Conducting employee performance evaluations is one of the most challenging aspects of management. What's considered by the manager as professional, constructive criticism often can be perceived by the employee as a negative critique or, worse yet, a scolding. By following a few pointers, the negative connotation often associated with employee evaluations can reverse into an event to which the manager and subordinate alike actually look forward.
Tip No. 1: No Surprises
Birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations are great times for surprises; the employee evaluation date is not. It's crucial that the employee is kept informed throughout the year of his/her progress. If an issue or problem arises that has the potential to derail the staff member from the promotion or salary increase track, make him aware of the issue and offer solutions. It's detrimental for both the organization and manager/employee relationship to allow problems to continue until evaluation time.
Mark Blondman, JD, of Blank Rome LLP, shares his expertise-from both a personal and legal perspective-on the importance of conducting effective, fair employee evaluations. He emphasizes that "the 'surprised' associate is not your friend," and maintains that managers must "do what they can to keep associates apprised of their strengths and weaknesses."
Tip No. 2: Be Honest
"If a person is doing a great job, say it," asserts Blondman. But don't be afraid to tell the person where improvements can-and must-be made, either, he says. If the manager doesn't present the facts as they should be told, leaving room for confusion on the employee's part, the staff member doesn't know right from wrong, the problem isn't solved and, in the case of the laboratory, test results and patient lives could be affected. Ultimately, the organization suffers if it has to take employment action and the evaluation isn't consistent with that action, Blondman notes.
Tip No. 3: Be Specific
For the performance evaluation to be a useful learning tool, managers must cite examples of when or where an employee could have used better judgment or identify specific areas where improvements can be made. Also, include details when he did conquer a problem or approached a challenging scenario successfully.
The most effective way to do this is through documentation. If a staff member does something notable, by all means praise the individual when it occurs, but also write it down and refer to it on the evaluation form. Conversely, if the individual was involved in a negative incident, record specifics of that, too, so there is no argument if the issue ends up on the evaluation form.
But don't stop there. Identifying a problem is easy; offering solutions or improvement options should be a primary responsibility. Provide guidance so the individual knows exactly what is expected and, if applicable, why an anticipated raise wasn't given. Again, leave little to the imagination. Be as specific as possible.
Tip No. 4: Don't Procrastinate
If tips Nos. 1-3 are followed, chances are there will be no reason to postpone the evaluation. In fact, many managers find it beneficial to conduct more than one evaluation per year. While it's likely that the annual review is the one that is recorded in the personnel file, it's often suggested that semi-annual (or even quarterly) informal "progress reports" are completed. These can be as simple as discussions of an employee's workload and comfort level of accepting additional responsibilities to more tailored outlines that suggest timelines for project completions.
Tip No. 5: Change With the Times
Are your technologists doing the same job today as they did three years ago? As technology changes, clinical laboratory science advances and the medical technology personnel pool seems to evaporate, daily responsibilities of staff members will be dramatically altered. Make sure the organization's employee evaluation form reflects these changes. It may be necessary to review the form annually and revise it to meet the criteria of current laboratory technologist practices.
Managers are evaluated on how well their departments run. Keys to a lab's success are how well tests are performed and how quickly information is presented to physicians so accurate and expedient diagnoses can be made. By conducting effective employee evaluations and taking an active role in improving the performance of your staff members, you are fulfilling the responsibility of role model, mentor and leader.
Lynn Nace is an editor at ADVANCE.