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Tuning-Up Performance — Fiorenza

January 2007
CHANCES ARE, you have played out this scene before, in one of the roles. It’s time for the annual performance evaluation—an event despised by all, except possibly human resource managers, consultants and employment lawyers. The manager and her employee (or maybe “associate” or “team member”) gather uncomfortably around a table. The manager stumbles upon what seems like the perfect ice-breaker: “I can tell that you don’t want to be here any more than I do—I can’t believe they make us do this.”

The scene illustrates the most common issue our firm sees sabotaging performance evaluation systems of all types—management’s lack of belief in, and commitment to, its own process. While there are many types of evaluation systems, ranging from the simplest to the most complex, there are a number of universal standards by which all such programs can be judged.

No matter what the policy manual or evaluation forms may say, performance evaluations are more often than not viewed as an assessment of the personal worth of an employee. It’s difficult to offer objective criticisms, and more difficult to receive them.

While often touted as a communications tool that helps build employee morale and productivity, many organizations experience an increase in tensions and a decrease in productivity around evaluation time. Combat this by clearly defining why evaluations are conducted and where they fit within the overall organization.

Successful evaluation programs have clearly defined purposes. These include ensuring that input from employees on their positions and the organization as a whole is understood and considered; that a sound basis exists for daily personnel decisions such as promotions, transfers, layoffs and discharges; that compensation issues are fairly evaluated; and that consistency is maintained throughout the organization.

Employees should learn during their orientation, and be periodically reminded of, the organization’s policy concerning performance evaluation, including how and why formal evaluations are utilized.

Many performance evaluation systems are doomed from the start. They are too complex, too esoteric, and they do not meaningfully reflect the employee’s work environment or other aspects of an organization’s culture. The best employee evaluation programs are those that have been developed after direct input from super-visors and managers—and sometimes the workforce as a whole. Most pre-packaged evaluation forms lull managers into a sense of complacency—that the evaluation is a “connect-the-dots” process.
 

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