Creating a performance evaluation process that actually encourages great performance
I recently gave a speech to a very large audience of state and federal employees. The room was filled with young and old, and I was talking about the differences between the generations. At one point I said that one thing all generations had in common in the workplace is that we all hate the evaluation process. This got a quick round of applause. Then I said, “I think we should do away with performance evaluations” and this got a standing ovation!
When you think about it, how many of us like to sit down and evaluate another person? Most managers and supervisors dread doing this and end up putting it off or doing it poorly. Employees don’t like it either and often feel that the comments or scores are arbitrary and de-motivating.
On the other hand, helping people work together to improve the overall performance of the company can be a rewarding and exciting conversation. Many employees don’t really understand what is expected of them and are not sure what to do to get the results that their manager expects.
To gain a mutual understanding, setting the foundation for future discussions, consider developing the basic ‘Key Result Areas’ for each position – including owners and senior leaders – all the way to the service and factory floor levels.
We want to make sure that our team members know which areas are important to produce real results for the company.
It helps to think of team members as people who are faced with a set of “consumers” who place demands for certain “outputs” from them. These consumers may be co-workers, managers, supervisors or external customers. The demanded outputs may be tangibles, such as manufactured goods or completed projects. Sometimes, they are intangibles, such as ideas or advice. We want to make sure that our team members know which areas are important to produce real results for the company.
Key Result Areas originate from the Company’s Strategic Plan and they describe the specific areas in which outputs must be produced for each position.
Some examples of Key Result Areas (KRAs) would be:
- Production Quality
- Customer Service
- Administration and Records
- Policies & Procedures
It is best to keep the Key Result areas short and very broad. For example, you’d expect people in the sales department to have ‘sales’ as a key result area – right?! We usually recommend that you work with each team member to identify 4 to 6 areas in their job that the company expects real results. Next, work with each team member to identify 1 or 2 measureable objectives for each of these key result areas. Objectives define the specific performance results that need to be met and go into more detail than Key Results Areas, which specify the broad outputs of the position.
Objectives should specify an end-result giving brief details of how it will be achieved and measured.
Characteristics of Effective Objectives:
- Specific & Results Oriented
- Clear & Concise
- Understood and Accepted
- Cost Effective
- Tied to Deadlines
- Challenging but Realistic
Remember, this is a joint effort between a manager/leader and a team member, working together to clarify the Key Result Areas and the associated measureable objectives. The discussion is just as important as writing out the KRAs or objectives. In fact, this is a good time for leaders to share their OWN key result areas – after all, this is a two-way street. The leadership of the company can only meet their own objectives if everyone else on their team plays their part.
Finally, throughout the year, schedule regular Professional Development Discussions to review progress in meeting the Key Result Areas and associated Performance Objectives that were agreed to at the beginning of the business planning cycle.
These are “How am I going?” discussions and provide a valuable opportunity for coaching, problem solving and updating Performance Objectives. This gives both parties a chance to compare actual results with Performance Objectives. These discussions also serve to:
- Celebrate performance results that are on or above target and agree on how good performance can be maintained
- Identify any performance results that are below target and co-develop plans to improve them.
- Discuss problems that may affect future performance and plan preventative action.
- Agree and plan any specific help the employee requires in order to accomplish his or her Performance Objectives.
- Add, change or delete Key Result Areas and/or Performance Objectives in response to changes in priorities or business conditions.
- Find out what the leader can do to clear the path – find ways to support the team member’s efforts and create opportunities for improvement.
Finally, this process works best when it is transactional – a two-way discussion in which both the leader and the team member are talking about what they BOTH can do to help the company to achieve their goals. This is about the performance of the individuals, the teams that they are in and the company as a whole. It is time that we do away with the old methods of trying to evaluate another person and, instead, create positive opportunities for real conversations about the things that matter – clarity, commitment, win/win solutions and finally, results!