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EDUCATION: Oh, those yearly work reviews

By CALLIE DANIELS BRYANT

Like a valuable car, most businesses need a periodic engine tune-up, In most cases that includes the annual employee performance review. These reviews — if executed properly — will help ensure that companies remain consistent in their services and values while providing an avenue for honest dialogue between management and employees.

“One of first things you need to do with a performance evaluation is the actual job description,” said Joel Jasper, compliance officer and agency manager with MWG Employer Services, a branch of Morgan White Group that specializes in human resources consulting. “The key to it is having a good job description on which you can build your performance evaluation.

“You may see people hired to do a certain job, and they’re doing another job they weren’t hired to do in the first place, and now you’re reviewing them on a job they weren’t hired to do. … You don’t want it to get off track.”

Human Resources consultant for MWG Jennifer Thompson said: “Your job review is simply that: a review of your job, and you’re evaluating the employee on their skill set. Do you need to train the employee? Do you need to re-evaluate their job level? Do they need to be moved to another division? You’re looking at everything that the employee does in regard to their job description.”

Thompson says keep the job description updated and design the evaluations around the company’s goals.

“Some people go out and get evaluations that are off-the-shelf evaluations not specifically designed about the business or job description,” Thompson said. “They’re not as valid as they could be because of that. It’s an easy task to do: make sure the job description is up-to-date, that your evaluation process is about the business focus and the mission focus, and also that you’re consistent with doing the evaluations.”

”It’s important to train those who perform evaluations,” said Jasper. “A lot of times we know how people get promoted, and a lot of times people who are promoted are good at what they do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at conducting interviews. And sometimes you have those who were co-workers who are now in a supervisory role and have to perform evaluations, and they’ve never been actually trained on how to do so.”

If the employees are submitting self-evaluations, Jasper advises that management should ensure these evaluations have purposeful questions.

“The point is to get the employees’ feedback on what they think their job is, and that it matches up with the job description,” Jasper said. “That’s not their problem. It’s a management problem. So when it comes around to doing performance evaluations – let’s face it, those evaluations are documentations for promotions, raises or lack thereof.”

“Another piece of proper performance evaluations is having a proper way to track any positives or negatives that happened with that employee’s performance over the period of time,” Jasper said. “If you have to take disciplinary action such as them being consistently late, how are you tracking something like that? You have to have something in place. When it comes to disciplinary action it shouldn’t come as a surprise; they should know that something is coming because they did something wrong.”

Mary Ann Connell, an attorney with Mayo Mallette and University of Mississippi’s adjunct professor in employment law, said that a supervisor should document concerns when they arise and keep copies of pertinent information in the supervisor’s office personnel file.

“Do not wait for the annual performance evaluation to deal with problems and do not collect evidence without addressing the concerns with the employee,” Connell said. “Communicate expectations and provide feedback. An employee should never be surprised at an annual evaluation because he or she should have received feedback and constructive advice all through the year.”

“All of our leaders sit down once a month with their ‘one-up’ to discuss year-to-date performance and 90-day plans, which are designed to drive intended outcomes,” said Nancy Averwater, Corporate Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer at Baptist Memorial Health Care. “Annually, all members of the team have a formal performance review.

“At Baptist Memorial Health Care, the performance review cycle should be an ongoing process whereby feedback and dialogue is happening year-round between team members and leaders.”

Factual honesty is important in employee performance reviews. To ensure smooth and fair evaluations, Thompson advises that the evaluations should focus solely on the job and not personal flaws.

Jasper added: “Most people get nervous about their evaluations because it’s personal to them. Not making it personal and keeping it about the job will alleviate any problems. The reason it gets personal is the person conducting the evaluation may not be trained correctly.”

From a legal sense of keeping evaluations strictly professional, Connell said: “Candor is crucial to a successful evaluation. While it is difficult to call attention to a colleague’s shortcomings and point out areas in which he or she needs improvement, honesty in the evaluation cannot be overemphasized. The evaluation should be honest, straightforward and based upon objective criteria and measured against the expectations set forth in the job description. The evaluation should be carefully thought through ahead of time, written in plain, understandable language, using correct grammar and spelling.”

Connell said the supervisor should also avoid subjective comments such as “fails to measure up,” “lacks energy,” or “demonstrates a bad attitude.”  Instead, the supervisor can state the employee has not met a requirement listed in the job description.

Renasant Bank follows this policy closely. Its HR representative, Leslie Berry, said: “It is important that supervisors provide truthful critiques and avoid giving inflated ratings. It is also important for supervisors to provide details on above or less than satisfactory ratings.”

Renasant Bank also allows employees to provide feedback on their job description and responsibilities, she said.

Todd Dalton of Regions Bank Human Resources notes that there is work to do before and after the actual review.

“First, I suggest providing a copy of the performance review to the associate before the in-person meeting because this allows time for the associate to process the review and begin generating questions or comments,” he said.

He also suggested setting in the months after the review to discuss goal progress and to remove obstacles that may block progress.

Dalton also says to meet in a place free of interruption: “If lack of attention or focus occurs, the associate leaves the meeting feeling like their manager doesn’t care about their career path.”Legally, this exchange can help management reiterate job responsibilities and guide employees within the company.

Connell said: “There should be a give and take discussion with an open exchange of ideas about the goals of the organization and how the employee can best contribute to those goals. The supervisor should listen to the employee and work with the employee to prepare an action plan or a road map for the upcoming year. The ultimate goal of the performance appraisal is to foster the employee’s improvement and determine how he or she can best contribute to the organization.”

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