Conducting effective performance evaluations.

Performance Evaluations

The objective of every performance evaluation is to identify staff strengths and weaknesses and create a plan for career development. Because performance evaluations can be uncomfortable, particularly when the employees being evaluated have performance problems, the process sometimes fails to receive the attention it deserves. This can result in errors in job assignment and training decisions.
Following are some essentials for conducting an effective performance evaluation.
Training sessions for all evaluators that include review preparation, evaluation methods, techniques for identifying obstacles to success and recommending ways to remove them, methods for creating goals and identification of relevant legal issues.
Evaluation forms that have space for comments and descriptions.
A clearly written, up-to-date position description and an employee manual that have been distributed to staff.
Documentation of all relevant employee behavior throughout the review period so the evaluation is not influenced solely by recent performance and provides no surprises to the employee.
Thorough review of the employees personnel file, including previous evaluations and any other information that may apply, such as information from clients and other employees.
A carefully planned evaluation meeting.
Notice to staff that the meeting will be a two-way discussion. Provide the employee with a copy of the completed evaluation form.
Communication of how performance is measured and how it is compared with policies and procedures.
A meeting that begins with a discussion of the employees strengths, gradually moves to development needs and concludes with a positive comment. Use as many examples as possible when discussing strengths and weaknesses.
A meeting that is free of interruptions. Allow at least one hour to perform the evaluation.
An atmosphere that is relaxed and as informal as possible. An employee should be encouraged to voice his or her opinions on performance-related matters and know that those opinions will be heard.
A focus on the employees performance, not on his or her personality. Avoid comparisons with other employees. If a personality conflict exists, discuss how it has negatively affected performance without attributing anything to the employees personality.
Minimal criticism of performance, with a focus on the future, emphasizing counseling and development. A performance appraisal is not the time to raise specific instances of past employee shortcomings. Provide constructive criticism to an employee when the situation arises.
Measurement criteria that apply to traits as well as skills, such as the ability to work with others and leadership.
Comments/conclusions pertaining to professional responsibilities and achievement of goals that are specific, unambiguous and delivered in such a way that they motivate the employee to work harder in the future.
Clearly written professional responsibilities and quantitative goals (with a deadline for completion) that are effectively communicated to staff. Established goals that are realistic yet challenging.
Observations that neither overemphasize shortcomings nor provide undeserved praise.
Recommendations, such as training, that can overcome obstacles to achieving goals.
Separation from salary reviews. Although performance evaluations and salary reviews are linked, avoid discussing them at the same time. If the employee begins to discuss salary, respond that the amount of any raise depends on how well goals have been met.
Documentation of the important issues raised during the evaluation.
Confirmation that both the evaluator and employee understand the employees development needs, future goals and plan for career guidance.
Staff feedback on how well the evaluation was performed. Solicit recommendations from other employees on how the evaluation process could be improved.
Review of an employees ongoing performance before his or her next evaluation.
Adapted from Management of an Accounting Practice Handbook , published by the American Institute of CPAs.

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