Coaching Question: What is the best way to help employees feel comfortable submitting and talking to their Self-Assessments as part of the Performance Evaluation process?
For managers and employees alike, the Performance Evaluation process and Self-Assessment step can become a source of confusion and anxiety. To address the Self-Assessment component in particular, we need to take a step back and first consider our over-arching mission – which we would suggest is…
Optimizing Our People’s Potential
…plus lay out our supporting strategic goals which may include the following six critical success factors…
Presuming that your organization shares a similar mission and goals, the next step is to consider all of the “moving parts” or components that ultimately affect Performance Evaluation and Self-Assessment preparation, interactions, experiences and outcomes. For each of these, effective planning, communication and execution are essential otherwise the following can become daunting for both managers and employees:
- People Potentialization Lifecycle – ensure that there is a fully integrated, iterative, ongoing and value-driven lifecycle that is clearly communicated, understood and embraced by the organization, managers and employees.
Common Shortfalls: Too often the lifecycle is disjointed, poorly communicated, misunderstood, ineffectively implemented and becomes activity-based vs. results-oriented, so it is perceived as non value-add compliance work.
- Performance Evaluation – ensure that the evaluation is viewed as a no anxiety/no surprise event, meaning, if each lifecycle component is properly executed and the performance goals are established, detailed and discussed ahead of time and routinely revisited, the evaluation process itself becomes a formal record that summarizes the manager’s/employee’s quality work that has already been tackled and documented throughout the 6/12 month period.
Common Shortfalls: Too often the performance goals and objectives are not clearly conveyed and discussed to the degree of granularity necessary to achieve a common and healthy understanding between the manager and the employee, which then causes the Performance Evaluation process to be perceived as a highly subjective reward or punishment system. In those cases the employee doesn’t know what to expect until he/she sits down with his/her manager once or twice per year — which causes anxiety for both managers and employees.Additionally, be sure that your managers are decoupling first-time constructive criticism delivery from the Performance Evaluation process. If a manager is effectively performing his/her leadership coaching role, the constructive feedback is shared in-the-moment, e.g., within hours/days of when the shortfall occurred or was brought to the manager’s attention vs. held for a period of weeks or months and then shared as a “surprise” during the Performance Evaluation process.
- Self-Assessment – recognize that some employees are not self-aware, so you will need to provide them with simple tools and methods (a tool kit) for gathering behavior and results delivery feedback from the right cross-section of resources, assessing what the data means and determining what to do to affect personal change. As a part of the tool kit:
- Thank the employee for taking personal ownership.
- Explain that feedback is a gift and recognizing and then tackling our shortfalls is a strength.
- Provide your employees with a simple questionnaire that they can use throughout the year to ask their key customers, stakeholders, peers and manager “How am I doing?” For those employees that use this approach, completing the 6/12 month formal Self-Assessment becomes second nature.
- Also provide examples of what a well constructed Self-Assessment looks like – so the employee may use the examples as a “getting started” guide.
Common Shortfalls: Too often we expect our employees to be self-aware of know how to gather the feedback when that might not be the case – which causes anxiety for both managers and employees when an employee receives manager feedback that contradicts the employee’s perception of him/herself. We also can’t under-estimate the level of fear and defensiveness that some of our less confident employees feel when receiving constructive feedback because they are not equipped to process the information with an open, inquisitive and learning mind. Then there are those employees who are overly confident and that excel in “managing upward”. Leveraging the tool kit avoids situations where the manager may be too reliant on his/her view of the employee, which may not be an accurate representation of how the employee consistently behaves and/or delivers results to others throughout the organization.
- Leadership Coaching – ensure that your mangers are well equipped to and consistently provide the right guidance and messaging to your employees through various vehicles including the Performance Evaluation plus beyond, such as ongoing Professional Development Plans, regularly scheduled Manager/Employee 1×1’s, Customer/Key Stakeholder Surveys and in-the-moment coaching – all of which must include learning, practice, reflection, dialogue, assessment, coaching and adjustment elements.
Common Shortfalls: Some managers view the Performance Evaluation as a “necessary evil” or an activity that must be rushed through and “checked off” of a list to ensure organizational compliance. Other managers have convinced themselves that they do not have the time to lead/coach their employees. Yet another group of managers may not know how to effectively develop their people. In these cases, the managers will need initial help in:
- Understanding employee development dynamics. Not every manager has a firm grasp on the human side of the equation. This is especially true for managers who are more tactical vs. strategic and more process, mechanics, science/technology and activity/task oriented.
- Being reminded that their #1 priority is positively influencing and inspiring their people to perform the right work at the right time. With this you may have to help them rethink their workload as you move leadership coaching to the top of their list.
- Teaching them how to effectively establish and discuss performance goals and objectives with their employees – with an emphasis on providing clarity and specifics – which will minimize interpretation disconnects throughout the year.
- Devising well constructed Professional Development Plans, Manager/Employee 1×1 Agendas (agendas that also focus on behaviors and results delivery vs. a punch list of activities), Customer/Key Stakeholder Surveys, etc.
- Building out their coaching capabilities (which would be part of the manager’s Professional Development Plan) so they know how to create a “safe space” and provide in-the-moment constructive feedback to their employees so the end result is a positive experience that positions the organization, manager and employee for future success.
- Timing – decouple the timing of the Performance Evaluation process and bonus/compensation programs. This will help instill the message that the organization values consistent positive behaviors and results delivery throughout the year. It will also help the employees focus on evaluation content quality vs. become distracted by around-the-corner monetary implications.
Common Shortfalls: Too often employees who are not self-inspired to perform their best day in/day out, ramp up their efforts 3 months before the Performance Evaluation process in hopes of convincing their managers that they’re “top performers” and therefore, deserving of higher monetary compensation than their co-workers. Shortly after the evaluation process concludes, these employees resort back to average or less than acceptable performance levels.
- Evidence Collection – ensure that your managers are providing their leadership (and you) with evidence that they are effectively embracing their commitment to their employees throughout the People Potentialization Lifecycle and delivering quality outputs and outcomes as a result. Also consider introducing simple “Rate the Lifecycle Effectiveness” Surveys to both managers and employees. For each component, find out what’s working well and why, what isn’t working well and why not, and what you/your organization need to do about it. This will give you great data points to leverage as you look for opportunities to measure your lifecycle effectiveness baseline then set next year’s targets. This also engages the managers and employees in the process, which tells them that their participation and feedback is meaningful, valued and appreciated.
Common Shortfalls: Too often we create and communicate an expectation, but never circle back to see if and how the work is progressing and whether or not we’re attaining the right end result. Those cultures that especially experience a difficult time executing to commitment, must rely on their leaders to gather the manager and employee evidence to ensure that the goals are, in fact, being achieved as designed.
Although the above requires commitment and work, if your mission is to optimize your peoples’ potential, your upfront and ongoing time investment will not only achieve your mission and its supporting goals, but you will ultimately increase your organization’s speed of delivery, quality outcomes, productivity rates, customer and employee satisfaction scores plus create a healthy environment that values positive organization, manager and employee interactions and experiences.
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