Spur your employees’ progress with comprehensive employee evaluations.

 A year has passed, and it is time for the annual employee performance evaluation. For the employee, it may be considered the “dreaded” review that reflects his or her raise … or demise.

One of three things will happen: The written review will show up in your employee’s mailbox completed by you, the manager, all ready for the employee to sign and mail back to you. Or maybe the review will sit in your bin, get buried under hundreds of other papers, and will never get done. Or third—and I hope most frequently—you will set up a meeting with your employee to have a mutual verbal and written exchange regarding his or her performance over the past year. The review will address what the employee did right, how he or she can improve, and what you, as the manager, can do to spur his or her career progression. It will also give you the opportunity to ask the employee what he or she can do to become a more valued member of the team.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to remember the bad things that people do and forget all the good things. As an appraisal tool, I suggest that employees keep logs of their significant accomplishments. You should also keep logs of your employee’s behaviors and undesired outcomes, and compare notes with your employee during the review.

At my facility, technicians are expected to set goals each year. During the evaluation, the goals they set last year are compared to the current year’s accomplishments. It would be unreasonable for most people to meet all of their goals, unless the goals were too simple to begin with, but many of them should have been met, or at least be in the process of being met.

To do a review, create a performance-appraisal document and make it as specific as possible. It must be revisited and updated at least every 3 years. Whenever changes are made, it should be the topic of a shop meeting, as employees must have input regarding its update. Employees need to know what is expected of them, since for the most part people try to do what they think they are supposed to be doing.

Develop the document by listing behaviors that you want to encourage. Also, list behaviors that are not encouraged. By doing so, you will be able to focus on specifics and steer employees toward a desired path and away from undesirable behaviors. For example, if you wish to have technicians work independently and not always walk around in pairs, a requirement such as, “Works independently without requesting assistance from others,” would do the trick. If you expect staff to do preventive maintenance (PM) in the departments and not bring everything back to the shop for inspection, add a requirement such as, “Performs most PMs and repairs in the associated department when possible.” If you want productivity documentation to be 85%, then include the requirement, “Maintains productivity of at least 85%.” (I know productivity documentation is controversial and a topic for another time; this is just an example.)

Purpose and Criteria
You need to determine the purpose of the review. Its intent is to do one of two things: either build the employee’s morale by complimenting his or her strengths with praise and presenting his or her weaknesses in a constructive manner, or acknowledge the fact that an employee does not fit the build of the department and help direct him or her out the door.

The performance criteria must include technical abilities as well as interpersonal skills. A great technician who does not have the ability to communicate and defuse an irate customer is no more of an asset than someone with great communication skills who cannot fix anything.

Set criteria that determine how the rating will be scored. This will help remove personal feelings and result in a more objective analysis. For example, a rating on the following requirement, “Documents the lessons and theory learned at seminars according to internally developed policies,” may be based on the following criteria: “Technicians are expected to have notes typed, or prepared legibly, orderly, and ready to be typed by a data-entry person, when returning from service seminars. These notes are to be in detail. Miscellaneous notes in the service manuals are not considered to be above average and will result in a rating of 1 or 2, depending on their content. A rating of 3 will be given when the notes are completed during the time spent at the seminar. A rating of 2 will be given when work time is used to prepare the notes for typing. A rating of 1 will be given if no notes were taken during the seminar.”

As another example, for the requirement, “Maintains acceptable attendance record consistent with hospital policy,” the criteria could be: “A rating of 3 will be given if a technician calls in sick for less than or equal to one sick occurrence. A rating of 2 will be given to a technician who has two to four occurrences. A rating of 1 will be given when a technician has called in sick for five or more occurrences during the review period.”

Spending a few hours preparing for an employee evaluation is essential. Managers must take the time to do so and prepare the review documents in advance. Run a productivity report and internal benchmarking reports on PMs and repairs. Review the file that you have been keeping on the employee throughout the year, as well as the employee’s previous evaluation. Solicit feedback from customers who the employee has interfaced with the most.

Do not let one bad attribute sway other ratings. If an employee is late every day but is the best technician in the world, rate items related to reporting to work on time very low, but rate technical abilities high. By the same token, do not let good points sway the bad ones by rating someone high in communication skills just because he or she is an outstanding technician.

Employees should also be evaluated against an inanimate standard. Never, ever compare one employee to another! Neither party should discuss other employees during the review period, either. A simple statement such as, “We are here to discuss you and not Jane Doe,” will do.

Location is Everything
Meeting off-site is highly recommended. This will help remove anxiety from the person being reviewed and will present you as a somewhat normal person who is open to feedback in a neutral environment. You should have documentation to show employees why you rated them in such a manner. Be detailed, and give specific examples of both good and bad performance outcomes and behaviors. Encourage dialogue on all sections, and allow employees to “plead their case” as to why they may need to be rated higher than you originally thought. Review only the time period included. An employee who messed up 2 years ago should not be punished for those errors in a current review.

An employee who is on a monthly probationary review status should only be rated for their performance for that month.

If your institution uses a 1, 2, or 3 score, consider ratings of 1.5 or 2.5 as well. Ask the employee to come prepared with a list of his or her significant accomplishments. (A note to the employee: If you do not blow your own horn, no one will blow it for you. This is your time to shine.)

Create a Dialogue
The review must be a discussion with at least a 50/50 verbal exchange between you and your employee. I remember a saying I heard a long time ago that relates not only to a review, but life in general. It says, “Conversation must be a dialogue, not a duel of monologues.” (Read that again.) Too often we duel others in conversation. Rather than listening, we get ready to outwit what we just heard with something related to our own self-worth. Simply try engaging in a conversation without inserting self; it is pretty amazing.

Consider having employees complete the review for you from their perspective. Also known as a self-review, this process can make your job easier. You should then rate the employee as well. Focus should be brought to areas where scores differ to create a better understanding of expectations. Little needs to be said where ratings agree, but much discussion can take place where scores differ. If an employee’s rating does not closely resemble yours, you are not properly communicating your expectations to your employee.

A difficult aspect of the performance review lies in the fact that we are technicians. We fix equipment and operate machines, and these are attributes that make us good technicians. We are not touchy-feely, and we tend to focus too much on facts and tangible things. Remember, we need to have a social component; we need to have the ability to take the heat our customers will vent on us; and we need to listen and react with calming, professional responses. We need to develop personal and professional relationships with our customers. Sometimes we just need to be a doormat, a pincushion, or a sounding board. A mature professional can adapt and not react during these times. The performance review must measure these “people” components as well. However, they are not easily measured, if at all. As a note to employees, the assessment of your people skills will be the opinion of your supervisor, but listen to it because people skills are an important aspect of your job.

A completed review must not come as a shock to your employees. Communication needs to occur all year. You need to thank your employees immediately for a job well done. Praise needs to be Personal, Immediate, Specific to the deed, and Sincere. (That should be an easy acronym to remember.) Poor performance or behavior should also be dealt with using the same technique. In addition, encourage all of your employees to communicate with you—Personally, Immediately, Specifically, and Sincerely—when problems arise, and never allow issues to fester, which only makes matters worse.

Consider having your employees rate you! This will only work when relationships and trust have been built over time. I believe this rating should not result in a numerical value. It should simply be a common list of comments, such as, “The manager is available,” “The manager supports and educates,” and, “The manager provides the resources, climate, etc to promote the growth of the shop and the individuals.”

I would like to note that this information is for managers to evaluate employees. It did not take into consideration peer review. Peer review, in my opinion, is the only real true way of being evaluated fairly. One may argue that an employee who is not liked would get negative ratings from his peers, even if he is a good technician. However, a single peer would not affect group outcome. If all employees rate a technician poorly due to his relationship with others, then a poor review is warranted. I am sure there are many obstacles that need to be overcome, but our profession needs to tackle such obstacles if we expect to move on.

A disclaimer for those who work with me: I plan to take some of my advice for upcoming reviews, so please do not point out to all 24×7 readers that I need to practice what I preach. I am working on it! 24×7

Michael Kauffman, CBET, is assistant director of facilities, The Reading Hospital and Medical Center, Reading, Pa, and is a member of 24×7’s editorial advisory board. Visit www.hometown.aol.com/mkauff2556/index1.html, for examples of performance reviews that have scoring criteria established.