May 7, 2013

Employee Evaluations – Dos and Don’ts

By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga

Part 1 of 2

Business people shaking hands.The 2012-2013 school year is quickly coming to a close for school districts across the country.  At this time, administrators face a somewhat challenging task—employee evaluations. This is especially true for administrators in their first year.

It is impossible to discuss every type of evaluation within this blog, particularly teacher evaluations. Teacher evaluations are generally arrived at through periodic observations, followed by a summative evaluation at year-end. Furthermore, each state mandates specific factors to be included within the teacher evaluation instrument.

I will focus my discussion on more general practices that can be applied to all evaluations. In Part 1, I will discuss specific practices that will guide an administrator from the beginning of the evaluation process to the end. In Part 2, I will focus on practices to avoid before, during, and after the evaluation process.

These employee evaluation practices, which have served me well over the years, should help any administrator establish and maintain fair and consistent evaluations from year to year.

The easiest and most important thing to remember when going through this process is to be sincere and direct. This is an ideal time for an administrator to communicate how he or she views an employee’s performance. This is also a great time to set the tone and expectations for the upcoming year. I have seen too many colleagues simply “up” the score on a few items from the previous evaluation, without much consideration beyond completing the evaluation and seemingly showing an improvement in performance. Employee evaluations are a great opportunity to build and maintain a high standard of performance within any organization. Administrators should make the most of it.

One of the biggest mistakes administrators make is waiting until the last minute and then not having the time to give each evaluation its due diligence. Rushing to complete multiple evaluations may result in oversights. This, in turn, will lead to missed opportunities to correct a negative behavior or to recognize positive achievements. Allowing enough time for each evaluation will provide time to retrieve emails, memos, and other communications that can shed light on an individual’s performance. In the end, allowing the appropriate amount of time to complete each evaluation will empower an administrator with a higher level of confidence when addressing each employee.

While working through each evaluation, administrators should include clear and informative comments. Care should be taken to ensure that any expectations included in a particular employee’s evaluation are also expected of other employees in the same situation.

Once evaluations have been completed, they should be set aside for a short period to allow time for reflection. After a day or two, each evaluation should be read and corrected of typographical and grammatical errors. This review also allows an opportunity to reword comments for maximum impact.

Administrators should make an attempt to anticipate employee questions and reactions and give thought to an appropriate response. Often, employees will question how a specific item was scored or why a comment was necessary. They are more likely to accept a score or comment after hearing a concise explanation.

The evaluation discussion should begin with the employee being asked to read through the evaluation. Upon completion, the employee should be prompted for questions and comments. Responses to all comments or questions should be brief and to the point. Responses should be worded so that employees feel encouraged and inspired. Wording that alienates the employee should be avoided.

Regardless of how the discussion goes, administrators should always conclude the discussion by asking the employee to sign the evaluation. The administrator should then sign the evaluation, provide a copy of the signed evaluation to the employee, and thank the employee for coming in.

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