Anne W. Chapman, Esq., Labor and Employment

Most supervisors would say that conducting employee performance evaluations is not an area of their job that they look forward to. However, there are many benefits to conducting timely evaluations of employees. Furthermore, evaluations do not have to be time consuming or complex.

Most employees would like feedback concerning how they are performing in a position. It also provides the employee an opportunity to voice his/her concerns and/or offer input. This conversation can allow the employer to be aware of potential issues and address them before they become a bigger problem. A written performance evaluation creates documentation for the employee’s personnel file that may be beneficial when making future decisions.

The focus of the evaluation should be on performance and behavior. The evaluator should be as objective as possible and focus on concrete examples. Several topics should be covered at an annual performance evaluation, including the expectations of the employee’s position, whether the employee has met the expectations, accomplishments of the employee, areas for improvement and goals for development. Likewise, the review should allow the employee to provide feedback to the employer.

Preparation is the key to being able to cover the topics as well as clearly communicate to the employee. Making notes and recording performance throughout the year concerning employees makes the process easier. Being able to cite specific examples to support your assessment and detailing assignments and specific contributions of the employee adds credibility to the evaluation.

Constructive criticism can be helpful but should be thoughtful with specific examples provided whenever possible.  Constructive criticism is not accusatory or vague. As a general rule, alternating positive and negative comments works best.  Where a performance expectation is not being met, a plan should be developed on how the employee can meet the expectation and assistance can be offered when appropriate.

Setting aside sufficient time to conduct the evaluation in advance is also important.

The evaluation does not have to be long, but it should not be rushed. Both small issues (specific task, particular customer interaction) and big issues (attendance, communication style) should be discussed at the annual performance evaluation. However, employers should not wait until the annual evaluation to discipline an employee. Rather, discipline issues can be discussed at an evaluation, but should be addressed on an ongoing basis.

At the end of the evaluation, an employee should know what is expected of him or her, why the expectations are important and how he or she is doing in meeting these expectations.

If the employee disagrees with the evaluation, the employer should not debate the issue. Rather, the employer should be polite but firm and remind the employee that he/she can respond in writing. For known problem employees, the evaluator should be short and specific.

Making timely performance evaluations a priority can help an employer address issues early on and avoid future problems. With preparation, evaluations can be relatively simple discussions that provide feedback and assistance to an employee.

Contact Anne Chapman with your labor and employment questions and matters at achapman@blalockwalters.com or 941.748.0100.

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