Confucius says, “The essence of knowledge is, having it, to use it.”
Writing an effective performance evaluation is about taking the knowledge you have developed about an employee over the last review period and putting into effective words. Words designed to help, to encourage, and to motivate the employee to produce valuable results.
The best performance evaluations are easy to write because the manager is an effective record keeper. With every opportunity the manager records achievements, successes, performance to goals, and work that went above and beyond. When the time comes to record the information in total, it’s readily available in a comprehensive file.
What about mishaps, screw-ups, or disciplinary actions? Performance evaluations should never be used as a disciplinary tool. Your company should have a disciplinary policy and procedure for use when an employee needs to improve performance. The performance evaluation is not that venue. Deal with problems as they occur, keep records per company policy, and unless it’s a major violation or the behavior continues, these incidents should not be brought up again during an annual evaluation. Giving positive feedback about performance improvements is definitely appropriate, however.
Performance evaluations should be straight forward, responsive, easily understood, specific, and encouraging. Let’s look at each of these words or phrases individually:
Straight forward – the performance evaluation should look to the future with an eye on how past performance predicts future behavior. For example, if you have a major project coming up, discuss how the employee’s performance on a recent project or newly acquired specialized skills will be considered as you assemble the next project team. Let employees know that “best” performance is recognized and rewarded with new and interesting opportunities.
Responsive – the performance evaluation should reflect what the employee has done right and how you feel about it. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “I can go for 2 months on 1 compliment.” Employees need to be validated and appreciated; telling an employee how you feel about their performance will have a positive impact on their performance.
Easily understood – performance evaluations should be clear and concise while avoiding flowery phrases or jargon that sound great but say nothing. The number of words is meaningless, but the quality of the content is priceless.
Specific – performance evaluations should address specific events, behaviors, accomplishments, and recognitions. Describe how these impacted the workplace and how you, as a manager, view the employee’s contributions.
Encouraging – without purpose and a sense of contributing, employees lack motivation and easily become disgruntled. Use positive words when you evaluate an employee. Finally, be sure to tell each employee how his or her contributions relate to the success of the team, department or company.
Evaluations should be fair, legally defensible and accurately record the employee’s performance. One trick to avoiding problems with documenting on the performance evaluation is to write in the third person, for example ‘Leo completed this project, on time’ instead of ‘you completed this project on time’. Avoid using the first person when writing. Writing what Leo does is more accurate that writing what “I” think about what Leo does.
Finally, you may want to consider software that helps you automate the performance evaluation process. Software can help ensure that:
- Evaluations are completed on time and not forgotten
- Managers across the company use similar methods to evaluate employees
- Your organization keeps good documentation from a legal perspective
Halogen software can help you meet your performance evaluation needs by providing tools for helping managers create a meaningful, effective evaluation in any format. Automated reminders prompt all the involved parties to action during the evaluation process. Evaluations can be accessed by multiple sources simultaneously, so multi-raters and peer reviews can be processed with ease. Content and authoring aides are available to assist the evaluator with language for writing an objective specific evaluation. Halogen offers a faster simpler way to deliver professional, effective performance evaluations!