Appraising workers in alternative job arrangements

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Alternative work arrangements — flextime, permanent part-time, job-sharing, telecommuting — require managers to adapt in many ways. One of these, often overlooked, is performance appraisal. What's the best way to evaluate the work of someone who's working where you can't see them? Some advice:

Start with a good performance plan. It's an obvious step that too many managers omit — especially when workers change their arrangements unexpectedly (for example, after a work injury) or in a time of organizational crisis (as part of a restructuring). People go part-time or start working from home, and then six months later their reviews come up, and the goals identified in their performance plans have become obsolete. If employees start working under different conditions than they used to, you need to re-examine their performance plans.

Set outcome-oriented performance standards. The plan should focus on the results achieved, not on the effort and energy or "face time" put into work tasks. Give alternative workers projects, evaluate the success of each project as it's completed, and combine these into an overall performance appraisal. Make sure they can document their results independently, so they don't have to rely on your seeing them work.

Don't "go easy." Especially when the alternative arrangement is temporary — for example, when a new parent comes back to work part-time — it's tempting to simply lower your expectations. This is unfair to other employees and can be dangerous if, down the road, you need to discipline the employee. Set targets that an employee can reasonably meet, and then hold the employee to them.

Assess group and team performance. This is an obvious need when employees are job-sharing. If workers divide up their own responsibilities, you should evaluate them as a team, at least as far as work results are concerned. (You'll still need to do individual appraisals of workers' attendance and work habits.) If "alternative arrangements" are the rule rather than the exception in your workplace, you should also incorporate peer evaluations — such as 360-degree feedback — into your strategy.

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