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Nov 1, 2005 12:00 AM
I can count on one hand the number of companies that I’ve seen engage in fair, timely, meaningful and competent evaluations. In most cases, evaluations are viewed as perfunctory by both the supervisor/manager and the subordinate. Too often, the outcome of an evaluation session is acrimony and erosion of teamwork.
There’s an inherent contradiction in the concept of the employee performance evaluation. On the one hand, teamwork has become an almost semi-religious movement in American business during the past 30 years. A recent study of senior managers found that the willingness and ability to function well as part of a team is the most valued attribute in job applicants. Ambition is ranked first by only 28 percent of managers.
Despite the rhetoric, American business does not test for teamwork and evaluates employees based on individual contributions. In fact, many pre-employment tests for sales candidates value the ability to work alone. I know of few companies that include salespeople in their otherwise company-wide performance evaluation program. The prevailing wisdom is that salespeople know how they’re doing: They get a monthly report.
In my opinion, only two things can render performance evaluations programs ineffective:
It takes two to tango
For years, I’ve written that a poorly or perfunctorily conducted performance evaluation program actually might be worse than no program at all. The night before an evaluation session, many supervisors go to bed hoping to get through the meeting without confrontation, assigning numerical ratings with which the subordinate generally agrees, and not having to answer questions about a salary adjustment that he or she is not empowered to address definitively.
With performance evaluations, the focus is on ratings, many assigned arbitrarily and without explanation.
I suggest that each year, every staff member be given a handbook explaining the objectives, timing, behavior, preparation and available appeal process. Emphasis should be placed on the fact that the session should be seen as a dialogue, not one-way, indisputable feedback from management. It should be stated clearly that the term “performance evaluation” does not adequately describe the intent or scope of the session.
Both parties should clearly understand that the purpose of the session is incremental process improvement at the personal level. This means that a discussion of past performance is most relevant if it is the prologue to a dialogue about:
Many readers might question the decision to devote this month’s column to a subject that might not be seen as being in the critical path of success in the graphic arts industry. I believe that adoption of an Individual Development Plan program for all staff members is of strategic importance because of two industry conditions:
Dick Gorelick is president of Gorelick & Associates and the Graphic Arts Sales Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.