“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” said Peter F. Drucker, the ‘King of Management’. That means precise measurement should matter in HR, too, right? After all, you want to manage the entire company – not just parts of it.
Unfortunately, although measurement is important, it has taken on a life of its own in many companies, morphing from a specific tool into an abstract ritual. Every year, columns of figures and sheets wait to be filled out by managers and HR executives. Go online at the end of any given year and you won’t need to look very hard to discover just how unpopular review meetings are with a whole range of staff. It is particularly striking how pointless many employees think they are.
So, does that mean staff appraisals and joint performance evaluations have had their day and should be consigned to the past? No – quite the opposite!
Not fewer employee evaluations – but better employee evaluations
For many staff, their yearly performance review feels like they’re back in school, getting their grades. They show up for a meeting at a set time and, after a little small talk, have their grades read out to them. They might get to voice an opinion, but then they’re told the “correct” score that will actually apply. Exactly what that score is based on often remains shrouded in mystery. Moreover, in many cases, it isn’t clear whether personal circumstances have been taken into account, or a generic scoring system has been applied. It’s no wonder staff reviews have developed such a bad reputation!
Research carried out on motivation tells us there are three primary influencing factors for employee satisfaction:
- Scope for independence (autonomy)
- The challenge of being able to get very good at something (mastery)
- An understanding of the bigger picture (purpose)
(See Daniel Pink: Drive)
The good news for the classic employee evaluation is this – staff want to improve, particularly on their own initiative. They may also be open to a regular update on the current status quo, but that meeting needs fit into a bigger picture – and employees should be asked to contribute on an independent basis.
Turning a one-way street into a two-way dialog makes all the difference
It is relatively easy for companies to turn the unpopular performance review into a meeting that has a positive impact on performance. One of the biggest steps is to move away from a manager-centric evaluation and toward a joint evaluation of the employee’s efforts. Just as people like to have a certain degree of autonomy in how they actually do their work, they also like to recognize themselves and their work in their performance evaluation. This is particularly true when their evaluation influences bonus payments and the like.
In the same way, when staff set their own targets, they are much more motivated to achieve them than when targets are imposed “‘from above’” – whether these are set out explicitly or can be relatively easily gleaned by reading between the lines.
To put it another way, managers need to change their mindset a little and see themselves less as a person who lays down the law and more as a coach or trainer. Since they are the people who can see the bigger picture, managers should be communicative, appreciative and focused as they work with their staff on clearly defined development opportunities.
This overview of the bigger picture – which managers have by virtue of their position – can help to keep motivation high. After all, when you have this kind of vantage point, you can clearly communicate the purpose of an individual’s role or their contribution to the bigger picture, and fit individual activities meaningfully and coherently into an overall context. Staff then very quickly understand that the meeting is not just about evaluating their performance. Instead, it is about developing something that is much bigger, but also incorporates their own development – on a personal, professional and monetary level.
Starting from this position makes it much easier to keep staff on board. That applies, for example, when it comes to specific changes and ambitious targets, but also when highlighting areas and units in the company and working procedures that are holding back development.
Why it is worthwhile for companies to give their employees a bigger role in performance evaluations
At a time when skilled workers are in such short supply, companies cannot afford to allow unpopular, one-sided employee evaluations to have a dampening effect on capable staff and their commitment. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom – there are also lots of positive reasons to develop performance evaluations that are rooted in dialog and have an encouraging and collaborative nature.
In fact, provided they are transparent and fair, employee evaluations can help boost employee satisfaction and motivation. So, how do you achieve that? The answer is very simple – by making sure that performance evaluations have been well planned and that the employee’s involvement has been considered from the very start.
Having a second person check things over can be useful in all areas of work, particularly when it comes to reducing blind spots and subjective assessments, and perhaps even uncovering one or two previously overlooked resources.
Putting all this into practice
A performance assessment that is both structured and transparent will fit perfectly into a progressive corporate culture that puts people at the heart of its development. Ultimately, the company must start by recognizing employees as its greatest asset if it is to show them the respect they would like, including in its approach to evaluations carried out throughout the year.
Companies can show they really value their staff by rejecting classic performance evaluations in favor of reviews that use digital tools to actively involve staff in the process and even give them the opportunity to submit their own assessments and comments. This approach transforms performance assessment from a one-way street into a collaborative affair that takes the employee’s viewpoint seriously.
Furthermore, digital performance evaluations also offer numerous benefits over traditional, paper-based assessments.
- A great deal of freedom for the company
This means process steps can be identified in detail, a specific form structure can be maintained, and the link between targets and performance can be tailored to a perfect fit and then reused over and over.
- The flexibility to make changes and apply them across the entire company
This flexibility means forms can be continuously optimized to suit the current situation. Moreover, being able to update all forms by changing one centralized template ensures that all staff appraisals are based on the latest data – ancient relics don’t stand a chance any more.
- Dependable archiving and easy access at any time
This makes it easier for staff to prepare for an appraisal based on the previous meetings. Managers can also more easily flag up and clarify developments.
- Archiving that complies fully with data protection regulations
Standardized archiving ensures that data protection regulations are followed in all cases.
Given all these benefits, it makes sense not just to treat reviews as a dialog, but rather to utilize digital options and tools and get the most out of the evaluation process. You will soon see employee satisfaction reflected in your company’s development...
Learn from the best – and apply what you learn directly in your day-to-day work
As a consulting company that specializes in HR solutions, we have encountered countless evaluation processes at a whole range of companies. Over our many years of experience, we have seen time and again how inclusive, digital evaluations yield the biggest output.
This has also affected the way we do things at our own company. For example, that is precisely why we have incorporated a specially developed template into our QuickStart – one that we think represents the essential qualities of various best-practice cases. This gives our customers the option of using a collaborative form and target plan to take their first steps in digital performance evaluation, without complicating matters.
As a result, our customers can utilize a tried-and-tested standard procedure from the outset – one that ensures line managers and employees work together on performance assessments. This collaborative process involves setting targets for the upcoming business year. There is even a curated library of targets, among other things, to help with target setting. Target achievement can be tracked and evaluated over the year, with all the relevant parties able to contribute their own perspective.
This approach ensures that transparent cooperation plays a decisive role throughout the entire year and is not just rolled out for an annual meeting. All in all, it helps maintain a clear focus while managing the development of not just the company, but its staff, too.