You’re quickly approaching your one-year anniversary in your new job and your manager gives you a heads up that your performance review will be due soon. She’s asked that you download the form and complete the employee rating section. You’ll be asked to give yourself an evaluation on a number of factors related to your job and general characteristics that are important for all employees, like teamwork and communication. She tells you that she’ll also give you numeric scores and then you’ll get together to discuss where your scores differ. You leave the conversation not understanding why these numbers matter or how they’ll be tied into any raise you may receive. You also don’t understand if this has any impact on future promotions or bonus compensation.
After you download the dreaded eight-page form, you feel like the whole process is a tremendous waste of time. You’re really not sure if you’re a four or a five in many of these areas. Should you boost your numbers only to have your boss call you out on it? What a hassle!
Old school performance evaluations
This scenario has become all too commonplace across many organizations. Employees and managers are going through the motions to complete the required performance evaluation forms, but they’re not having a real impact on performance or the organization’s mission and vision. This type of performance evaluations may also push managers toward waiting to give negative feedback rather than correcting problems right when they happen, and they don’t leave much room for discussing how to improve performance in the future.
So, why do we fall into this trap?
Many organizations aren’t sure how to move away from the standard rating scales into a performance management system that is meaningful for employees, their managers and the organization as a whole.
Throwing out the rating scales
Although we’ve used rating scales since what feels like the beginning of time, a lot of organizations have ratings that are virtually meaningless. No one can articulate the difference between a 3 and a 5, for example, and managers and employees lack clarity on what impact the ratings have on overall performance. There’s also not a strong correlation between the performance rating number and the compensation and accolades that go along with it.
The shift to measurable goals that matter
There is a better way. Organizations can and should focus more on measurable, time-bound goals. What is the organization hoping to achieve and how does the employee fit into this equation? Some employees need to understand the big picture and how their individual, unique contributions have an impact on the success of the organization.
Training can help with this, but make sure you don’t fall into the trap of training the form. Performance management is so much greater than that. Instead, have senior leaders talk about how each employee is a participant in the company’s achievement of its vision. Place emphasis on goal-setting and meeting those goals, rather than just completing a form.
Employee goals need to have clear action steps and due dates so that the employee understands what needs to be achieved in order to have acceptable performance. Instead of circling numbers on a rating scale, the performance evaluation conversation shifts to something more substantive. This type of conversation can also help with engagement. The employee feels more empowered to talk about what’s going well, as well as areas where they may need some guidance or additional training.
When employees and managers understand the why behind what they’re doing, there’s typically more buy-in and engagement in the process. Your high performing employees will most certainly be on board with creating and achieving goals that help the organization reach its fullest potential.
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Great article! Performance evaluations have changed a lot over the years. You make some great points for why companies should move away from standard ratings and move towards more goal-oriented reviews of employees. Evaluations can play an important role in employees’ engagement levels. Additionally, it is crucial that an employee understands how their job fits into the overall mission of the business. Our company, Domus, helps many companies with employee engagement. We have successfully implemented employee engagement programs for multiple Fortune 50 companies. To learn more, visit www.domusinc.com.