Managing employee success

ImageEmployee performance is a key to business success. When you
hire an employee to fill any given job, you choose the candidate who offers the
best potential to succeed. But just as you maintain your capital equipment to
keep it running in top condition, your staff’s success is another component of
your capital investment that requires a maintenance plan as well.

The best way to put that plan into action is by doing
performance appraisals. They provide the necessary feedback and coaching to
help employees be motivated, do better, and accomplish more toward making your
company thrive.

But just like any other tools, performance appraisals work
best after you read the instructions and master their operation. With similar
care and practice, you can transform the process of conducting them from a
daunting task that many managers and supervisors would rather avoid, into a
versatile expedient for building and maintaining your company’s success.

Be prepared

Before you can even think about assessing an individual
employee’s performance, several key components should already be in place:

  1. Define the nuts and bolts. The best way to accomplish
    this is by providing a written job description or position profile to each
  2. Communicate expectations for job performance to
    employees, including any pre-defined company or customer standards.
  3. Be sure to understand each employee’s qualifications
    and abilities to ensure that your expectations are realistic.
  4. Review and understand any legal or regulatory
  5. As an evaluator, observe employees’ work execution and
    performance against established criteria frequently. Consider maintaining a
    “critical incident” log to track significant events and behavior.
  6. Provide continual feedback to employees appropriate to
    any given situation. It’s much better to deal with a problem when it happens,
    than to let it become a more serious concern. And although good performance is
    often overlooked, it’s equally important to recognize it. When delivering
    feedback, both negative and positive, use specific examples to support your

The performance appraisal

About 75% of North American companies conduct some type of
regular review of their employees’ performance. Such appraisals work best as a
reinforcement of (but never a substitute for) your ongoing efforts to manage
staff performance. After all, helping your team grow is not a once-a-year task,
it’s a full-time proposition.

However, there are many positive reasons to go one step
further by streamlining your regular initiatives into a formal review,

  • Find
    out in more depth how people are doing in their jobs
  • Reinforce
    feedback to employees about how they’re doing
  • Motivate
  • Create
    or revise job and personal objectives
  • Encourage
    employee feedback and dialogue
  • Strengthen
    the relationship between managers or supervisors and their direct reports
  • Determine
    training needs
  • Evaluate
    employees for promotion
  • Review
    employee compliance with government, health, safety and environmental regulations
    (essential in a regulated industry like printing).
  • Identify
    areas that need improvement and what needs to be done to fix them.

There are many methods for conducting performance
appraisals. At PrintLink, we recommend the more structured approach of arranging
a one-on-one meeting for each employee. As preparation, we encourage you to
review the many excellent resources in the business section of your local
bookstore – many with strategies, organizational plans and sample forms
that can save you hours of time in “re-inventing the wheel.” Briefly stated,
here are some helpful guidelines:

For each meeting, chose a place and schedule that are most
conducive to constructive dialogue. Allow enough time for meaningful
discussion. Respect your time together and don’t let anything intrude on your
private meeting.

Keep a positive spin on the exercise. Do everything possible
to reinforce the two overall aims of: (1) providing motivational feedback and
(2) finding ways to help both the employee and the company achieve their goals
and make improvements.

Use the opportunity to raise staff morale. Since job
security is a concern for most employees, this is a good time to reaffirm their
strengths and tell them how much you value their contributions to your
business. A respected leader’s appreciation is a powerful motivator.

However, you must also let them know when they’re not
performing to acceptable standards. Relaying criticism constructively is
essential to open, trusting communication.

Avoid surprises! Significant events or behaviors, especially
negative ones, should already have been discussed with the employee beforehand.

Next month’s column will continue a list of guidelines for
conducting performance appraisals.

Victoria Gaitskell is a placement specialist with PrintLink,
a professional placement firm for the graphic communications industry.
T: 1 877
413-2600 E: