Performance Evaluations

It’s that time of year for many in business and industry – time for those annual performance reviews.  After completing these reviews for 20 years at AT&T I have learned a few things that work and a few things that don’t.  Rather than talk about the whole theory and strategy of evaluations, I’m going to cover what I consider the more tactical things that have worked for me over the years.  For many of you reading this blog it may be too late to incorporate these ideas for your 2012 evaluations, but it is a great time to start doing them so that 2013 will be a much easier year for you.

  1. Take notes regularly.  Twenty years ago I had a file set up for each of my direct reports and I added hand written notes to the file each week.  Now I maintain my notes electronically, but it is the same idea.  I set up a reminder in outlook for me to write up notes on my staff each week.  Sometimes it occurs in the middle of the week when I get a great email complimenting one of my staff on something they did, or maybe something didn’t go right and I write it up after discussing it with my staff member.  Other times it is just something I think of on a Friday afternoon.  With eight direct reports I don’t write something about ever person every week, but I write something about someone each week, and if I haven’t written anything down in a month for a person then I need to think about why that has happened. When it comes time to fill out the evaluations you have a treasure trove of real examples to use in the evaluation from your notes.  Believe me, your staff will notice the difference – and so will your colleagues and boss if you have to defend your ratings to them.
  2. Complete the evaluations before the end of the year.  If your financial year-end occurs at the same time as your performance year-end it is imperative to get those evaluations done before the end of the year.  Once year-end hits you will (and should) be spending all of your time on the annual financial statements, completing tax filings, issuing W-2’s, loading budgets, or whatever else you need to do.  You won’t have time to do a decent job on the evaluations once that happens so the best thing to do is complete them before the end of the year.  I make it a policy for my staff to complete their self-evaluations before they leave for the holidays.  I then complete my evaluations of their performance as they come in.
  3. Set a meeting with yourself before the meeting with your employee to go over the evaluation.  As I already said, this time of year is extremely busy.  You don’t want to be fumbling through the evaluation as you go over it with your employee.  The best way to prevent this is to be prepared.  I do that by setting aside some time to review the evaluations I am covering during the day before the evaluations occur.  It works best if I can do it immediately before the performance review, but it also works if I do it any time that day before the review.  I find it most effective to set a ½ hour meeting with myself, if it is an especially busy day I might even take a paper copy of the evaluation to a conference room somewhere so I can concentrate on it without interruption.

Those are my three tips.  There are many others, but these basic steps have stood the test of time in making the evaluation process a success for me.

One Comment on “Performance Evaluations”

  1. Kirk says:

    Thanks for the idea on staff and direct reports. As my role changes it gets more difficult to make sure we are giving timely and complete feed back to our people. We want to encourage or discourage behavior but without reinforcement quickly it becomes much harder.

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