An employee evaluation can be tricky to navigate, especially if you’re a new supervisor. You might be wondering what the best approach to delivering constructive feedback is. You’re probably concerned about striking a balance between evaluating performance, delivering feedback, and establishing future goals. Most importantly, you’re probably wondering about what common pitfalls to avoid during an employee evaluation to keep employee morale high and turnover low.
A typical employee evaluation will cover the following: performance; whether goals have been met, not met, or exceeded; and feedback on how your employee works with others. Employee evaluations are the ideal time to offer critical feedback on an employee’s work and how they interact with others day-to-day.
How to Conduct an Employee Evaluation
When conducting an employee evaluation, you should first create a survey to send to the employee and their colleagues. These questions should ask about the employee’s strengths and weaknesses, job performance, and areas for improvement.
It’s imperative that the employee has a chance to fill out the questions to self-evaluate as well. A self-evaluation is a great way for managers to understand how aware the employee is about their own weaknesses, which will help you gauge how challenging it will be for the employee to improve.
Here are a few recommended questions:
- What is this employee’s greatest strength? Please provide a specific example of when this employee excelled.
- What is one specific area for this employee to improve? Please provide an example of a scenario where you saw room for improvement.
- How has this employee helped others this year?
- What do you want this employee to accomplish over the next year?
- What could help this employee be more successful at their job?
After your team has filled out the survey, aggregate the feedback into groups. Look for themes and commonalities between responses and take notes on how you can deliver this feedback. If you notice one common piece of constructive feedback coming from everyone surveyed, be sure to prioritize discussing it during your employee evaluation.
It’s also important to remember that you will receive both helpful feedback and feedback that may not be useful to you. These surveys will bring out all types of feedback, and it’s up to you as a manager to select the feedback you believe will be most constructive to the employee.
Management should also answer these questions and prepare an additional list of questions to ask the employee during their evaluation. Schedule time (we recommend an hour) to meet with your employee to discuss the feedback they received and run through your questions as well.
An employee evaluation should be conversational, scheduled well in advance so both parties have enough time to prepare, well-documented, focused on clear objectives, and — most importantly — balanced between constructive and positive feedback.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of how to conduct an employee evaluation, let’s review the do’s and don’ts you need to know in advance.
What Not to Do During an Employee Evaluation
Don’t: focus entirely on the negative.
A Gallup poll found that employees who received negative feedback were more than 20 times more likely to be engaged than those who received no feedback at all. However, when giving an employee evaluation, it’s important to remember that negative feedback will always have a higher emotional impact on the employee than positive feedback. The key to increasing employee engagement when delivering negative feedback is all about how you deliver it.
Avoid delivering all of the employee’s constructive feedback at once. Instead, give positive and constructive feedback at the same time. It’s important to point out what’s working and what isn’t, but focusing only on constructive criticism will leave employees feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated.
Don’t: associate constructive feedback with specific employees.
When delivering constructive feedback, never state who said what. The feedback should remain completely anonymous to avoid any conflict between employees and enable a safe space for your team to provide their feedback. A recent Gallup poll reported that when an open line of communication existed between managers and employees, employee engagement increased. Keeping feedback anonymous helps open this line of communication and ensures employees feel safe delivering feedback without retaliation.
One thing to note: when delivering constructive or negative feedback, never use second- or third-hand information that is impossible to verify. You might lose credibility and the employee could perceive the evaluation as biased against them.
Even better, instead of reading constructive feedback verbatim, create a summary of the feedback that incorporates common themes. Distill these themes in your own words to further protect employees’ anonymity and make sure constructive feedback is delivered in the most careful and considerate way possible. This way, the constructive feedback will remain completely anonymous and can be delivered by a supervisor rather than in the words of colleagues.
Don’t: spring the meeting on them.
Give your employees plenty of lead time between when you schedule their evaluation and the actual meeting. We suggest at least a month of lead time so coworkers have enough time to fill out the survey, managers can analyze the responses, and leaders have time to prepare their list of questions. This is also beneficial for the employee as well — being evaluated is never an easy process, and employees respond positively to having plenty of time to mentally prepare for employee evaluations.
Don’t: use this time to have a one-sided discussion.
An employee evaluation should be a conversation, not a dictation. While this time should be primarily focused on reviewing the employee’s performance and delivering feedback, it should also be an opportunity to discuss how they view their job, what they think could be improved at your company, and how they view your management style.
Avoid using this time to vent frustrations, talk about personal issues, or run through a list of improvements your employee needs to make. An employee evaluation should be a balanced back-and-forth between the manager and the employee, so be attentive to how much you speak during the meeting.
What to Do During an Employee Evaluation
Do: check your own biases as a supervisor before going into your employee evaluation.
Before you go into your employee evaluation, ask yourself: What critical feedback do I have for this employee? Is that feedback biased in any particular way because of their ethnicity, background, orientation, etc.? Would I deliver the same feedback to another employee of a different background that was performing similarly?
As a manager, it’s imperative to constantly check your own biases and ensure your employee evaluation is fair and equitable. Even managers see the world through specific lenses, and those biases can be hard to overcome, especially when evaluating employees.
One way to combat these biases is by seeking out other perspectives. Consider speaking with a diversity and inclusion consultant like Tracy Dunbar, Abi Adamson, and Andrea Long prior to your employee evaluation who can offer insights into unlearning personal biases.
Do: read positive feedback verbatim.
Your employees will be motivated when they hear — in their colleagues words — exactly what they are doing right. During an employee evaluation, read the positive feedback verbatim so your employee can understand first-hand the impact they have had on their coworkers.
Recognition and positive feedback should be specific, and both help your employees feel confident in their successes, which helps them do a better job. It also builds trust between employees and raises morale and loyalty.
Do: reward and recognize your employee for good work.
An employee evaluation is an opportune time to recognize your employee for their achievements over the year. In fact, according to one report, only 29% of employees say they “always” know whether their performance is where it should be. Use this time as a way to congratulate high-performers and offer raises, bonuses, and promotions. For top-performing employees, an evaluation is the best time to highlight their strengths and move them toward a new step in their careers.
Top performers seek to excel and respond well to praise. Achievement-driven individuals thrive when they’re allowed to stand out and be recognized, and they particularly enjoy being evaluated and graded. Frequent feedback, both positive and constructive, helps them to monitor their progress. Face-to-face recognition has a high-impact on top performers, and the sentiment will have a positive impact on their performance too.
Do: make sure the employee has a clear understanding of how to improve.
Good employees require coaching on how to be even better employees. Providing clear advice and guidance on ways your employee can improve will re-energize them. Every employee has areas for improvement, and even the highest performers benefit from the advice of their peers and manager.
Make sure your employee leaves their review with clear next steps on how to improve. They should understand their future goals, career trajectory, and what is expected of them in the coming year. The best way to do this is to follow an employee development plan that tracks goals and achievements. By following an employee development plan, you can use a template to check in on these goals periodically throughout the year and make sure your employee aligns with the goals set during the evaluation.
How to End the Meeting (and What’s Next)
Feedback from supervisors and peers is critical to an employee’s growth, and an employee evaluation is the perfect time to identify areas of improvement and areas of success. When wrapping up your employee evaluation, be sure to end on a positive note. No employee has left an evaluation on a negative note and been motivated to perform extraordinary work. Your employee evaluation should be balanced between positive and constructive feedback, ending on a high note that inspires the employee to produce quality work. The right kind of employee evaluation should be a learning experience — one that inspires and motivates employees to stay at your company and improve their performance.
Erin Nelson is a Digital Marketing Manager at Fond with over six years of B2B SaaS marketing experience. Erin has authored dozens of articles on employee rewards and recognition and frequently researches new trends in R&R. In their spare time, you can find them playing music, reading about socioeconomic and gender-based politics, and listening to true crime podcasts.