’ve just had evaluations and are looking for a way to improve next year’s discussions, consider developing annual business metrics and clear job descriptions (in writing) for each of your employees.

Even if you manage a small business, business metrics will help you and your employees work toward established goals for the year, and should include fiscal, social, and personal goals to better your company.

Metrics may include:

  • Revenue growth
  • Productivity
  • Efficiency
  • Training
  • Quality of work
  • Individual goals

…and any others that are relevant to your business, or to a specific employee. Hold annual meetings at the beginning of each year to set goals/expectations with your staff, and evaluate them based on how well they met your discussed plan for the year.

Ultimately, metrics are a great method for measuring employee growth.

10. Consider Monthly Check-Ins

Holding monthly meetings with each of your employees – even for only fifteen minutes or half an hour – can hold them accountable, and keep them on track. These monthly check-ins can act as “mini-performance evaluations,” during which time you can discuss any suggestions you have for employees without the pressure of a formal, year-end evaluation weighing on both of you.

Monthly check-in meetings can be an excellent way to correct problems in the workplace as they arise, and can motivate your employees to do especially good work if you’re consistently measuring their progress.

You can even use the monthly check-in to have a conversation about life. Think of it as two friends chatting – it’s a great opportunity to learn more about your employee’s personal life, so they feel cared for and supported by their manager. As an added bonus, establishing this kind of rapport can work wonders for boosting employee morale.

In conclusion, employee evaluations are rarely “fun,” but by communicating clearly, showing up organized and prepared, and being willing to listen to and understand the perspective of your employees, an evaluation doesn’t have to be nearly as stressful as it’s made out to be. Keep an open mind, speak honestly, and act according to what an employee’s record tells you. You’ll be well on your way to an improved workplace environment, as a result.

Why worry when you can Coast?

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