The Employee Review

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

Whether your company does annual evaluations on a set date or on the anniversary of hire, once a year, you will need to sit down with each employee and review their performance.

There are two types of supervisors: those who enjoy performance appraisals and those who want to avoid them at all costs. Why such a diversity of opinion? A level of comfort is involved. For some supervisors, a performance appraisal is an opportunity to assist employees in setting goals for improving their ability to make a contribution to the company’s bottom line.

But for other supervisors, it is an anxiety-producing experience.

In order to ensure the process is effective, a number of questions need to be addressed: How well did management prepare the supervisor to conduct the appraisal session? Did they provide formal training in how to prepare, conduct and document a performance appraisal? Have they provided training in resolving conflicts? How much emphasis does the company place on this process? Is this a skill the supervisor is rated on in their appraisal? How much assistance did the supervisor receive from their immediate supervisor in preparing the appraisal? Lastly, has the supervisor given the employee clear indications before the performance appraisal that they were not meeting expectations?

Return on investment

A performance appraisal should be viewed as part of a process of assessment, education, guidance and mentoring to insure that the employee will provide a reasonable return on the company’s investment. This process is an opportunity to reinforce positive behaviors, extinguish negative ones and to set goals for personal improvement that ultimately lead to career advancement.

Many supervisors do not invest the time necessary to prepare for a performance appraisal. They restrict the conversation to general performance issues and the size of the salary increase. They are averse to confronting the underlying issues that impact performance. They will rate an employee average, when they should rate them below average or "needs improvement." By not confronting the issues with the employee, they have potentially laid the groundwork for a future lawsuit or claim of discrimination. If the employee is fired for poor performance, the disconnect between the documentation and this justification for dismissal may permit an inference of discrimination.

If the past appraisals were poorly prepared and documented, the new supervisor must deal with an employee who perceives that his or her past performance was acceptable. This immediately provides the basis for a relationship that will be based on conflict. The new supervisor has to deal with an employee who perceives that he or she is being singled out for some reason other than performance. The challenge is for the supervisor to explain to the employees what they must do to meet the performance expectations. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to coach and train the employees so they can attain the necessary level of performance.

It is critical that the employer prepare their supervisors to handle performance appraisals. The supervisor should be given training that includes role-playing exercises that demonstrate how to communicate, resolve conflicts and coach an employee whose performance needs to be improved. Role-playing is especially effective, since it permits the supervisor to insert themselves into multiple roles, that of the person being appraised and the person performing the appraisal.

The employer should ensure that performance appraisals are performed on a timely basis. They should coach supervisors how to properly prepare for a performance appraisal, write performance objectives, and document performance. The process needs to be interactive and not one-sided. The old approach was basically an extension of the traditional report card used in school. The employee was presented with a set of ratings and a one-sentence explanation for the rating. This approach did not allow for an open discussion of the facts that supported the rating. This approach was replaced in the 1980s by a more interactive approach, the self-appraisal. Many employers are now using self-appraisal systems that permit the employee to first rate themselves and then discuss their ratings with their immediate supervisor. The conversation will then center on those items where there is a gap in the rating. It is up to the employee and the supervisor to provide facts that will persuade the other party that their rating is the more accurate one. This type of interaction is very constructive in that it focuses on those areas that require clarification.

The performance appraisal session should be scheduled at a time convenient for both parties, in an area that is private and will provide for a confidential conversation. The appraiser should have the appraisal completed in advance, along with an updated job description.

In addition, any previous appraisals should be available to document positive or negative trends. If the individual being appraised reports directly to more than one supervisor, it is recommended that the two supervisors jointly prepare the appraisal form and conduct the appraisal together. If the individual being appraised functions in a team-based environment, the team leader should also be consulted and permitted to provide input into the appraisal.

Properly prepared and executed performance appraisals can be an affirmative defense against a claim of discrimination in promotion or termination. A series of well-documented performance appraisals can be used to demonstrate that the employee was counseled on their performance and given specific short and long-term objectives designed to improve their performance.

Employee input

The appraisals should have a section where the employee has an opportunity to comment on their appraisal. It should also have a signature and date line, so it can demonstrate that the employee had an opportunity to review and discuss their appraisal. With this type of supportive information, you can demonstrate that the employee was given notice of any deficiencies in performance and provided strategies for improving their performance.

In some instances, it might be necessary to perform appraisals more frequently than on an annual basis, especially if performance deficiencies have been identified. In conjunction with an increase in appraisal frequency, action plans with specific expectations and clear deadlines should be developed.

By properly preparing supervisors to complete appraisal forms and conduct appraisal sessions, an employer reduces the potential of claims of discrimination or favoritism. Training and coaching permits the supervisor to enter into an appraisal session with confidence in their ability to handle difficult situations and assist employees in identifying those areas of performance that require improvement. In addition, the employee’s positive performance is recognized and reinforced.

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