The Changing Role of Annual Performance Evaluations

As metrics go, none suck worse than the traditional annual performance evaluation. While posited as an objective measurement of job performance, in practice it is highly subjective and often packed with emotional baggage. Evaluators think they are pushing for continuous improvement but in reality they are often personally judging the employee, knowingly or unknowingly, but thereby making it a popularity contest in either case.

Meanwhile, employees think they are negotiating for a raise or promotion in this process. There may not be a raise in the offering as pay is scaled by the market more so than by individual performance. If a pay raise is issued, it is still defined by a pre-set step process more likely tied to budget or market pressures than to actual individual performance.

Worse, the traditional evaluation form is often a one-size-fits-all measurement of general parameters. Does the employee show up for work on time or call out sick often? Does the employee meet the job requirements? Does the employee make waves or play nice? Stuff like that doesn’t tell an employer anything really other than the company did or didn’t make a mistake in hiring at the outset. Nothing is learned about the employee’s actual contribution to the company that doesn’t fit in a neat little check box on a barely relevant, outdated form.

So why does anyone still engage in such an archaic, morale-killing practice? Usually because that’s how things have always been done so that’s how things continue.

If a company desires to evaluate competency, such should be done at the end of the typical 90 day probationary period. Often that’s referred to as the “trial period” meaning full employment status is granted after the employee proves their competency on the job. Ergo, evaluating competency at that point at least makes sense to the employee and is therefore not damaging to morale. But once that competency level has been established, get over it. You know already.

If new technologies or processes are introduced then a competency test can be administered after the training, or taken by the employee’s own initiative in order to skip the training. Both are acceptable practices and do not negatively affect morale.

Otherwise, ditch the traditional annual review in favor of ongoing metrics based on the values the company actually needs. Evaluate the employee’s cumulative contribution including those towards innovation and in leadership. Watch to see how well the employee adapts to, embraces, and contributes to change in processes and technologies.  Look for employee qualities that reduce or close organizational, operational or cultural gaps. In other words, measure what counts. Leave absenteeism and such to disciplinary actions as needed and not to performance reviews.

Provide opportunities to enable the employee to contribute above and beyond the job description and consistently and frequently reward that effort. In other words, assume competency and seek to encourage and reward exceptionalism.

Also, make reviews a two-way conversation so that employees can also note changes they think their department should make to improve efficiencies and investment returns. Encourage their honest feedback on training programs and business processes. Odds are they can spot opportunities for innovation and process improvements long before upper management will.

In the end, you should have a process that does not leave the employee feeling intimidated, discouraged, unappreciated, or angry. Instead, the process should be perceived as a mutual and proactive attempt at making the company more competitive and successful.

pam bakerPam Baker is the author of eight books and hundreds of technology articles published daily in leading online and print publications. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC) and the Internet Press Guild (IPG). You can reach her or follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

Pam Baker

Pam Baker

Contributor at Tech Page One
Pam Baker is the author of eight books and hundreds of technology articles published daily in leading online and print publications. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC) and the Internet Press Guild (IPG).
Pam Baker
Pam Baker
Tags: Business,Business Management,Productivity