It happens to every manager: You sit down to prepare a staff member's review and realize you can remember only what the person has done the past few weeks. Or you allow only a single incident (good or bad) to color your assessment.
If you're relying solely on your memory to evaluate employee performance, you're making appraisals far more difficult than necessary. That's why it's best to institute a simple recording system to document employee performance.
Develop your system with these easy step-by-step guidelines in How to Conduct Motivating and Legally Sound Performance Appraisals. This audio-visual training CD comes complete with printed guides. Ideal for solo or group training. Learn More
The most useful, easy-to-implement way is to create and maintain a log for each person. Performance logs don't need to be complicated or sophisticated. They can simply be sheets of paper in a folder or files on your computer. Choose whatever means you're comfortable with.
The key is to establish a system that you will use regularly. No matter how you take notes, make sure to keep them confidential.
Recording performance: 6 tips
To begin the process, create a file for each employee you supervise. Include in each file a copy of the employee's job description, job application and résumé. Then follow these steps for recording performance:
1. Include positive and negative behaviors. Recording only negative incidents will unfairly bias your evaluation. Make a point to note instances of satisfactory or outstanding performance, too. One way to ensure a balanced reporting is to update employee performance logs on a regular basis, instead of waiting for a specific incident to occur.
2. Date each entry. Details such as time, date and day of the week help identify patterns that may indicate an underlying problem before it becomes more serious.
3. Write observations, not assumptions. In all log entries, be careful about the language you use. Performance logs can end up as evidence in a lawsuit. Your log comments should focus only on behavior that you directly observe. Don't make assumptions about the reasons for the behavior or make judgments about an employee's character. Keep out any comments that border on personal comment or that show personal prejudice.
Many employee lawsuits can be quickly dismissed if performance logs can clearly demonstrate a history of performance problems leading to the firing.
Maybe you don't want to upset a top performer who's been making a few mistakes. Or perhaps you don't want a consistently poor performer to get tearful or angry. You don't want anyone to misinterpret what you're saying. And you certainly don't want a lawsuit!
No, you simply want to help people improve. That's what How to Conduct Motivating & Legally Sound Performance Appraisals is all about.
4. Keep out biased language. A good rule of thumb: Any statement that would be inappropriate in conversation is also inappropriate in an employee log. That includes references to an employee's age, sex, race, disability, marital status, religion or sexual orientation. Don't suggest reasons for employee actions or make connections between events without direct evidence.
For example, you may know that Dan's wife recently filed for divorce, but don't suggest in the log that his personal problems are the reason his work performance has slipped.
5. Be brief, but complete. Log entries should use specific examples rather than general comments. Instead of saying, "Megan's work was excellent," say "Megan has reduced the number of data entry errors to fewer than one per 450 records."
6. Track trends. If you begin to see patterns, make notes in the log or flag prior incidents of the same behavior. You don't need to discuss every entry with your staff members. Bring your observations to the employee's attention only after you've defined a specific problem.
In just 60 minutes, this training CD – an interactive slide presentation with audio narration – will make any manager a better employee evaluator, with all the tools you need to give an effective and legally safe appraisal every time. The complete program includes:
- A 28-topic course that helps you focus on what matters most, from establishing expectations to setting the right tone to providing feedback – so your employees stay focused on their appraisals, not on you.
- 3 quick quizzes to amplify and reinforce your learning: expectation goals vs. standards, how to improve ratings documentation and a final overall quiz.
The User's Guide includes 4 helpful documents to make group training easy: an invitation memo, attendance roster, proof of attendance form and certificate of participation. We've thought of every detail, so you can concentrate on making your employees better.
- 3 printed guides – a User's Guide, Discussion Guide and Participant's Guide – to complete and expand upon the training. You get a hard copy, so you can get started right away, with PDFs on the CD so you can print all the copies you ever need.
Get your copy today!
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