Making Performance Evaluations Meaningful

Sabrina Starling, PhD, PCC, BCC
Lisa Kramer, PCC

Most business owners dread performance evaluations. Here are some tips to make performance evaluations not only easier, but more meaningful:

  • Do employee evaluations on employee anniversary dates, rather than trying to do them all at once during a certain time of year. Doing more than a couple evaluations at a time is overwhelming for even the best of business owners.
  • Don’t “save up” employee performance problems for the evaluation. Instead, make it a practice to address problems with employees as they arise. This will make it easier for you to do the evaluations, and your employees won’t be surprised during the evaluation.
  • Keep a log of employee successes throughout the year. This will jog your memory when it comes time to do the evaluation. Try to be specific, using examples. Specific feedback about strengths and successes is much more valuable to employees than global feedback, such as, “You are great with customers!” Instead, identify specific behaviors you observe, such as, “I’ve noticed that when you deal with a complaint from a customer, you consistently ask the customer how the customer would like the problem resolved. I appreciate that.”
  • Give feedback using the “sandwich approach.” In other words, layer constructive criticism between comments regarding the employee’s successes or strengths.
  • To heighten employee self-awareness, ask employees to evaluate themselves. This provides an excellent opportunity to identify and discuss gaps between your perceptions and the employee’s perceptions. Discuss how the employee’s self-ratings compare with your ratings. When there are gaps, ask for the employee’s feedback regarding the gap. You might ask, “What do you make of it that you gave yourself a “5” in leadership potential, and I gave you a “3”? Gaps in employer and employee ratings are great areas to target for setting performance goals with the employee.
  • Approach the evaluation with the employee with a mindset of curiosity. Here are some effective questions to ask during the evaluation: How do you see your performance this year? What Wins/Successes did you have? What challenges came up for you? How did you respond? What did you learn? What might you do differently next time?
  • Create accountability for any areas targeted for improvement. In other words, how will you both know the employee is making progress on these goals?
  • For an employee who is experiencing problematic performance, regular follow-up with specific accountability is critical to the employee’s success. For example, if you both decide the employee will work alongside another employee for a period of time to assist in filling in learning gaps, it is important to have a specific plan in place as to how long they will work together. You might request a weekly progress report about how it is going.

Try this ” Get into Action” Tip: Start your list of Wins and Successes for your employees today. Look for opportunities to acknowledge your employees for what they are doing well. Tell them what you are noticing!

Sabrina Starling, Tap the PotentialWritten by:

Sabrina Starling

2 replies
  1. Rodrigo Laddaga
    Rodrigo Laddaga says:

    Great tips Sabrina! this is so important! thank you for bring this to the table.
    I will also recommend to make each month or every two months a formal feedback meeting. Each manager with the people to report direct to them. In this formal meeting you can address 5 topics:

    • Start to asking an open question of how is the employee feeling in their job, le them talk.

    • Tell the good things that the employee is doing with specific examples, don’t say: “you are doing good with customers”, say “the other day I watched you help a client filling the customer form”. We want to let the people know what kind of specific behavior we wanted to continue doing.

    • Tell the opportunity areas (bad things) that the employee is doing. The same as the example above, specific behaviors.

    • Tell the employee 5 specific things he or she should focus in the next month or period when the next formal feedback meeting will take place between the manager and the employee.

    • Ask the employee who is he or she doing in his personal life, in general, how is the family, etc. etc. Don’t push them, if they want to share ok if they don’t is ok. This is very helpful since very often in small business an employee starts to have a bad performance and eventually gets fired and after somebody hear that that person was having a rough time in his personal life. This is not to justify poor performance, but to understand that we as persons are influenced in our job by our personal lives and vice versa. When we go to work we all still are husbands, wife’s, sons, daughters, uncles, etc. etc.

    It is extremely y important to have this formal feedback meetings regularly, the meeting should last between 30 min. to 1 hr. Some of you may think that it is a lot of time for the people that has 8 or 10 people in his or her team, however, I can guarantee you that the benefits of doing these meetings are tremendous.

  2. Dr. Sabrina Schleicher
    Dr. Sabrina Schleicher says:

    Rodrigo, thank you for adding those additional suggestions! I really like the last one. Taking the time to get to know employees helps with retention. I’ve always appreciated my bosses who showed an interest in who I am as a person.

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