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Academic Insight: A Collaborative Approach for Conducting Performance Evaluations

Shontarius D. Aikens, Ph.D

Most managers and employees dread the performance evaluation process. However, if done properly, it can be a very effective, efficient, and developmental process that can lead to stronger and more positive managersupervisee working relationships. I know this because years ago when I was a supervisor, I searched for a better way to conduct them. And after reading various articles on the subject and Peter Drucker’s Management by Objective (MBO) philosophy, I had a mind shift that forever changed how I would view and implement performance evaluations. This month’s article provides an overview of the process I used as a manager and my reflections on the benefits of incorporating these principles into the performance evaluation process

Step 1: Adopt a positive mindset.

The first step is to view the performance evaluation process with the right mindset at the onset. If you view it as a mundane task, your actions will resemble a “let’s get it over with” approach. Instead, view this process as an opportunity to shine a light on the employee’s contributions to the organization and to provide the employee with developmental feedback to enhance their skills. You would be surprised at how much of a difference a simple shift in thinking can make.

Step 2: Share the performance evaluation form with the supervisee at the beginning.

After reflecting on various jobs in the earlier part of my career, it occurred to me that the first time I actually saw the evaluation form was during my end of review period evaluation meeting. Perhaps at such a young age, I didn’t know enough to request a copy of this form in advance. However, after talking with some of my friends and colleagues, it appears that this was the norm for most people during their first year of employment at a job. Eventually, I started giving my supervisees a copy of the official performance evaluation form at the beginning of each evaluation period. This was my attempt to be transparent about the categories that would be used to evaluate their work performance.

Step 3: Conduct a 1-on-1 mutual expectations meeting with each supervisee.

To incentivize supervisees to be more engaged, include them in the process of developing their individual performance goals. At the beginning of the evaluation period, schedule a 1-on-1 mutual expectations meeting with each supervisee to accomplish the following as indicated by the roles below:

  • Manager: Take the lead in describing in a vision or a narrative what ideal performance would look like based on the manager’s understanding of the supervisee’s position and job responsibilities.
  • Supervisee: Provide feedback on if the manager’s vision or narrative is an accurate, reasonable, and feasible depiction of their work responsibilities. During this time, share with the manager any resources needed to be successful.
  • Manager: Type up these items in the performance evaluation form and save the electronic file. Be sure to give a hard copy of this completed document to the supervisee. When I implemented this process, there were several positive benefits. One, it helped me to better understand the workrelated tasks and challenges experienced by my supervisee. Two, making performance measurements objective reduced the lack of knowledge and anxiety that a supervisee may have felt about achieving a desired rating. And three, it made it easier for me to assign a performance rating at the end of the evaluation period.

Step 4: Make ongoing updates and revisions to the performance evaluation document.

It is not wise to cram for a final exam the day before, because a poor score on that test can heavily influence one’s overall course letter grade.

The same can be said about waiting until the last minute to draft a performance evaluation document which can play a significant role in determining whether an employee will receive a promotion and/or a raise in the future. Consider the performance evaluation file as a living document when it comes to documenting events and instances related to an employee’s performance. For example, when something significant occurs, open the document on the computer, make specific notes and comments right then, and save the file.

Summary

There are several benefits to adopting this formative and summative performance evaluation approach. One, it reduces the chances of a manager forgetting keys details about significant events or accomplishments that occurred and having to rely solely on their memory. Two, it helps to promote continuous communication and ongoing feedback throughout the year to reduce the chances of “surprises” during the end of period evaluation meeting. Three, supervisees will start taking more initiative and ownership in managing their performance by notifying and providing documentation to the manager when a task or milestone has been completed or if there are factors inhibiting their ability to meet performance expectations. And four, being diligent and persistent in documenting items as the year progresses will result in a more detailed and thorough performance evaluation document. All this means a better process and experience for the employee, the manager, and ultimately the organization.

Dr. Aikens can be reached at: saikens@cord.edu

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