Employee assessments are opportunities for a firm to re-energize and refocus its staff. Negativity, unproductiveness, and job dissatisfaction are magnified in small firms. These burdens spread more quickly compared with large firms, and there are fewer staff members to bear the total weight of them. Periodic employee assessments are a proactive way to address such issues.
These assessments are ultimately about productivity. The employer evaluates the employee’s productivity and how it can be improved. Good employees want to be productive, and assessments provide a forum to express what facilitates and hinders their productivity.
With this in mind, the following is a framework for a fruitful assessment.
First, break the assessment down into categories. This will allow the assessment to operate within a framework. Common categories include:
1. quality of work;
2. professional/personal goals; and
3. business development.
Quality of work
Often, employee assessments are overly focused on quality of work. While such discussions are important, restricting yourself to this category is counterproductive, particularly because it can be inherently adversarial in nature. Use the meeting as a valuable opportunity to be much more than just a critique of work quality.
Letting an employee know you are supportive and invested in his or her personal and professional goals lets them know you care. Ultimately, the more your employee achieves, the more your firm achieves. Use the time to learn what makes your employees tick, and to develop an action plan toward achieving their goals.
While not all employees may feel involved in business development, it does not hurt to plant seeds of such responsibilities in their minds. It imbues a sense of importance and dedication. It also makes them responsible for maintaining and enhancing your firm’s reputation in the community.
Second, give the employee a set of questions to answer before the assessment. This ensures parties are prepared, focused, and have a sense of how the assessment is structured.
The following are 10 questions covering the above categories, which can provide a foundation for a productive dialogue:
1. What are three things you do well in your current position?
2. What are three things about your performance you could improve?
3. What are the next steps you will take to effect this improvement?
4. What are the three things the firm can do to help you be more productive?
5. What are three goals (at least one professional and one personal) you have for the next six months?
6. Who are the three individuals you would fire if you could (client/provider/staff) and why?
7. What three projects/files on the horizon are you looking forward to?
8. What three concerns about the firm do you have?
9. What three job responsibilities do you like/dislike?
10. What are the three things you do well in terms of generating business and clients?
The reason the questions request three examples is simply that it is easier to be lazy when only one answer is required. By requiring three answers, it forces the people being assessed to put their minds to the questions and come up with well-thought-out and concrete responses.
Lastly, have the meeting.
It is important as an employer to look at the information both individually and globally. For example, if the same client appears on everyone’s hit list or there is a recurring complaint among employees, you know you have a problem that requires attention.
Remember that employee assessments are assessments of the firm as well. Your employees’ comments and concerns are invaluable in this regard. Take their input to heart, and you can shape your firm into a place that people love to work at.
This article was written in collaboration with Kevin Cheung.