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A Performance Review Based on Results

Jun 5th 2015, Legacy By Design




By Kevin Spafford, for Farm Progress Magazines

“It’s performance review time,” she said apprehensively, “and nobody likes to go through the process.” Hearing the sentiment was not uncommon; offering a solution became my new challenge. For years, I’ve railed against the typical review process as being ineffectual and unproductive.  

As is common practice, companies mandate annual performance reviews be completed by supervisors for every employee within a certain timeframe during the year. Though widely accepted and highly predictable, this all-hands approach taxes the H/R department, distracts the supervisory staff, and disturbs the employees.  

Though it checks the box and allows the business to claim compliance, the evaluation process does little to assess performance and even less to inspire more productive activities. Though well-intended, supervisors often are handicapped by a paper form and descriptors that sound like performance measures, but are really subjective words or phrases that have little, if any, bearing on measurable outcomes. For example: 

  • Job Quality: The extent to which the job is being performed.
  • Communication: The extent to which the employee conveys instructions, needs, or progress in a clear and concise manner.
  • Interpersonal Relationships: The extent to which the employee cooperates, works, and communicates well with others.
  • Attitude: The extent to which the employee displays a positive attitude toward assignments, change, and stressful situations.
  • Initiative: The extent to which the employee seeks out new assignments and assumes additional duties when circumstances call for it.    

Golden field of wheat.A performance review should support the goals and expectations of the organization. It should encourage improvement and professional growth. Though not entirely avoidable, a performance review should not rely on subjective assessments and personal interactions. Instead, a properly designed performance review will utilize objective measures of achievement and productive activities.  

Specific categories of the performance review should encourage a focus on the outcomes that will improve the organization’s bottom line. An employee review should be based on objective measures rather than subjective topics. Revising the model and offering a new concept, the form can be rated based on actual results, i.e.: achievements, hours, events, etc.  

Since each employee should be responsible for their own performance, the review should reflect the employee’s dedication, effort, initiative, etc. using references to actual outcomes. Since much of the review is based on actual measures, most of the form can be completed by H/R and then sent to the respective supervisor to complete and fill-in the missing blanks---saving a lot of time and eliminating a lot of anxiety for the line supervisor.  

Comparing an employee’s actual (measurable) results to an average of the company, department, or unit allows for a quick performance comparison and ‘value’ assignment. Consider:  

  1. Production:  Actual measures that compare effectiveness and efficiency with company, department, and unit averages, i.e.: number of units per measure of time.
  2. Team Assists: Actual number of times/examples of assisting team members, putting in extra hours, responding to last minute requests, coming in on-call, etc.
  3. Cross training/additional capabilities: Number of cross functional capabilities and duties learned and able to perform.
  4. Training/education/preparation: Classes, seminars, conferences, online education, etc. completed, above and beyond required for job classification.
  5. Dedication:  Commitment to company, department, and/or unit. Actual number of hours call-in or overtime performed.
  6. Company/department/unit goals: Demonstrated familiarity with company, department, or unit goals and explained respective role toward achievement.
  7. Safety:  Contributed to a safe work setting by suggesting improvements?
  8. Or has incurred, caused, or contributed to injury or unsafe work environment, due to:
  9. Carelessness _____, Lack of training _____, Unavoidable accident _____, or Other _____?
  10. Professional development/capability improvement:  Achieved specific goals from last annual performance review?
  11. Communication/interpersonal relationships:  Contributed to an effective, efficient, safe, and pleasing work environment by communicating clearly and confronting difficulties.
  12. Absenteeism: Actual hours of unexcused or unexplained absence, compared to company, department, or unit averages.

The performance review is an excellent opportunity to compare actual results to specific goals. It’s an opportunity to discuss how an employee’s actions and results affect the organization. The review process should be a constructive experience – citing specific areas for improvement, reinforcing positive behaviors, and encouraging professional growth. From here, the employee and the supervisor can work together to create a written plan for improvement.    

Published as ''A Performance Review Based on Results", by Kevin Spafford for "Farm Progress" magazines, June 2015.

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