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How often should we evaluate an employee’s performance?

Two novice leaders recently asked me this question after a speech. They had just been promoted as department heads and (obvious to me) not been given much guidance. I responded, “every week.”  This clearly surprised them. I believe they were expecting me to say “annually” or “semiannually.”

Employees Need Feedback

Feedback is the most important tool available for obtaining the engagement and commitment we NEED from employees and team members.

Everyone wants and needs to know how she or he is doing. Our daily life is filled with regular, instant feedback. The stomach informs us of our eating habits. Our car’s instruments evaluate our driving habits. Our children remind us of our parenting skills. Our account balance informs us of our ability to save.

Why should regular, instant feedback be crucial to our work lives?

When you provide weekly feedback you will be able to:

  •     Catch performance problems as they occur.
  •     Locate misunderstandings before they fester and grow.
  •     Identify communication breakdowns.
  •     Immediately reinforce professional work habits.

Continuous feedback arises from an informal process when you meet with employees weekly and ask, “How is it going?” You create an opportunity to describe your view of how the person is performing. You can easily incorporate this into your routine by seeking out and listening to each person.

One of these leaders said “I don’t have enough time to do my own work! How can I do this with all my other duties?”

With a smile I explained that the more feedback you give your employees, the less managing you will have to do! Weekly or even daily feedback is the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy. Your employees will quickly expand in their roles and take on more responsibilities. Even better, they will begin to give each other constant feedback. You will find more time to do the tasks that are important and that support their efforts.

When you spot good performance and greater commitment:

  •     Describe what you saw and how you felt.
  •     Ask the person to describe how he or she felt about the outcome.
  •     Praise and honor the action taken or decision made.

If you see an engagement or commitment issue starting to develop:

  •     Describe what you saw and how you reacted and felt.
  •     Ask for the person’s view and reason for his or her action.
  •     Discuss how the person can improve and identify specific actions you hope to see.

The final step is to gently challenge the person to evaluate his or her daily performance and keep track of this in a journal. Invest a little time with each employee and compare their self-rating against your mental ratings and explore the discrepancies. Do this with new employees weekly and with experienced employees monthly.

I suggest that you start now and add these daily touches into your schedule. Not only will you have MORE time, you will also enjoy the benefit of having engaged and committed people on your team.

When you evaluate team members and employees more frequently, you will see them doing more of the RIGHT things. You will gain their respect as a caring and thoughtful leader, and your culture will be one of integrity and productivity.