It’s performance evaluation season at my company and I have been working long hours to get all of them done. I have read a lot of articles that are strongly against performance evaluations because of the damage they can do to individual motivation and team dynamics. Having been the recipient of demotivating evaluations (even though I have been consistently a high performer), I completely understand the point of view of these articles. I will also be the first to say that our evaluation process is not perfect. Still, my team actually wants their evaluations. One of their reasons is the same as why some say evaluations are bad: the team knows there is a correlation between their evaluation and any raise or bonus they may get. Still, why do they like their performance evaluations?
There are no surprises. There should be no surprises when it comes to annual evaluations. I make sure that the feedback is delivered continuously throughout the year so the evaluation is just the official summary of all those conversations. The evaluation then loses its intimidation factor because it is part of an ongoing conversation.
Constructive feedback is useful. Have you ever worked in an environment where you received no feedback? If not, then count yourself lucky. Working without any feedback leaves people wondering whether they are on the right track and whether their work is even noticed. Giving and receiving feedback is healthy, as long as it is done constructively. I make sure that the evaluations are fair and balanced. If there is an area that needs improvement, I approach that area as an opportunity to grow rather than a mistake that needs to be punished. I make note of successes and victories. If someone has had a particularly strong year, I make recommendations on how to grow to get to the next level. In addition, I include feedback from their peers and internal clients so the review is not just from my point of view.
Feedback is focused. When there are multiple overlapping categories in the evaluation it is easy to bring up the same points over and over again. If the points are positive they start to lose meaning when they are constantly repeated. If the points refer to a mistake, then it starts to feel like punishment. I try to make the points in each category unique and ensure that they are reflected in the area that is the main reason for the success or lack thereof.
I know my team. I spend a lot of time getting to know every member of my team as individuals. We talk about a lot of different topics regarding work and life. It helps me know how to give feedback in the way it will best be received. I also use tools like the Predictive Index(R) System to better understand what motivates the individuals on my team. Looking back at all the evaluations I have delivered, the discussions that were the most awkward were with the people I knew the least.
Teamwork is an important part of the process. I have worked in some outstanding team environments. Teamwork was an important part of the annual review process. For the highest performing team environments, we were expected to write about successes we accomplished with a team. In some companies, team skills and behaviours cover a significant portion of the evaluation and balance with individual results. In all cases, I always incorporate feedback from the team into the review.
I would love to hear about other positive evaluation experiences in the comments. When was your evaluation the most useful? Why? How was it delivered?