December 11, 2019
Performance Management 12 April 2018
How to Have Effective Evaluations: Just Talk to Your Employees
Wendy Dailey

Last year, before SHRM17, SHRM Blogger Matthew Stollak wrote a post calling out HR professionals on our inability to leave good feedback to speakers at conferences. And having helped plan a conference in South Dakota, I completely agree with his assessment. Rather than giving the speaker feedback on their topic, we complain about the hard chairs or the room temp or what the presenter is wearing. I don’t recall seeing any feedback on content or how the speaker might improve, and these are the people who are training supervisors to give evaluations! But we can do better and if you are reading this, it means you want to do better.

Our employees deserve to know how they are doing in their in their jobs. A lot of times we just want to hope the employee just knows – I once had a supervisor complain that one of his employees was “too slow” in completing a task. I asked him how long the job should take; well, he wasn’t sure, but not as long as this employee was taking to do the job. I asked if he had told the employee ahead of time approximately how long it should take. He said no, but the employee should just know. How? The supervisor’s theory was if you are experienced in this job, you should just know. Well, maybe/maybe not. 

You can’t expect your employees to just know something without you setting expectations. This is why it is important for you, HR, and you, supervisor, to understand the job, why it exists, so you can be clear in your expectations.

So, you’ve done that – you’ve written a great job description and found the right person. Now, when that person starts you should talk about your expectations for the job – don’t expect them to remember everything you talked about in the interview – that could have been weeks ago! In the onboarding, review the position description and talk about your expectations, especially the things that aren’t in the job description (you know, those things we cover with “other duties as assigned”). 

But this doesn’t solve the problem of the annual completion of an “official” document that ranks and rates each employee and takes up so much time, in one sitting. So much time it becomes overwhelming and we all put it off until we are up against the deadline and we throw something together quickly. We meet with the employee and check all the boxes. We all dread it. But we can make it better and easier.

With some help from my Twitter Friends, I’ve put together a list of ways to help you be better at effective evaluations.

Step 1: Spend some time working on the evaluation throughout the year. 

My friend Anne Tomkinson says, 

“An eval is simply the formal documentation of informal ongoing conversations. Meet with your employees on a regular basis to talk about how they are doing.”

Anne advises using the idea of “Start, Stop, Continue. If it doesn’t fit one of those, why are you saying it?” 

1. START – List things/behaviors that would be beneficial to START doing.
2. STOP – List things/behaviors being done that that are not working (I/we should STOP doing them).
3. CONTINUE – List things/behaviors currently done that should CONTINUE being done.

Using this method throughout the year, you can start getting strong information to finalize the evaluation. 

Step 2: Put together your evaluation. 

Evaluate each employee individually, do not compare them to each other. Use your notes from throughout the year to complete the form as required by your company. Ben Eubanks suggests 

“Be clear in your constructive criticism/coaching. Trying to water it down runs the risk of yet another, more unpleasant conversation later. Make your praise and critique separate.”

Nobody likes the positive-negative-positive crap sandwich! Please take 5 minutes to watch this DisruptHR talk on that same topic.

While you are working on your evaluation, you should ask your employee to provide some input by completing a copy of the evaluation for themselves. Some employees will be more forthcoming about things they want to share in writing rather than in person. Sometimes employees get nervous trying to share their highs and areas they need to work on, even when they have a supervisor they get along with.

Step 3: Schedule time to meet with your employee. 

Allow your employee enough notice to prepare themselves and allow enough time during the evaluation with nothing else scheduled before or after. You don’t want to be rushed. You need to be prepared, and relaxed during the evaluation. Keith Enochs recommends giving your employee their evaluation prior to meeting with them. 

“Let them see what's on there. Gives them a chance to process. Then they can focus on the discussion during your meeting vs. peeking ahead to see what's written.”

And also ask for their self-evaluation prior to your time together so you can review and be prepared for their thoughts.

Step 4: Meet with your employee and have a conversation. 

 Your evaluation meeting should be similar to your meetings throughout the year, perhaps a little longer to complete a formal evaluation; it should be a conversation. Kyra Matkovich advises 

"Be sure it is a two-way conversation. Listen. And if you’re waiting for the eval to talk about past issues, you’re too late. There should be ZERO surprises at the eval.”

If you have been meeting throughout the year, there won’t be.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. The evaluation process is one that cannot end. But all you need to do is talk to your employees on a regular basis about their performance. You can do it.

Wendy Dailey is an HR Business Partner in South Dakota. With almost 20 years of experience in human resources, she has worked in a variety of industries including construction, airlines, banking, and healthcare. Wendy is active in her local SHRM group, DisruptHR and in the #HRTribe on Twitter. She is co-host of the #HRSocialHour podcast and twitter chat. Wendy was named to the 2018 SHRM blogging team and writes for Workology, Prosky and on her Personal Blog: My Dailey Journey

In her spare time, Wendy enjoys spending time with her family and leading her daughters’ Girl Scout troops Connect with Wendy on Twitter.