Audacious Idea #421: Trash Your Employee Evaluation System

Kris Dunn Audacious Ideas, Engagement and Satisfaction, Performance, Todd Dewett

We’re introducing what might be a new feature at FOT – audacious ideas. Academics, consultants, vendors… come one, come all. Bring us your most audacious idea for what you think HR and recruiting practitioners need to be doing differently. And FOT readers? You be the judge. You’re in the trenches, so you weigh in on whether you think their crazy ideas are… crazy, or sheer brilliance. First one up to bat? FOT friend Todd Dewett.

Here is a radical proposition – job satisfaction at your company is mediocre, not because you’re doing the wrong things, but because you are not doing the right things correctly.

The truth is, job dissatisfaction is rapidly becoming an epidemic. And in an effort to turn around this trend, HR pros and leaders are looking for the latest and greatest trendy trick to turn the numbers around.  But you? Please. Don’t get on that bandwagon. It’s not about doing new things after all.  It’s about figuring out how to do a few of your core activities more logically. And you can start with your horrific employee evaluation process.

If you are among the rare few organizations with uber motivating evaluation systems – feel free to stop reading.  For the other ninety-nine percent of you – keep reading.  Unfortunately, the evaluation process in most organizations falls squarely into what I call “The Shoulda Skipped It Syndrome.”  This refers to the many things individuals and organizations do with the best of intentions, yet which are executed so poorly that the intended positive outcome is replaced with a nasty negative outcome – thus, you think to yourself “We should have just skipped it.”

The goal of any evaluation process is to provide feedback to help employees understand and improve performance.  It is supposed to provide them clarity and, dare I say it?  Motivation!  Don’t get me wrong though.  Employee evaluations are the right thing to do.  Trouble is, in reality, the vast majority of the time employees are more disenchanted after an evaluation than before the process began.  Most employee evaluations are once or twice per year, and are delivered by folks untrained in providing performance-related feedback. And as a result? Oodles of time and money are spent on systematically undermining employee engagement when, in fact, the goal was just the opposite. Man oh man, we shoulda skipped it.

Which is why I am firmly in the camp that espouses blowing up your current performance evaluation process.  It should be replaced with frequent, as needed, performance-related chats.  Human memory is poor after all, so once or twice each year doesn’t cut it. That aside, people do not like being “evaluated.” They will respect being “helped” though.

So allow me to save you huge piles of cash and help you instantly realize massive increases in productivity and morale.  Introduce simple one pagers to guide conversations and encourage frequent informal chats.  Productivity will go up since your folks won’t be spending all those hours on evaluation-related paper work.  Morale will rise as well since you’ve scrapped that onerous time-sucking process.  And spend 1/10 of the money used to support the old evaluation process to train everyone thoroughly on the fundamentals of effective communication.  I’m not joking.  No slick piece of software or 360° evaluation will ever improve performance as well as a timely, honest performance chat between two professionals. You will not only transform the employee evaluation system for the better, but you will be increasing the quality of the average relationship in the organization at the same time.  Morale up, retention up.  You’re welcome.