Most Popular Ways of Evaluating Employees
- Graphic Ratings
- Simple Checklists
- Peer Evaluations
In order to successfully assess employees and offer tangible feedback, it is important to have a solid evaluation system in place. While most companies have slowly built their programs to perfection, the number of employers that continue to struggle in this area is extensive.
There are many reasons why a company might not have a robust employee performance review system in place. For some businesses, it might be assumed that the company is too small. In other businesses, the operation of the company might be perfectly fine, so managers might not see the point in conducting evaluations. In yet other instances, businesses might be a family affair, with little need seen to evaluate the on-the-job performance of family members.
Yet, having an employee evaluation system is a critical component of a successful business. Not only is it necessary to provide employees with feedback about what they are doing right, but it’s also necessary to provide corrective, constructive feedback about what employees might not do so well.
Why Employee Performance Assessments are So Important
In many cases, employees genuinely want to know how they are performing – good, bad, and otherwise. With the proper feedback, managers, executives, and other types of supervisors can help their employees learn, grow, and become better workers. This is where another advantage of employee evaluation systems is seen – it helps improve the company’s bottom line.
For example, an employee that does a perfectly fine job, but is rather slow at it, might not realize that they are working in an inefficient manner. But, if the issue is brought up in an employee evaluation, the employee can learn what they need to do to be more efficient with their time, the result of which is improved work performance. It’s a win-win.
The type of assessments that are used to gauge employee performance will (and should) vary from one work setting to the next. For example, some workplaces are most conducive to supervisory reviews. In other workplaces, peer reviews might be the best option. Some workers might find that self-evaluations are the most informative.
The trick, of course, is to figure out the type of employee performance assessments that best fit the situation. For some companies, a standard assessment approach is best for all employees. For other companies, having a suite of assessment tools from which to pick offers a better approach for evaluating employee performance.
Whatever the case, the benefits of using employee performance assessments are simply far too great not to use them at all. Fortunately, employee performance evaluations don’t have to be time-consuming or laborious to create and implement. In fact, there are many easy and efficient ways of assessing employee performance.
Companies that rely on self-evaluations often find that their employees are much more interested in the feedback process. The reason is quite obvious, as the workers get to provide their own input.
Of course, this does not mean that employers will simply allow someone to grade themselves however they please. It just jump-starts the entire venture by getting the personnel to quantify their own performance as they see fit. Once they do so, it’s common for managers or HR leaders to add their input. In some cases, their feedback might align very closely with what the employee has reported in their self-evaluation. But in other cases, an employee and manager might not see eye to eye.
In either case, after an employee fills out a self-evaluation, there is usually a meeting with their supervisor or HR representative to discuss how well (or not so well) their evaluations align with one another.
One of the benefits of this approach is that the employee feels more invested in the process. They get to explain what they feel they do well, and many self-evaluations also offer them the chance to identify things that they might not do so well.
Then, when discussing the evaluation with their superior, employees can expound on how they feel about their performance, hear feedback from their supervisor, and work together with their supervisor to establish what needs to change to ensure positive growth in the workplace. It truly is a collaborative effort.
An added benefit of this type of employee performance assessment is that it really gets the lines of communication open. Both sides come to the evaluation with an idea of what’s working and what isn’t. And if done well, both sides can offer their opinions in a safe and supportive space.
So, don’t let the term “self-assessment” fool you. It isn’t an evaluation that an employee fills out in a couple of minutes and which never sees the light of day. Instead, it’s a way for employees and employers to work together toward common goals.
Many organizations employ some type of graphic rating to accompany self-evaluations or other feedback forms. This comes as no surprise since quantifications of performances can be extremely difficult to interpret without a number-based scale.
Thus, if there is a chart with numbers one through ten on it, with one indicating the worst and ten indicating the best level of performance, the results will be self-explanatory. This kind of graphical representation also allows the worker to see just how far or close to the optimal performance level they are in a given period.
Another advantage of graphic ratings like this is that they often provide evaluators with a finer level of evaluative discretion.
For example, using the 1-10 scale mentioned before, an evaluator has great leeway in what their rating might be, which can be far more informative than a simple “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” rating. By using a graphical scale, evaluators can give more precise feedback in terms of how satisfactory or unsatisfactory an employee’s work is. So, if you get a 3 out of 10 on a particular measure, you know that you have a lot of work to do to improve in that area.
Again, these rating tools aren’t used in a vacuum. Instead, they are often used with other evaluation tools, and they often come with written or verbal explanations. For example, an evaluator would likely meet with an employee to discuss their individual ratings, that way the employee understands why they got a 3 out of 10 on one measure and a 10 out of 10 on another. It fosters learning and understanding on the part of the employee, that way they know what they need to work on to do a better job.
If someone prefers to stay away from any numbers when doing their worker assessments, they can instead turn to yes-or-no checklists.
One of the greatest advantages of such simple forms is the fact that they require very little investment of time. There are usually no explanations to go along with the checklist, as someone will have either met the objective or not. By not using any numbers, there is no need to make additional explanations about what performance level is indicated with each numerical figure.
The downside, however, is the fact that there really is no tangible feedback in yes-or-no checklists. This makes simple checklists less than ideal for many types of evaluation situations.
Where these kinds of assessments shine is in providing quick feedback to employees who must complete simple tasks.
For example, a warehouse employee that retrieves products, packages them in boxes, and prints and attaches labels might benefit from using a simple checklist to ensure they have finished each component of the process. As another example, a restaurant worker could benefit from a simple checklist to ensure they’ve completed all the tasks that are necessary to close the restaurant each night. While these examples lean more towards the completion of tasks and less towards evaluative measures, the same concept applies – checklists are quick and efficient ways to convey feedback.
According to Forbes Magazine, setting expectation levels is vital for an effective evaluation strategy. A lot of companies struggle in this area, however.
The reason setting expectations can be a struggle is that there are often no clear-cut goals that one can set beforehand. Consider, for instance, a firm where employees must sell 1,000 products during the year to meet the highest level of performance. With intangible skills, there is no way to determine what would be a good number to aim for. Setting it at 1,000 might be prohibitively high or it might be far too low.
Instead, having some levels of expectation is the easiest way to offer constructive criticism. A simple example would be the following:
- Below Average
- Met Expectations
- Exceeded Expectations
Much like the graphic ratings described earlier, having these expectation levels gives employers a more finite level of feedback to give employees. But unlike some graphic rating systems, many arrays of expectation levels don’t involve quite so many options.
In fact, it’s reasonable to assume that most expectation levels have three to five options. This is more than enough variety to give pinpoint feedback to employees about their performance without having to spend as much time choosing from a greater variety of options.
It should be noted, however, that many evaluators that use expectation levels take the time to elaborate on why they evaluated an employee at a specific level. In some cases, expectation levels might be accompanied by pre-written criteria, like a rubric. For example, a rating of exceeded expectations might include criteria like “above-average skills” or “completed tasks faster than average.”
In other cases, evaluators might take the time to add additional notes. If, for example, an employee was rated as below average on a task, an evaluator might include some feedback about why the employee’s performance was rated as such and what the employee needs to do to bring their performance up to an acceptable level.
Finally, more than a fair share of companies overlook the benefits of using peer evaluations as a means of providing feedback to employees.
Obviously, peer evaluations give employees the opportunity to give their peers valuable, actionable feedback on their performance. The key terms here are “valuable” and “actionable.” The point of peer evaluations is not for colleagues to rip one another apart, nor is it meant for colleagues to give one another unnecessarily glowing evaluations.
Instead, peer evaluations are intended to be used by co-workers, preferably from the same level, as a supplement to another kind of evaluative assessment, like a self-evaluation. That way, managers or supervisors get a more complete picture of how an employee is faring on the job.
For example, if someone gives themselves a wonderful self-evaluation, but their peers don’t judge them so highly, employers know that they will need to provide additional feedback to the employee to bring their self-evaluations more in line with reality.
Of course, some employees are far too hard on themselves, and their self-evaluations might be overly negative. In this case, peer evaluations might help an employee see their value and worth to the team in a way they never considered before.
Another benefit of peer evaluations is that it gives supervisors more tangible information that can be used when putting together feedback forms for employees. Only so much information can be gleaned from a self-report. But getting feedback from several co-workers can help paint a more detailed picture of an employee’s performance.
Which Approach is Best for Assessing Employee Performance?
As noted earlier, the type and number of employee performance assessments that should be used will vary from one organization to another. Additionally, the frequency with which employees are evaluated will vary from business to business.
The important part is to commit to devising an employee performance assessment program, implementing it, and sticking with it for the long term. The greatest benefits to the individual employees and to the organization as a whole will be found in a long-term investment in employee evaluation.
Combining some of the aforementioned tools might be the best way to ensure a smooth evaluation process that will help employees grow. After all, each of these methods complements the others in a way that makes assessing employee performance both easy and informative.
B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming
M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming
B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts
Updated November 2021