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“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw, playwright (1856- 1950)

Most organizations use a system to evaluate employee job performance on an annual basis. The purpose of evaluation is to give managers the opportunity to provide employees with feedback about job performance. Although the evaluation process should represent the best of times, too often it turns out to be the worst of times. Managers may feel uncomfortable in meetings with employees to discuss performance, particularly regarding areas for improvement. Employees may feel managers do not know the full scope of their jobs, and as a result cannot  judge their performance. Both may feel the evaluation process is meaningless.

The above illustrates what I consider to be the most critical flaw of many evaluation systems used today. They are not designed to foster continuous communication about job performance  between the manager and employee. Evaluations systems that do not incorporate this in the process are also rendered ineffective as an employee development instrument as well. The types of evaluation systems used  by organizations will vary widely, from those using just numeric ratings to those who only use narrative formats. However, effective ones generally incorporate the following elements:

INITIAL PREVIEW MEETING. An effective evaluation process should start with a preview meeting between the manager and employee. This is done to insure there is mutual understanding of the evaluation process. The preview meeting also provides the opportunity to review and discuss the employee’s job description, essential functions, current work projects, and priorities for the evaluation period. These generally  serve as criterion the manager will focus on in the evaluation.

EVALUATION EXPECTATIONS. The manager and employee should discuss the skills or knowledge necessary to meet performance expectations  and  what will be the  required outcomes  to achieve them. It is also essential that both discuss whether the performance expectations are realistic, and  agree to modify or eliminate any that cannot be achieved during the evaluation period.

DEVELOPMENT AND ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORT. If the employee’s current competency levels are determined deficient to achieve performance expectations, the manager and employee should agree on a Development and Organizational Support Plan. This involves determining whether there are training opportunities the employee can participate in that could improve competency levels, and what level of organizational support the manager will provide to facilitate this.

CONTINUOUS FEEDBACK. Employee evaluation  should be a continuous event and not something that only occurs when the final meeting is held. Continuous feedback allows both the manager and employee to give each other feedback on job performance, expectations, or evaluation assessment issues whenever one deems it necessary. It allows the manager an opportunity to assess whether the employee needs assistance in achieving expectations. It  gives the employee an opportunity to improve or enhance performance before the final evaluation meeting.

NO SURPRISES. The ultimate objective of an effective evaluation is mutual agreement of the manager and employee about performance outcomes. The final evaluation meeting would merely serve as reinforcement to discussions that already took place between them throughout the evaluation period. In the end, the only surprise would be that there were no surprises. This scenario is achievable when management makes continuous communications a priority of the  performance evaluation process.

This information is provided courtesy of


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