Tackling the Employee Performance Review

Tackling the Employee Performance Review

While many supervisors dread an annual performance review, research has shown that organizations that focus on strategic goal setting, action planning, and performance management are likely to be more effective and have higher employee engagement than those that do not. "It is crucially important for organizations to take an integrated approach to both goal setting and performance management," says HR consultant Mike Delicio. "Effective managers must, at minimum, endeavor to meet annually with staff members to develop individual action plans that are aligned with the organization's strategic goals and core values."

Delicio, who has worked for the likes of Pfizer, Inc. and Prudential, explains that setting goals provides clear direction. "When employees and managers are in alignment with organizational goals, it puts everyone on the same page and working toward the same outcome," he continues. "We encourage supervisors and employees to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely, but more important, relevant. Employees can then prioritize their workload based on the goals of the business. This is crucial to any workplace success, whether it be in the payroll department of a large corporation or a school's admission office."

While effective goal setting remains the bedrock of any successful performance management program, Delicio advises that regular and constructive performance feedback, typically in the form of performance appraisals or employee evaluations, is crucial. "People like consistency and to know where they stand," he explains. "Taking the time to sit down with an employee allows for two-way communication; provides an objective basis for raises, promotions, training, and other personnel actions; encourages employees to take responsibility for their performance and progress; and provides opportunities for career development and improvement." Suzanne Buck, Rector/Head of School at Chatham Hall (VA), was faced with an interesting situation. There were staff evaluation forms for administrators and educators at her school, but there was no specific evaluation or evaluation process relevant to the admission office. Buck explained that she is lucky to have a team of performers who are highly dedicated and committed. However, as she continued to work with them, she began to realize that a void existed in terms of providing feedback. While day-to-day praise and correction were occurring, a formal tool was needed that would address those S.M.A.R.T. goals Delicio described.

Buck was also seeking data that would reveal how well team members understood what was asked of them. "After some reflection, I found that I, too, was seeking feedback on where I was as a manager," she says. "I kept asking myself if I was communicating enough, were job expectations clear, were task assignments correct, and most important, was I passing along the message of our school's vision and mission to my staff? I needed a tool that would intersect the admission-specific areas of business strategy, marketing acumen, and counseling skills, while helping recognize the team's professional development needs."

Using a simple online survey tool (surveymonkey.com), Buck took it upon herself to create a staff evaluation that would help her understand how well each staff member related to his/her particular role and job description, identify areas where each team member was excelling and opportunities for growth, and provide a means to identify what staff felt was needed in terms of professional development. Just as Delicio recommends, Buck meets with individual staff members at the admission office retreat in September. She spends an hour with each member of her team to review personal goals, her leadership interaction with the staff member, professional development goals, and ways to change or evolve the person's job description. "I love speaking with them in a one-on-one casual setting. It allows me the chance to coach and discuss how they rated themselves, while also really listening to their responses," she says.

Using a tool like surveymonkey.com allows Buck to see the reviews individually and on an aggregate level, allowing big picture views of department-wide needs and successes. "I can see the commonalities; see how they respond to my leadership style, and more," she explains. "On an individual level, I can see how they self-rated on day-to-day things like answering the phones and meeting with families. This year, there was a cry from my staff for more training on admission testing. I was able to respond with trainings on test score interpretation and application, including a visit by Kate Auger-Campbell from The Enrollment Management Association. Being able to identify and address the needs of individuals and of our team as a whole only fortifies the success of our work."

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