HR Leads Business

Dec 4, 2020 | Clare Chiappetta, MA, HRCI Contributing Writer

Do Your Employee Performance Evaluations Need an Overhaul?

We are performing our jobs in a vastly different economic and social context from this time only a year ago, affecting every employee’s performance. But do your legacy performance evaluation processes still hold up in this new world?

Legacy performance evaluation forms don’t tend to be user-friendly. “The document got to be laborious,” says Di Ann Sanchez, Ph.D., SPHR, president of DAS HR Consulting LLC. “It went from two pages to four pages to 10 pages — that’s why it’s such a dreaded system.”

It’s time to revisit your organization’s performance evaluations. Here’s how to revamp your evaluations to meet both your current and future needs.

Align Criteria With Job Expectations

To accurately assess performance, managers need an evaluation that aligns with current job expectations. Start with the job description, which could probably use an update since COVID-19 has accelerated transformation. “I suggest taking the job description as the performance management document because it's more aligned to what you have to accomplish and the competencies you need for that particular job,” Sanchez says. “Make it more individualized as opposed to general.”

Communicating those expectations to employees is essential to conducting a useful performance appraisal, especially for higher-level roles. “Someone who creates 30 widgets in an hour requires a different kind of evaluation than one that requires somebody to analyze material or work in a team,” says Beth De Lima, SPHR, PHRca, CEO of HRM Consulting. Higher-level job roles require more communication on the front end. Employees need to know what their manager expects of them so that both parties are on the same page and can identify roadblocks during performance feedback conversations.

Leverage Technology in the Evaluation Process

Tracking performance evaluations through technology builds a larger performance dataset. If your managers have feedback conversations every one to three months, Sanchez says, managers can document them in performance management software or even just a Word or Google document. And suppose your performance management software integrates with your talent management tech stack. In that case, you can generate data on organizational productivity and performance — giving you a comprehensive dataset for HR decision-making going forward.

Using technology also puts safeguards around the process — you can prompt managers to provide more thoughtful feedback and track how much time they spend on evaluations. “We’re looking for thoughtful responses, not speed,” De Lima says. Technology also makes it easier for managers to keep track of different evaluation forms customized to match various roles.

Facilitate Thoughtful Evaluations

If an evaluation form is too broad, it can impede an employee’s progress. Just leaving a blank space doesn’t prompt thoughtfulness from the manager, and it can even invite bias. For example, women employees tend to receive vaguer and less actionable feedback than their male colleagues, which perpetuates stereotypes about women in the workplace. And using a strictly quantitative rating system can be demoralizing, Sanchez says.

Instead of blank boxes or a 1-5 system, use cues within the form that are specific to each employee’s essential function job description. “Let's add some comments in there that make the supervisors think before they write it down,” De Lima suggests. “You are facilitating the person who is filling out the appraisal to stop and think — and not just check a lot of boxes.” Require managers to leave specific feedback for employees, so they receive a clear path toward improved performance.