Using Staff Evaluations to Motivate

Managers are faced with the task of making sure that members of their department
are operating at the highest level possible. A pay raise isn’t always the
answer, though that probably never hurts, while not all employees are on the
fast track to a management position. One of the most influential tools can be
periodic performance evaluations and feedback, which the majority of employees
find valuable.

"Performance reviews are very powerful this way," Fred Getz, executive
director at Robert Half International (RHI), told attendees at a recent NACM
teleconference entitled Using Staff Evaluations to Motivate Your Team. "They
open up the doors to higher performance levels and really strengthen the
relationship between you as managers and your employee."

According to a RHI survey, 77% of employees responded that they found the
feedback during performance reviews somewhat valuable to very valuable. The
majority, 66%, of executives surveyed by RHI said they give evaluations once a
year. Getz said there is no ideal number for the frequency of appraisals;
managers have to make their own judgment calls depending on staff. He did
suggest that annual compensation reviews and performance reviews be separated,
allowing managers to conduct performance appraisals more frequently, while
keeping performance reviews focused on the job. There is often a shared dread of
evaluations by both employees and the managers who give the appraisals, but the
time provides a perfect platform for a candid discussion about an individual’s
performance as well as an opportunity to reinforce their strengths and inspire
better performance.

The first thing Getz recommended was that managers not treat staff
evaluations as mere formality or a time consuming burden. Managers should
approach the prospect of appraisals with a positive attitude with fair,
well-thought out and well-prepared insights into that individual’s
performance.

Getz explained that evaluations are a great time to point out mistakes,
though managers need to avoid making it a mistake-list session. It should be
about overall performance. He suggested that managers keep a folder on each
employee that includes notes, strong work samples, complimentary letters from
clients and other relevant information. The idea is that this process doesn’t
take up much of the manager’s time and that any time something positive or
negative takes place in an individual’s job performance a small note is dropped
into the file. This will avoid focusing too much on the most recent successes
and failures at the appraisal and will give a broader, fairer overview. Only 41%
of employees surveyed said that they felt their evaluations were fair.

"It’s easy because you’re just dropping stuff in there as you gather it,"
said Getz, adding that there’s a natural tendency to stick to original judgments
and overlook accomplishments, as well as failures, of top performers. "The idea
is that when it comes time to do the performance review on this employee, you’ve
got the folder all ready. All you have to do is open it up and walk down memory
lane with them and more things will come back to you."

Getz also suggested that managers instruct employees to keep their own folder
on themselves. That way, at review time, the individual can bring up what they
thought they did or did not do well, and the two views can be shared.

"In the end, it’s what’s important to both of you that sort of has to come
together and be discussed," added Getz.

One of the biggest problems Getz said that managers tend to have is inflating
reviews to avoid conflict, while being more apt to put criticism of an
employee’s performance in writing while discussing strengths face-to-face. He
explained that this can be confusing, and though negative criticism is hard to
deliver, employees have the right to know, and often the desire to know so they
can improve. He also pointed out that many times, managers fail to ask
open-ended questions in an evaluation, making it unpleasant for the
employee.

"Keep in mind you don’t talk too much," stated Getz. "Many of you managers
make the mistake of sounding patronizing by speaking at length about a problem
and sounding accusatory. It’s better to ask questions that will prompt employees
to start analyzing the situation rather than them becoming
defensive."
Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer

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