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Set the stage for employee’s development, growth

Performance appraisal, review or evaluation all have one thing in common.They all look back at what has transpired over a period of time with the end result being some type of rating or ranking. This has been the norm since the idea of discussing performance with employees first became a common practice.

The problem is, this approach rarely produces the results the company wants – namely a more productive and effective employee. Instead, this approach sets the stage for added conflict and a breakdown of the supervisor/employee relationship.

So, what to do instead? The more recent thinking looks towards the future of the employee and how to use the “discussion” to set the stage for development and growth. Ratings are set aside and are replaced by improvement plans and goals. Yes, goals have always been part of the process but usually left without any follow-up.

The best place to start is with a couple of lists. One that defines all of the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in the position and another list detailing the tasks and/or responsibilities associated with the job. Using these lists (sometimes found on the job description) will enable the employee and the manager to have a meaningful discussion about the job.

Ambiguous terms such as “job knowledge” or “initiative” are of little use since they have different meanings without any clear definition. Instead, use skills such as “use of Excel” or “G-code.” Tasks might include “producing daily past due accounts report,” or “accurately counting and packing parts.” Once the tasks and responsibilities have been clearly defined and both the employee and manager agree on what they are, a more productive discussion can take place.

Many companies fail to hold their managers and supervisors accountable for developing employees. The company promotes people into management roles because of their technical ability but does not put much emphasis on managing others. This is unfortunate. If the employee believes his or her manager truly wants the employee to achieve more, that employee will work harder for the manager. On the other hand, if the employee is in fear of the manager, the employee will do the least amount possible to get by. This doesn’t mean the employee is a poor employee – it just means the employee is human!

Think about it, whom would you work harder for? A manager who was out to get you or a manager who had your best interest in mind?

And then there is the EEOC! Although there are no laws requiring employers to talk with their employees about performance, if an employer does it must use a “system that is the best possible for the employee.” Using a system based on the job fits that requirement.

The EEOC might also have issues with termination. The company terminates an employee for poor performance. When looking through the file, performance appraisals with sufficient ratings are found. There is nothing to indicate the employee needs to improve because the manager who completed the form had little direction and did not want a confrontation with the employee. This scenario happens frequently leaving the company with little to support their reason for termination.

If the time is right for you to begin looking at improving your current system, feel free to give me a call – HRT will be happy to help you design a system that will work at your company or provide training to your supervisors to help them get more from their staff.

• Karla Dobbeck is president of Human Resource Techniques Inc. Call 847-289-4504, or email

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