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At the Ritz-Carlton, a luxury hotel in New York, “performance evaluations are a time for celebration,” according to Theal Gilbert-Jamison, vice president of training and development for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. Managers provide employee feedback on a daily basis, so the performance evaluation period (if you could even call it that) is used to help employees form an action plan and establish future goals. “It’s a time to build esteem and set up a plan to help the employee progress through the organization by forming developmental training, coaching, and mentoring programs,” she says. In fact, the company’s performance evaluation period is designed more as an annual recognition time, where the employee participates in a rehiring ceremony. “Our employees come to work to create excellence everyday, so we want to uplift them during performance evaluations,” she adds.
If you think such a program sounds too good to be true, think again.
Meldron Young, a Human Resource Practice Consultant for the American Management Association (www.anan et.org), in New York City, says that most managers, supervisors, and employees don’t get the true benefits of employee evaluations because they’re uncomfortable communicating with each other. “People naturally don’t like being critical of one another,” he explains. And since performance feedback is typically delayed until the critical moment at the end of the year, the situation is especially tense. “You have managers and supervisors who are taking notes and keeping files on employees but waiting until performance evaluations to bring those things up.”
There is a better way to provide effective feedback on performance, say experts. Use the following strategies to transform tense year-end reviews.
Supply your employees with their performance criteria and evaluation form soon after they’ve been hired. Says Young, “If the forms clearly spell out the company’s expectations and objectives for the employee, then they can be very helpful and provide the employee with a realistic view of the job.”
Provide coaching and counseling on a daily basis. “When you have performance issues, correct them on the spot,” advises Young. “Explain to employees what occurred, give them an opportunity to tell their side of the story, and work with them to develop a strategy for a more favorable outcome.” Then follow-up to track the progress of the employee.
Restructure the hiring process. Instead of relying on the typical interview questions that enable prospective employees to offer “appropriate” but not necessarily honest answers, include behavioral-based questions that force the prospective employee to respond using concrete examples. Also, refrain from using questions that can be answered with yes or no responses, make open-ended inquiries instead.
Give pats on the back–frequently. Young also says it’s important to recognize what employees do right on an ongoing basis because “that can be a source of motivation.”
Ensure your performance evaluations match company culture. “Whatever system you put in place has to be supported by your organization’s culture,” insists Young. “Open, honest communication between employees and supervisors would help to improve the working environment overall…If that were to happen, I could see where performance-evaluation meetings would