Running effective employee evaluations for better retention

Employee evaluations are exciting for some and scary for others, but, all around, they’re a routine and often mundane process. Traditionally, most companies have hosted these evaluations yearly. They tend to involve an assessment of an employee’s work performance and may or may not involve a raise. However, to attract and retain well-rounded talent, you can set your company apart by making the evaluation process something employees look forward to. Honing in on goals and creating an evaluation cycle that is bi-annual rather than once a year can help with keeping focus and expectations in line while accomplishing career goals at the same time.

S.M.A.R.T. goals

What are S.M.A.R.T. goals? The acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. And the intention of S.M.A.R.T. goals is to tackle an employee’s major job responsibilities.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are usually drafted within the first 30 days of beginning a new position and followed up on within 6 months — ideally lining up with evaluation cycles.

By creating these goals, an employee’s performance, dedication, and priorities can be easily evaluated and expanded upon bi-annually with managers. This instills continuous trust in both employees and managers alike.

Bi-annual performance reviews

Bi-Annual performance reviews can be structured in two ways: within a calendar year (e.g. one in June and one in December) or based on an employee’s start date (e.g. the first review would be 6 months after starting, and the second review would be on their one year anniversary).

The benefit of the first option is having everyone on the same review cycle, rather than spread out. The benefit of the second option is that it is less hectic to have employee evaluations spaced out throughout the year, giving managers time to focus on one employee at a time.

Neither option is necessarily better than the other — it all depends on the preferences of upper management. Option one might work for smaller companies since they have a small number of people to evaluate, whereas option two may work for larger organizations where larger review groups might interrupt work. Another thing to consider is: will employees get a raise in both reviews? If your company has the budget for that, it might be a great added perk.

The mid-year review

More often than not, the mid-year review is solely focused on recent achievements, future goals, and immediate improvements. This can serve as a check-in between manager and employee to see if their goals are being achieved or if there are any current/potential roadblocks that could hinder their progress. The goals will be followed up with again during the end-of-year review, but they will not be the sole focus as they are in this review cycle.

The mid-year review is also a great time to potentially work in performance improvement plans (PIP) for employees who are struggling in areas of their position. Performance improvement plans are like putting someone on academic probation — you create a 30-, 60-, or 90-day plan to improve areas of their work, and if in the time frame selected, nothing has improved or changed, disciplinary action (including but not limited to suspension or termination) will be taken.

It is incredibly important to show employees that they can still succeed within your organization and that this PIP is meant to help them; it does not have to be a negative situation unless you allow it to become one.

The end-of-year review

During the end of the year review, things such as raises, title changes, potential bonuses, and promotions are the primary focus on an employee’s mind. Goals are touched upon and expanded on for next time, but this review is mostly preparation for the year ahead.

This review should be conducted as an evaluation for both employees and managers. An evaluation form (with each question being rated on a scale of 1-5) will be filled out by the employee, and then by the manager. Each point and the overall score will be discussed at length during the review and will usually determine what kind of raise the employee will get — the higher the better of course.

Additional feedback

During all employee evaluations, it is crucial to hear what employees have to say as well. I have learned to always ask for feedback, both on myself and the company as a whole. What could we do better? Do you feel comfortable reaching out to management with any issues that arise? Are there any benefits or perks that you would like to suggest? These are just some of the questions that can help you get a bigger picture of what is going on in the employee’s mind and how they view you as an employer. It is important that both parties (manager and employee) feel that the process is productive. Following up with action items throughout the year can keep expectations realistic because in the end, communication is key!

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