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Disease Prevention

How To Effectively Evaluate Your Employees’ Performance

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"In a more perfect world, all employees would begin their orientation by being shown around — not just where the break room is, but also where the real culture and history of the business or organization lives," said Daniel O. Lybrook, associate professor of organizational leadership and supervision at Purdue. "The new hire needs to know not just what the company espouses, but also the truth about what it really values. This requires organizational self-awareness and reflection.

"A good evaluation process is knitted into everything — job expectations, career path, compensation, advancement — in a healthy organization," he continued. "It is important to the employee to understand what he or she is to give and get."

Where Does the Problem Lie?

While most managers claim evaluations are a diversion from the real work of the company, most employees say that when and if management does evaluate it is done poorly, according to Lybrook.

So what’s stopping businesses from using the employee evaluation process more effectively? It’s kind of like that "what if it were you" scenario — because people in general do not like to be evaluatedthemselves, they tend to dislike evaluating others, Lybrook said.

Then, of course, there is that fear of evaluation sessions being threatening and leading to conflict. "One way to reduce potential conflict is to avoid it. This leads to the once-a-year ‘You did a good job. See you next year’ syndrome," Lybrook said.

And, employers who only evaluate their employees on a yearly basis are doing a disservice to the employee and the company, according to Scott Snell, director of the Institute for the Study of Organizational Effectiveness at Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business Administration.

"Performance appraisals should not go on only once a year," Snell explained. "Companies that are successful with performance management view it as an ongoing process that continues informally throughout the year."

Lybrook indicates some pitfalls resulting in ineffective evaluations:

* Routine evaluations that are not linked to promotion or advancement tend to lead management and employees to not take them seriously.

* If employee evaluations are linked to upward mobility in the organization, they can create competition among employees. This also can lead to a centralizing tendency whereby everyone gets a three or four on a five-point scale.

* "The Recency Effect," whereby employees are evaluated on what they did last week as opposed to last year or last quarter.

* "The Lake Woebegone Effect," whereby all the employees are rated above average.

Lybrook offers some suggestions for more effective employee evaluation processes.

* A good evaluation process, from a management point of view, should result in the employee clearly understanding the organization’s goals and how to focus on accomplishing those goals through his or her work.

* A good evaluation process, from the employee point of view, should encourage organizational involvement and present opportunities for career and personal growth through contributing to the achievement of organizational goals.

* Management should take a measured, three-fold quantitative approach to evaluation:

* what the employee is doing;

* how the organization can do it better; and

* what the rewards will be for achieving these goals.

* Management must understand there is a direct line from mutually agreed upon, long-term organizational goals to success and profits, Lybrook explained. Employees will come to realize that success translates into professional advancement.

Snell recommends beginning employee evaluations with performance planning.

"When managers and subordinates develop mutually agreeable goals, several thing happen," he said. "The discussion leads to better information exchange. Employees have greater influence over the goals and therefore are more likely to accept the standards."


© 2002 Health Resources Publishing