Human Resources News & Insights

The crucial steps to make performance reviews easier for everyone

This new case study highlights how employers can make appraisals work for HR, managers and employees. 

Periodically, we like to offer success stories from HR pros from across the U.S. This account comes courtesy of Suzanne Benoit, director of HR at Wright-Construction, Inc., in Portland, ME, and Jathan Janove, director of Employee Engagement Solutions and Portland Managing Shareholder at Ogletree Deakins.

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We weren’t getting the results we wanted from our annual performance reviews.

That was for a number of reasons.

One, the computer program that managers used to evaluate employees was complicated to use.

Two, the rankings that managers gave didn’t always match up with business results – and sometimes veered toward being too subjective.

And three, our managers had to evaluate staffers twice: once for a salary review and a second time for an incentive compensation program.

We knew this needed improvement.

8 areas

We began by identifying eight areas of accountability for every job within the company.

Next, we revised job descriptions so each employee’s work was linked to those eight accountability areas.

That meant that job descriptions became less about tasks and more about results.

We also simplified the review process, looking at it from the perspective of a busy manager juggling reviews with other work.

Now, instead of having managers complete a time-consuming form, supervisors simply fill out a one-page document and assign ratings in the eight accountability areas.

Managers have additional sections where they can add comments that elaborate on the ratings.

In addition, we added a brief mid-year review where managers have a face-to-face discussion with staffers about the eight accountability areas and their annual goals.

Finally, we blended the two annual evaluations into one to save time.

That all helped managers. Now we wanted to focus on employee needs.

Staffers helped, too

So we created a self-evaluation form where we asked workers to assess their performance in each accountability area.

In addition, we asked them to identify projects that they’d worked on, their accomplishments and anything they wished they’d done better, but had learned from.

Finally, we asked for feedback about their supervisors, including what qualities they appreciated and what their supervisors or the company might do differently to help them succeed.

Helped supervisors, staff and firm

The new process has been quite successful, for four main reasons.

First, there’s better communication between managers and staff and a better understanding of our goals.

Second, it engaged supervisors and employees in discussions that connect staffer performance to company strategic goals.

Third, it’s helped us with early warnings, making HR staff more effective in heading off trouble.

Last, the improvements have demonstrated the value of good HR programming to our company.

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