Updating Your Performance and Development Evaluations

February 1, 2022 | Shannon Shoemaker

Performance management has come a long way since the days of the annual review. But as companies have updated their processes, many HR teams have strayed away from traditional evaluations without replacing them with something better.

New performance management models have been trending more towards personal conversations between managers and employees and away from documenting and rating past performance, says Jamie Resker, Founder and Practice Leader at Employee Performance Solutions. This model is more actionable and digestible for employees, who can use the resulting feedback to improve on a daily basis.

Here’s how to update your performance and development evaluations to support, engage, and retain your workforce.


Review Your Processes From a Place of Empathy

Too often, companies update performance management systems based on HR’s needs. But if the goal is for managers and employees to really use the system, we should update performance management and evaluation processes to be most practical for them.

“It really starts with understanding your workforce,” says Michelle Western, Performance Management Consultant at Psychological Associates. “What motivates and engages your people?” Survey your workforce to learn more about their regular communication habits. The results will help you develop guidelines that managers can actually use to engage in performance conversations.

Identify the purpose of the program and make sure it’s aligned with the structure you develop. Evaluations tied to compensation, for example, might be handled differently from evaluations that are purely for employee development.


Train Managers to Offer Feedback Often and Early

Your performance management process should support managers as they shift to a coaching mindset. Don’t make it overly complicated—Find ways to prompt conversations without requiring managers to log into complicated software or input lots of information.

The relationship between managers and their employees should be collaborative, but traditional evaluation and appraisal processes don’t build trust. To engage in a frequent feedback model, managers need training and support to hone their relationship skills. “Upskill managers so that they can engage as coaches, being supportive and helping people grow and develop,” Resker says.

There’s a difference between potential and development-oriented evaluations (which should happen quarterly) and task-oriented conversations that happen in real time. Help managers learn what to focus on in daily performance conversations.


Use a Conversation Framework

But don’t throw out formal evaluations just yet. There’s still a place for them in new performance management systems, according to Western.

“Formal evaluations give people something more concrete that makes it easier for them to understand how they’re doing in the larger context,” Western says.

However, the way managers and employees engage in formal evaluation processes must evolve to remain effective.

Instead of having managers tell employees what to focus on, give employees the chance to ask questions about how they can improve their performance or better support their teammates. Provide a list of questions employees can ask to prompt deeper conversations with their managers. This allows employees to direct the conversation rather than feeling spoken down to.

As performance management norms continue to evolve, HR teams must adapt their systems to serve the needs of both managers and employees. When you can develop a functional system that puts performance and potential front and center, your company is more likely to engage and retain your workforce.

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