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Performance Assessment  - BEST PRACTICES


UPDATE JOB DESCRIPTIONS: Job descriptions are often drafted when an employee is hired, never to be looked at again. As time passes and roles evolve, so should job descriptions. The job description should be an accurate account of what an employee is expected to do throughout the year and should be reviewed and updated annually. A valid job description can serve as an effective outline for a performance evaluation, ensuring that the employee receives a complete assessment of all facets of the job. Maintaining current job descriptions will also prove useful to the manager who is forced to conduct a reduction in force and reorganize job functions.

RECORD SIGNIFICANT EVENTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR: Many managers see performance evaluations as an annual or semiannual obligation. Unfortunately, our memories are often not as reliable as we think they will be. Managers should document important events throughout the year, including both employee successes and failures. This documentation need not be formal. It will suffice for managers to jot down or e-mail notes to themselves about an employee’s performance. The important thing is to record impressions when they are fresh. While a manager may have a strong sense of an employee’s productivity, an evaluation is much more effective if that manager can point to several specific incidents throughout the course of the review period that support the assessment. Maintaining ongoing records will also prove useful if the employer is required to make layoff decisions outside of the ordinary performance review cycle.

BE CONSISTENT: The measures of performance should be consistent across employees in the same or similar roles. If different employees performing basically the same jobs are evaluated based on different metrics, the performance evaluation will not be useful in justifying why one employee was rewarded over another.

BE OBJECTIVE: When managers work closely with people over time, they may find it difficult to put aside personal fondness when evaluating employee performance. It is only human to want to spare the feelings of a friend, but managers who ignore or gloss over performance weaknesses only do themselves a disservice. All too often managers are forced to choose one or more employees to lay off, and while they know who the weaker performers are, the written performance evaluations can help support the distinctions between employees.

BE SPECIFIC: A performance evaluation that identifies specific projects and issues is far more effective than one that speaks in generalities. Managers should describe employees’ projects and state what they did that was good or bad. Rather than simply say, "Employee does not keep me informed of the status of projects," managers should add an example of a specific incident that shows the failure to communicate and a description of the problems that resulted. Such specifics will provide the employee being reviewed with a clearer understanding of what worked and what did not. The details will also assist the manager in explaining the basis for decisions in the event of litigation.

IDENTIFY AREAS FOR DEVELOPMENT AND IMPROVEMENT AND SET GOALS: For employees to maximize performance, managers must identify the specific areas in which their performance needs to improve, and which skills or knowledge bases should be enhanced. It is also important to set goals for such growth and improvement. This will give employees tangible benchmarks and goals and will give managers an objective measure to evaluate future performance.

CONSIDER NEW PERFORMANCE METRICS FOR NEW BUSINESS IMPERATIVES: Layoff decisions should be based on objective criteria, one of which is performance. Unfortunately, the ordinary performance review, even when conducted in an ideal manner, may not be enough to establish the justification for the selections made in a reduction in force.




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