Staff Performance Evaluations

Here is an example on how to conduct a Performance Evaluation.

Performance evaluation reviews have three purposes:

  1. To review the performance of the staff member
  2. To review the performance of the manager in supporting the staff member
  3. To evaluate progress on the staff member's learning and development plan

The process for establishing performance agreements and conducting performance evaluation reviews with staff can be as important as the performance agreement itself. If staff feel aggrieved by the process they are unlikely to be motivated to achieve the targets set.  The lack of process used in many organisations causes several problems, including reduced performance, lower staff morale, industrial disputes and inability to complete a fair dismissal.

Preparation is the key to a problem-free process and an efficient and effective performance evaluation meeting. Without preparation the process will be slow and frustrating for both the staff member and manager.

For the staff member, preparation:

  • allows them to demonstrate that they are serious about their personal development
  • applies rigour appropriate for an important document such as an individual performance agreement

For the supervisor, preparation:

  • enables them to tailor the performance requirements of each staff member to meet the requirements of the overall business plan
  • enables them to demonstrate that they care about the personal development of each individual staff member

For both parties, good preparation ensures that they have thought through any potential difficulties and have adhered to a reliable process that is fair to everyone involved.

Guidelines for Managers
It is important that the atmosphere in performance agreement meetings is positive and that both parties treat each other as equals.
The manager's role in this meeting is to ensure that the organisation's performance objectives (and specifically the team's business targets) will be achieved through the actions of the individual staff members they manage.

Before the meeting:

  1. Schedule the meeting with the staff member (as a guide set aside an uninterrupted hour) and ensure they have sufficient time to prepare.
  2. Review the existing individual performance agreement, note what has been accomplished and what has not.
  3. Decide what rating you think should be awarded to the staff member and write down evidence to support this view. Make sure this rating can be justified in terms of the ratings you have given in the previous formal reviews so there are no big suprises.
  4. Think about how well you have performed in supporting the work of your staff member. Write down some specific examples of strong support and ideas about how to improve in other areas
  5. Review the relevant business plan and identify the contribution that each staff member should be making - i.e. their performance results. Ensure that this allocation of work will not overload some staff and that work is balanced across the entire team.
  6. Consider what additional skills the staff member might need to successfully achieve their performance results. Write this down and suggest them at the review meeting.
  7. Think about changes and major events that will be occurring during the period and estimate how they will impact on the staff member.
  8. Think about how to create a positive atmosphere in the meeting (by not being defensive, demonstrating good ideas, listening to the other person carefully, asking for clarification when necessary and so on).

During the meeting:

  1. The staff member may be very anxious about this meeting, so do not do anything to aggravate this (being flippant, too intense, late for the meeting).
  2. When the meeting starts make sure both parties have all the materials needed - including previous performance agreements, business plans and preparatory notes
  3. Begin by setting the past context - providing an overview of the performance of the whole team.
  4. Ask the staff member to explain what rating they think they deserve and let them give reasons for this rating. Support them where you think they are right and give some of your examples.
  5. If you think they have rated themselves too low or too high, tell them. Provide specific examples and give them plenty of opportunity to question your judgement and provide their own supporting evidence.
  6. Receiving feedback can be threatening to people. Do not become aggressive or defensive at the meeting. If this begins to happen call 'time out'.
  7. Stick to the facts. For example, do not let personality differences get in the way of a productive meeting.
  8. The manager has a lead role to play in this meeting but should not dominate it. They are a 'coach' rather than a manager in these discussions. A good way of accomplishing this is for the manager to run the agenda more than the content of the meeting. The manager should always ask the staff member for their views on each issue first. Managers should respond to staff views rather than give their 'solution' before the staff member has had an opportunity to talk.
  9. The manager and staff member should be speaking for around 50 per cent of the time each - one should not dominate over the other.
  10. Before discussing performance results, set the performance context for staff. Discuss the priorities of the organisation as a whole and the team to which the staff member belongs.
  11. Make sure you devote adequate time to discussing the learning and development action plan of the staff member - this meeting is not only a performance review.

After the discussion:

  1. Once the agreement is established, ensure a copy is given to the staff member.
  2. Keep the original in a secure, lockable location.

Guidelines for Staff
The role of the staff member in the meeting is to ensure they are:

  • contributing to the performance requirements of the team
  • doing work that allows them to apply their skills and experience
  • stretched, but not overloaded, during the period

Before the meeting:

  1. Rate your performance and gather evidence you can use to support this rating.
  2. Think about what your performance says about the things you are good at and things you are not. Does it point to any areas in which you need to develop your skills?
  3. Think about how effective your manager has been in supporting your performance and gather some ideas about how you can ask them to improve in this regard.
  4. Think about changes and major events that will be occurring during the period and estimate how they will impact on you.
  5. Write down your key responsibilities. These can be on specific projects or part of ongoing operational tasks.
  6. For each responsibility write down the outcome - the results you would expect to see for your manager, an internal stakeholder and external stakeholder or a client / customer. If you find this difficult, ask yourself the question: 'What difference will this activity make?'. These outcomes will be used in the performance results section of the performance agreement form.
  7. Consider each of your performance results and think about additional skills you might need to successfully achieve them - write these down. Seek out some optional development activities and be prepared to suggest these at your review meeting.

During the meeting:

  1. If you are anxious about this meeting, tell your manager and ask to be talked through the process of the meeting before you start.
  2. When the meeting starts make sure you both have all the materials you need - including previous performance agreements, business plan and preparatory notes.
  3. Tell your manager what rating you think you deserve and give supporting evidence. Provide specific examples and give your manager plenty of opportunity to discuss your view and provide their own supporting evidence.
  4. If your supervisor rates you lower than you think is reasonable, ask them for evidence to support their rating. Receiving feedback can be threatening to people. Do not become aggressive or defensive at the meeting. If this begins to happen call a 'time out'.
  5. Stick to the facts - for example, do not let personality differences get in the way of a productive meeting.
  6. Do not underplay your role. You should make sure that you state your views on all the key issues. Remember that you know more about the content of your job than your manager does. As a rough guide you should be doing the talking for at least 50 per cent of the time.
  7. Ensure you devote adequate time to discussing your learning and development action plan.

Reaching agreement on performance
Differences, (about aspects of performance management), sometimes arise between a manager and a staff member. Almost all of these differences can be resolved without resorting to a formal dispute resolution process. This involves discussion, tolerance and, at times, astute personal negotiation skills.

There are seven steps to ensuring that differences between a manager and a staff member are resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of both parties.

  • Be clear and specific about the issue

Sometimes differences do not really exist - they appear to exist because of a misunderstanding or failure to communicate properly.
So when a disagreement arises, always test whether it is real by asking: 'Let me clarify the situation here. So you think [explain your understanding of the other persons position] and I think [explain your position]. Do I have this right?'.

  • Agree on the importance of the issue

It is always wise to check that the issue is worth the effort (before devoting intellectual and emotional effort to resolving an issue). The first question to ask is: 'Is this really an important issue? Can we rather deal with it outside the performance management process?'.
If the issue is important then decide if you need to resolve it before going any further or if you can set it to one side and return to it later - when you both may have a different perspective on the matter.

  • Decide what you will be prepared to negotiate

All good agreements are characterised by some compromise on both sides. This shows that both parties have listened to each other and are prepared to respect the other's viewpoint.
But it is also important not to give up something that you really believe in. So always ask yourself: 'How far am I prepared to move on this matter? Where will I draw the line?'.
Obviously, stubbornness is not a good reason for being intransigent. You should be able to explain your position based on business requirements and/or organisational values.

  • Identify a trade-off

In some cases, you and the other party might agree to disagree. Here you could find it useful to establish a trade-off.
If you believe you have been placed in a position that disadvantages you, you could still agree to accept that position if the other person gives you something else in return. For example: 'I am prepared to attend the 'leadership for followers' training program, if you will remove the 'key clients' project from my list of responsibilities?'.

  • Take time out

If you find an issue that is really difficult to resolve, set it aside and come back to it later. Use this 'time out' to take advice from others whose opinion you respect.

  • Find some expert advice

In potentially difficult situations try to agree with the other person or seek advice from an independent third party.
For example, you might ask the human resources unit for advice or to help you locate someone who could give you some advice.

  • Confirm the agreement before moving on

When you have reached agreement on an issue, always be sure that you both have the same understanding of the agreement.
After protracted discussion covering many diverse ideas, it is not unusual for people to have different perceptions about what has been agreed. Ask the question: 'Let me clarify the situation here. We have just agreed that in response to the issue [explain the issue] we have agreed that I will [explain] and you will [explain]. Do I have this right?'.

If, having tried all of the above, you still cannot resolve the difference, it may become a formal disagreement and will be subject to a formal 'dispute resolution process'.

Formal dispute resolution process

  1. Where a disagreement exists that cannot be resolved by the manager and the staff member, a typical escalation sequence is:
  2. Review between manager's manager and staff member
  3. Review by executive manager or other independent senior manager
  4. Decision by CEO
  5. External dispute resolution process

The staff member may have the right to be represented by their union, fellow employee or other representative at all stages in this process.