By Kayla Matthews
Employee evaluations can be one of the best ways to get reliable data on your team’s strengths and weaknesses. They also build regular communication between management and staff. However, these meetings are often stressful and unproductive — without the right methods, it can be hard to conduct an evaluation that everyone benefits from.
Luckily, there are techniques you can use to get the most out of sit-downs between management and staff.
Here’s how you can conduct a productive employee evaluation — and why you should.
The Benefits of Employee Evaluations
Traditionally, employee evaluations occurred on an annual basis. Today, however, more than one-third of U.S. companies perform frequent check-ins between managers and employees.
One of the most significant benefits of evaluations is how they build communication between managers and employees — especially in organizations where the two may not have regular opportunities for extended conversations. These meetings allow managers to remind employees of workplace expectations and clarify any misconceptions they may have held about their work.
Evaluations are also a chance for employees to show off and demonstrate to management some of their biggest accomplishments over the past few months — or year, depending on how often an organization is hosting evaluations.
How to Hold Employee Evaluations the Right Way
When it comes to evaluations, you’re not likely to find any one-size-fits-all solutions — instead, you’ll need to conduct meetings using the methods that work best for your organization. Discovering these techniques may take some research and experimentation that will let you see which provides the best results.
Nevertheless, there are some basic evaluation techniques and planning methods that can work for just about any business.
To start, be prepared. In most traditional employee assessments, managers will begin by drafting a written evaluation for each employee they oversee, being sure to include successes and failures — what the employee is doing well and where they could strive for improvement. Be sure that the written evaluation stays specific, actionable, and relevant to the employee’s work.
The employee will look over the document, and then, when it’s time to sit down, they’ll have a chance to go over the comments with their manager.
Some organizations will also ask the employee to write a self-evaluation they can compare with their manager’s during their meeting.
These techniques are generally effective at structuring the meeting and making sure that everyone involved gets the most out of the time they spend sitting down.
Not all traditional evaluation techniques are useful, however. For example, uniform or standardized grading methods — like a five-point scale that tries to quantify every employee’s performance by the same metrics — are good at providing easy-to-follow data for higher-ups. However, these methods are not so great at helping managers understand employee performance.
During an evaluation, employees should be encouraged to bring up both the praise and criticism that they’ve received from people who aren’t in the room — staff from other departments, clients, team members or anyone who doesn’t regularly speak to the manager holding the evaluation. These notes can sometimes provide a helpful counterbalance to the comments the manager brings up.
This method can help make meetings less one-sided — a common criticism of employee evaluations.
Likewise, managers should pass on relevant comments and compliments that employees might not have received. This way, the evaluation can be used to remind employees of how their work fits into the goals of the entire business, while also emphasizing what stands out about their work.
Managers should be careful about how criticism is framed — worded poorly, even well-meaning criticism delivered at top performers can crush confidence, damage productivity and encourage employees to quit, according to research. Keep feedback constructive — and positive, if possible.
Building Communication With Employee Evaluations
Employee evaluations can be a great way to relay feedback to team members, build stronger communication between management and staff and provide goals for employees to strive toward.
However, when handled poorly, evaluations can do the opposite — causing communication to break down and making employees less confident in their abilities.
For this reason, it’s essential to design your evaluations to be as effective as possible. Ensuring that each meeting is a two-way conversation that frames criticism constructively can help keep assessments productive and useful for both parties.
About the Author: Kayla Matthews writes about communication and workplace productivity on her blog, Productivity Theory. Her work has also appeared on Talent Culture, MakeUseOf, The Muse and Fast Company.