Using Uniform Evaluation Cycles

The employee performance management cycle begins with a plan and ends with an evaluation. Establishing a uniform performance planning and evaluation cycle for all employees helps employers:

  • Cascade business plans down through individual performance targets.
  • Allocate staff time to high priority deliverables.
  • Systematically monitor the quality and completion of performance evaluations.

Strategies for Success

  • Set clear executive expectations. A firm commitment from the Chief Executive to performance planning and evaluation is critical. Managers and supervisors should have clear expectations, and be held accountable for completing plans and evaluations on time.
  • Tie performance planning and evaluation to the business planning cycle. Staff must see a connection to the big picture. Having business goals and performance measures in place allows supervisors to align employee deliverables with business targets.
  • Stagger management and line staff cycles. Cascade goals down through the organization. Develop plans for managers first, supervisors next, and line-staff last.
  • Set a reasonable window. Allow supervisors one to three months to complete evaluations and new performance plans. Supervisors with several direct reports may “burn out” or be tempted to cut corners to meet deadlines. Provide enough time to write meaningful evaluations and create new plans.
  • Plan other major projects around the evaluation cycle. Avoid setting other work deadlines that will distract supervisors from their managerial duties.
  • Monitor and track compliance. Develop a process to track completion and send out reminders. An automated database is helpful. Report success rates to senior leadership and the chief executive.
  • Stagger cycles by business unit. Consider developing plans for core business units first, and then administrative or support units. Or, a large organization with both a headquarters and field operations may first develop plans for headquarters, and then cascade out to field programs.
  • Phase it in. Try the uniform cycle with managers or one division first. This allows employers to test the program, smooth out wrinkles, and get staff used to the idea.
  • Audit Evaluations. A uniform process provides the opportunity for an independent quality review. Use this time to provide targeted feedback, coaching, and instruction to supervisors. This is particularly important for new supervisors.
  • Schedule formal interim reviews. Consider setting uniform interim review timeframes. This allows employers to assess individual progress and either provide coaching or redeploy resources to keep staff on track.

Potential Challenges

  • Scale and span of control. Large organizations may have a difficult time implementing organization-wide change. Consider using a phased or staggered approach to offset administrative challenges.
  • Overcoming resistance. Change is always difficult, particularly during the first year. Practice good change management techniques, including extra communication and structured feedback.
  • Losing track. Employees who don’t fall into standard categories (e.g., temporary employees, new hires, and those with matrix reporting relationships) often fall through the cracks. Employers should make sure they have a mechanism for tracking and monitoring these employees.

Original: October 6, 2008
Last update: February 17, 2010

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