Performance Evaluation In The New World

טלי דגני

Tali Dgani


5 min read

Performance Evaluation In The New World

Anyone who knows me knows that I get goose bumps whenever I hear the phrase “Performance Evaluation”. The notion of having an all-knowing manager that makes decisions for this employees is an old world concept in my opinion. The employee doesn't need to be evaluated, he needs guidance, he needs counseling, he needs leadership, but above all, he simply needs someone's attentive ear.

At this point I'm usually told, “But what about feedback? What about goals? If we don't do it in organized manner, neither will the managers.” Obviously, this is the source of the problem. Managers themselves don't need an evaluation, they need counseling, guidance, leadership.

But if they need this process in order to provide feedback and goals, how are they handling their employees on a day-to-day basis? What kind of talks are they having with them? They're trying to bandage an open wound, whereas they need to first stitch it.

So here are, in my opinion, five mistakes that companies do regarding performance evaluation:

Running the process through the system - Once managers are instructed to adhere to the system, slots are scheduled for receiving feedback, and as a result they keep their feedback for the scheduled slots, since they're embedded in the system. Let's be honest, who wouldn't rather avoid or postpone unpleasant talks? It's never a good time to have it, because we dislike it. By then, six months have already passed by and the allocated slot has arrived, but by now the issue requiring feedback has long since gone... The feedback will surprise the employee and will contribute nothing to him at this point. Alternatively, the feedback will remain unsaid (since the issue at hand happened long ago) and the employee cannot really grow.

Creating forms focused on improvements. It is true that strengths are also mentioned in these as something to be preserved, along with the employee's growth horizon, but no one bothers building a program that focuses on empowering and utilizing those strengths. Instead, goals are stated and after that, the focus is on a program for improving weaknesses.

Letting employees complete a from about themselves before the evaluation talk - Anyone would probably be in two minds when required to complete a form on themselves - If I give myself a 5-star rating (highest score), the manager will consider me unrealistic, since I am not really exceptional all-around. On the other hand, if I grade myself too low, the manager might think that I'm really not good at what I'm doing, and I don't want to plant any ideas in his mind. As an employee, I want to hear what the manger thinks of me, instead of giving him ideas. Secondly, there is the issue of my growth horizon - If I write that I aspire to be the deputy CEO, I'll be laughed at since I'm still not ready for that. However, if I write that I want to be a team leader, he might think that I'm gunning at his job. As a result people tend to look for something that will impress others, instead of stating what's important to them.

Determining the employee's vocational growth according to the manger's needs and not the employee's passion. A team has goals, and so does the company, and the team leader needs to meet these. Managers use performance evaluation in order to move forward tasks that employees don't necessarily like, but do fit the needs of the manager and, from his perspective, are the correct way to proceed. For example, an employee with good technological skills but not so good inter-personal and leadership skills will be assigned a task to lead a project that involves considerable interaction with people. He will probably find this task hard to accomplish, but on the other hand, unwilling to disappoint his manager, he will have trouble telling him that this goal doesn't suit him. In this case, he might get the job done, but will hate every minute of it, and will find work depleting.

Linking feedback to merit. If performance evaluation is used later on to determine bonuses and pay raises, why should the employee be sincerely open and willing to receive feedback? He will only try to prove his value in order to gain the “rewards”. He will contest the feedback and do anything in his power to prove that he acted properly, or did what was right or asked of him. Can anyone really be receptive and talk about growth when each failure threatens their salary? In order to really develop, there needs to exist a safe space, which allows for mistakes, for trying without always succeeding, for taking chances. It's OK to connect goals to bonuses, but linking it to the feedback or evaluation doesn't enable real receptiveness. And if there's no real receptiveness and a place for learning, then what is the point in having the feedback/evaluation? Just for the sake of being systematic?

A good feedback doesn't address only the mistakes, but it also leaves room for learning. So what do I recommend?

Criticism only serves the critic (Adler) - Performance evaluation in the new world

Let's start by changing the name of the process. We're not a review committee and we're not here to evaluate employees. We're managers and we're here to help the employee grow. Instead, let's call it an employee growth program, because growth isn't a product of criticism, but rather of learning and guidance.

I believe that the following make for a successful employee growth program:

Start with the employees themselves - It's not possible to create a growth program without listening to the employees themselves, their desires and their needs. Instead of using a form, clear an hour for an open talk with the employee, dedicated just for listening and asking questions. What works for them? Why? What doesn't work for them? Why? What do they enjoy the most? What don't they enjoy? Based on their answers, you will get to know them better, and understand what's important for them, what are their needs, strengths and passions, and this will enable you to pave a better path moving forward.

After having conducted this initial listening talk, gather yourselves and figure out who are your employees, and then look at the big picture and decide what goals fit their strengths and empower them (that's right, strengths and not weaknesses), get ready for your next employee talk (having a good HR manager to pick his brain on the matter is even better). Understand how far you can help them grow in a way that also suits their passions. At this stage, alongside the desires and passions of the employee, you also have to consider the needs of the organization. Look at the team from a wider perspective and think how to enable each team member to bring into fruition their strengths and desires but in a way that enables you collectively to achieve the goals and needs of the organization. Understand what goals are viable and how far can the employee grow within the existing possibilities.

Weaknesses - They exist and sometimes they hinder the employee from achieving his objectives. Our focus shouldn't be on improving them, but rather on how to face them. There are 4 ways to handle weaknesses.

  1. Accepting them as a fact and enjoying the strengths of the employee, despite the weaknesses.
  2. Approaching the employee's weaknesses knowingly and helping him deal with them up to a point that they don't hinder his ability to succeed. For example, a non-English speaking employee in an international organization should be steered towards engaging his colleagues, but not talking with clients.
  3. Getting help from other team members having strengths that offset the weaknesses, and having them collaborate, each one using his strengths accordingly. For example, connect an English speaking person with a non-English speaker.
  4. Using external means that can bypass the issue. For example, using software that can write English emails.

Clear smart goals that will help them get the bonus - In the end, our objective is the success of both the employee and the organization. A growth program needs to be an intrinsic part of the organizational culture instead of a separate entity. Understand the goals of the organization and derive quantifiable goals for teams and employees. These goals can then be linked to pay/bonuses.

Create together with the employee a program that also provides them with means to achieve their goals.. The last step merges all of the above said. You have goals, strengths and employee growth. At this point think of the simplest way to express these ideas (I like using phrases such as “Continue”, ”Start”, “Stop” etc. but there are countless ways of doing this). This talk must be done with the employee in order to ensure compatibility and continuity with the previous talk. Start by addressing the disparities: the employee's current situation, his aspirations and what needs to be done to achieve them. The disparities address both the goals and the growth.

Take this for a test case. A recruiter wanting to be a HR manager first needs to meet her recruiting criteria, but while doing so she can also build up her counseling skills. On one hand there's the recruiting criteria and on the other growth thanks to working opposite recruiting managers and recruits alike. In this case it could include better counseling to the recruiting manager, by understanding the needs - what fits and what doesn't, and the other end, talking with new recruits to ensure good compatibility and onboarding. This could be her way of improving the recruiting while also growing in her role and acquiring new skills.

Preferably, the process should be annual with quarterly modifications. Employees should be committed to it (and why wouldn't they be if it coincides with their wants) and not only management, since if the employees are not committed to the process, it will fail (indicating that the process was poorly executed). Feedback should be constant and immediate, and the program can be adapted to suit changes in the organization.

It might sound complicated, but in reality it is much simpler than it looks, since the complexity level can be adjusted as needed. Sometimes it's even so simple that you only have to decide on a way, and things just fall into place on their own... because more often than not, once you decide on the “where”, the “how” soon follows.




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