Employee evaluation – a closeup of a written checklist, with someone’s hand shown holding a pen to check items off
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How to carry out an employee evaluation

When done right, employee evaluation can boost employee engagement, build a transparent company culture and increase retention. Here’s how to approach it.

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It’s all too easy to see employee evaluation as a chore. Instead, see it as an opportunity. 

Also known as performance reviews, employee evaluations are far too often thought to be for the benefit of the organization – managers evaluate performance to see if employees are performing their job to the right standard. 

In fact, they’re a fantastic opportunity to give back to your employees, providing a useful touchpoint for building relationships, increasing performance and contributing to employee engagement. Here is the best definition we have found to reflect this: 

“Employee evaluation refers to the periodic assessment of employees by their managers in an attempt to evaluate their progress, performance, measure their growth, praise and reward their achievements and discuss current and future expectations.”

With a bit of thought, employee evaluations can even be a surprise driver of employee engagement. Here’s how you can use them to their maximum potential.

Employee performance evaluation and its role in your business

Why carry out an employee performance evaluation? 

From an organizational point of view, it’s a check-in on employees keeping up their end of the bargain. Your business is paying each employee a certain amount per annum in exchange for a list of services specified on their job spec. The business wants to know if this is being fulfilled. 

Equally, it goes deeper than that. 

Some of the most consistently cited reasons for quitting a role include lack of recognition and poor career development opportunities. A good employee evaluation helps with both, which is a real asset as open vacancies hover round an all-time high

The benefits of employee evaluation

Improves performance

Your organization’s performance is a collective endeavor. If you’re not offering regular feedback to your employees, you’re potentially missing out on huge performance gains

Regular performance reviews are a great opportunity to identify gaps in employees’ knowledge or experience and identify ways to help overcome these. Off the back of a performance review, you could look into providing further training, peer mentorship or shadowing opportunities that would increase performance in specific areas. 

The business benefits as your employee becomes more skilled. The employee benefits from skills development opportunities. Everyone’s a winner.  

Improves employee engagement and retention

Interestingly, 83% of employees appreciate receiving feedback, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative.

Spending time on feedback = investing in the success of your employees. Your employees see that time investment as a sign that you want to build a successful, long-term relationship with them. Employee engagement increases as a result. 

Employees who are engaged are also more likely to stay in their jobs – no small consideration whilst the US has over 11 million unfilled vacancies and a major worker shortage. 

Helps create a transparent culture

When run well, employee evaluations are opportunities for employees to flag things they aren’t happy with. This could be something as simple as the coffee machine being constantly broken, or as critical as major compliance regulations not being followed. 

Normalize speaking up, and frame your performance reviews as an opportunity to do so. 

How often should you carry out performance reviews?

Most businesses carry out ‘formal’ employee reviews once or twice a year. Annual reviews being the done thing, however, doesn’t mean that they are the best way of approaching performance evaluation.

In fact, 96% of employees agree that receiving regular feedback is a good thing. Running reviews once per year slows down feedback – 32% of employees have to wait three or more months to get feedback from their manager. That’s a huge opportunity for improvement missed. At the same time, annual reviews create distance bias – managers remember more recent events better, and assign them more importance over work completed earlier in the year.

They are also massively stressful for everyone involved! Making it a big annual event piles the pressure on. When 22% of employees have called in sick rather than face a performance review and a shocking 15% have even cried, it’s probably time to re-evaluate how the traditional performance review system works. 

Instead, try several smaller, more regular reviews, built on a culture of continuous feedback. These offer a more familiar setting in which employees can open up – an informal chat can often accomplish more in the long term than a major, formalized review!

Or, if annual performance reviews are important to you as a company, consider softening them with plenty of feedback opportunities across the working year. Performance will improve, and you’ll find employees more willing to engage with the process. 

What should be included in an employee evaluation?

If you want your employee evaluations to be effective, make sure to include the following steps. 

Set expectations before the evaluation

There’s no point making employees sit their evaluation blind – you miss so many opportunities for useful conversations this way. 

Let your employees know how the evaluation will be structured and what you’d like to talk about. This gives employees a chance to reflect on their performance and consider where they might need support. 

Congratulate employees for their successes

An employee evaluation is an opportunity to congratulate as much as it is to identify areas for improvement. Identify where each employee has performed really well, and emphasize where their hard work has made a difference. A small thank you makes all the difference!

Consider how you want to score key areas

Some businesses prefer qualitative written feedback over numerical scales. Our take: do whatever works for you. 

If you are going down the ‘mark out of ten’ route or similar, it’s a good idea to circulate the scoring criteria ahead of the evaluation itself. This makes everything more transparent and increases the likelihood of employees engaging with their marks, whilst reducing instances of bias and favoritism.  

Make feedback actionable

At the end of an evaluation, employees should be left with a clear plan of action for reaching the goals you’ve discussed. Plan these steps out in the evaluation, so you know employees are confident they can reach these.

Employee evaluation: the manager’s role

Line managers typically run employee evaluation activities for their direct reports. They are the bridge between senior management and what’s happening on the ground. As such, how managers approach performance reviews can have a huge impact on employee wellbeing. 

With great power comes great responsibility. Managers need to prepare, conduct and follow up on employee evaluations in a way that gives employees the best possible chance to present themselves to the company. 

Here are a few must-dos: 

  • Give your employees plenty of notice. This helps them gather their thoughts and increases the chance they will engage with performance reviews.
  • Be flexible with timings. Allowing employees to suggest a time slot that works best for them. A stressed single parent won’t necessarily perform at their best just after they’ve got in from the school run, for example. 
  • Emphasize that this is a chance for employees as much as it is for management. In the run up to evaluation, ask your employees to think about how the business could support them more in their professional goals. 
  • Make notes on your employee evaluation form as you go, or else write the evaluation up as soon as it has finished. The more accurately you describe your conversation, the more useful it will be. 
  • Employee buy in is important. Get employees to sign off their evaluation form to ensure they think it’s a fair reflection of what was said in their meeting. 
  • Check-in with your employees on how they’re finding things post evaluation? Do their goals still seem achievable to them? Could you offer any further support?

Employee evaluation methods

There are various methods you can use for employee performance reviews. The most basic is a manager-led review, in which an employee’s line manager assesses performance over a given period and shares their thoughts. Ultimately, the manager’s point of view is final. 

This is best avoided for three main reasons: 

  • Your managers can’t possibly remember everything every employee has done since the last evaluation, so tend to over-focus on recent events.  
  • It limits the evaluation to a single point of view, which doesn’t give a balanced picture of overall performance. 
  • As a result, there’s a greater chance your employees dismiss these evaluations as unfair or biased, and are less likely to engage as a result. 

To combat this, you could opt for a self-assessment model. Using this method managers still evaluate employee performance, with employees encouraged to evaluate themselves against a fixed set of criteria ahead of the review. This encourages employee evaluations to be more of a conversation, where both participants can express their point of view and come to a conclusion that they both accept. 

Team assessment (also known as ‘360 degree evaluation’) builds on this by asking team members for feedback from peers as well. When managed effectively, this offers the most complete perspective on employee performance possible – other team members see things that both managers and evaluees might miss. 

Heads up: you’ll need to put measures in place that stop this becoming a “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” exercise. Consider building a specific form for people to distribute, with space for praise and more in-depth feedback – this also helps standardize feedback and makes it easier for line managers to analyze feedback effectively. 

Employee evaluation examples

Are you struggling to express feedback effectively? 

If so, keep this simple formula in mind: 

Employee behavior + its effect in the workplace

This works for both positive and negative feedback points in equal measure because it emphasizes the wider impact of individual behavior. For example: 

“Keeps a positive viewpoint, and this helps in making quality decisions in difficult situations”

“Inconsistent attitude towards decision making which adversely disturbs team’s workflow”

“A friendly communicator who has maintained a perfect relationship with every section in the company”

“Possesses insightful perspectives on issues, and this is a valuable asset when the team needs to solve critical problems”

“Often resists changes that could lead to an increase in productivity”

These are taken from Indeed’s list of 250 evaluation phrases for effective feedback. It’s a fantastic resource for those new to employee feedback, or simply looking to communicate feedback to employees better. 

If you’d like to see sample employee evaluations written by a manager, check out this article for more employee performance evaluation report samples. We think this one in particular highlights how to balance out positive and negative feedback: 

“John meets manager expectations in the role of trainer. He adapts to ever-changing client demands and works effectively under pressure. John maintains a positive attitude and acute sense of detail, but often at the expense of effective time management. John demonstrates adequate communication skills and completes all requested tasks and required responsibilities. He is very considerate of other team members and works well independently or collaboratively. John shows great aptitude for leadership, but he doesn’t seek out additional professional development opportunities.”

Employee evaluation templates

First time running employee evaluations? Or perhaps you’re looking for some examples of best practices to compare your own processes to? 

Use these employee evaluation templates as inspiration. 

Source: https://templates.office.com/en-us/employee-evaluation-and-wage-review-small-business-tm45020037

An example online employee evaluation review template

Source: https://safetyculture.com/checklists/employee-evaluation/ 

Source: https://semoscloud.com/blog/editable-employee-evaluation-forms/ 

Final thoughts on employee evaluation

If your employees dread performance reviews, it’s because you’re running them wrong. 

If you make them a big annual event with an overly negative focus (“here are all the areas we’d like you to do better”), your employees won’t enjoy it. Stress and lack of engagement stunt conversations and your managers pile time into performance reviews with no positive response. 

Equally, if you emphasize the opportunity for feedback, career development and genuine conversation, employee evaluations may just be the most surprisingly effective employee engagement tool in the box. 

Focus on praise as well as areas to improve, offer appropriate training to cover skills gaps and use actionable goals to encourage good performance. You’ll start seeing a difference immediately. 

Blink enables constant two-way communication and feedback, and makes performance reviews easier than ever! Book your free demo here.

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