If They Are Shocked…
“WHAT?!? Are you kidding?!” she says, with total surprise in her voice. Donna has just read her annual review her supervisor gave her and she is shocked. If I were in the room with the two of them, I would look at the supervisor and say, “You goofed this one up, dude.” And here is why; anytime your employee is shocked by the annual evaluation you give them, you are wrong. Yes, you read that right. You are wrong.
Some people take umbrage with this statement because they feel, as the boss; they have the right and in fact the duty to report honestly on the capabilities and past performance of their employees. And I agree, objective analysis along with honest feedback is a good thing and as a supervisor you are responsible to do exactly that.
The problem is: she was shocked. When someone is shocked, it’s because they didn’t expect something; it was a complete surprise. If that happens, it means that the employee thought they were doing a good (maybe great) job for the last year, and now you tell them, “Oh, no. You were weak in these three areas and you were missing this, you could have done more…….” How were they supposed to know these things if you didn’t tell them? How were they supposed to know they weren’t meeting your expectations if you didn’t tell them? How were they going to improve on something they didn’t know they were doing wrong? I’m just taking a stab in the dark here, but I’m guessing your employees are not omniscient and somehow missed any clues you might have left them. This simply doesn’t happen to good supervisors. Why? Because good supervisors talk with their employees – frequently.
Whenever I ask a group of seminar participants, “How many of you talk with your supervisor about your evaluation during the year?” At best, some people (maybe 20%) have had a conversation about their progress once in the middle of their evaluation cycle. In those cases, it is usually because the company they work for demands the mid-cycle evaluation, which is better than none, but not much.
If you really want to help your people (and yourself) you should be talking with them four times a year about their evaluation/progress. And during these conversations, the evaluation and progress of the employee are the only topics. It’s easy to throw this subject in at the end of a conversation about the 6 projects they are working on, but then the importance of the “evaluation” loses the impact desired (needed). Yeah, I know, four times seems like a lot, but watch how easy it can be.
Let’s start with a calendar year, which will start on 1 January, and the evaluation closes out on 31 December. This means you actually give it to your employee, we’ll say the first week of January. Here are the four times you should be talking with your employee: January, April, July, and October. You should have 3 full months between talks. Here are very brief descriptions of the basics for each meeting.
January: Sit down and go over what the expectations for the employee are as well as the goals the employee will be attempting. Expectations should be detailed and clear. Both you and the employee should agree on and understand both. Writing them down would be the optimum approach. This is probably the longest meeting and it should be 45 minutes to an hour.
April: Objectively: Go over what have you seen completed. How are the goals coming along? Is there any problem behavior? If you were to evaluate the employee right now, what would they receive and why? If any training is needed, this is the time to address it. Time for this meeting should not exceed 30 minutes unless there is a real problem. Remember, these meetings are for the evaluation purposes only.
July: Duplicate April’s agenda
October: Duplicate July’s agenda.
January: The first half of this meeting should cover the evaluation the employee is getting. There should be no surprises here. How could there be? Every three months there has been a steady thread of conversation on each part of the evaluation as well as feedback on goals and expectations plus any behavior that might be an issue.
The second half of this meeting will serve as the first meeting of the New Year. Obviously, the January meeting has a dual purpose.
So, let’s review: you have spent less than three hours, total for the year, talking with your employee about their evaluation. Does that sound like too much? Please keep in mind how important this evaluation is to the employee. This evaluation will stay with them for the rest of their professional career, so we need to make sure it’s precise and reads correctly. Writing a clear, concise, and accurate evaluation is one of the most important things you can do for your employees. Consider this: their next promotion will hinge on their previous evaluations, so make it as honest and as good as you can.
In addition, these evaluation meetings help you hold the employee accountable to the clear expectations you provide. If all your employees meet the expectations you set for them, how could your team miss having excellent results?