An employee assessment evaluates the performance of an individual over a specific time period. Within this assessment, the manager compares an individual’s performance against a set of goals and expectations. Today, many companies conduct quarterly or biannual assessments, although some still rely mainly on an annual assessment.
Who should use an employee assessment? Every manager in every organization! We’ll review the importance of this tool, along with how to design a great assessment process.
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Purpose of an Employee Assessment
Assessments have great significance for both employees and their company. They inform decision-making in multiple ways:
- Growing self-awareness
- Shaping personal improvement plans
- Helping employees set appropriate goals
- Guiding staffing and promotional decisions
- Influencing succession planning
- Affecting raises and bonuses
Organizations use these assessments to make decisions about advancement. Employee assessments guide goal-setting for the next review period as well. And managers will use the results to help employees set plans for improvement. The assessment will highlight areas of strength to further utilize, as well as weaknesses to address.
Pros of an Employee Assessment
Employee assessments have major benefits for employees, managers, and employers alike. Here are just a few key ones:
- Identifying each employee’s needs for development. As a result, companies can provide appropriate training and resources.
- Strengthening the manager/employee relationship. These regular conversations can build trust and understanding.
- Helping employees take ownership of their growth. Employee assessments lead directly into an important next step: setting a plan for growth.
- Building stronger teams, and ultimately, a stronger organization. When each individual excels, teams perform at their best. And in these assessments, employees can learn how to improve their human skills, which are critical to good teamwork.
Are there any cons to an employee assessment? We explore this question next.
Cons of an Employee Assessment
People sometimes perceive employee assessments as having two main drawbacks:
- They can be time-consuming. At the same time, we’d argue that it’s more time-consuming to deal with the repercussions of not holding assessments!
- They may cause anxiety among employees and managers. However, holding more frequent assessments can make them feel like part of the normal routine. And when sharing continuous feedback, there should be no surprises—and no need for high anxiety levels.
- They can reflect bias, which then influences promotions, raises, and other decisions. But this bias would exist without a formal assessment process as well. And it would likely influence these decisions to a greater extent without a formal process. When following an assessment process, you can work to identify and address any bias.
As you can see, these “cons” reflect fears about assessments that a good process can dispel. Using high-quality software can make the process simple. Plus, it will help eliminate bias by standardizing questions. And when used in conjunction with instant feedback tools, 360 reviews, and performance management software, there will be no surprises!
How to Build an Employee Assessment Process
Let’s walk through how to design a great employee assessment process and system.
Create an Employee Assessment Policy
This policy should outline how often performance must be reviewed. It should also specify how managers should review employees. By mandating the use of the same process for everyone, it will promote equity.
Choose Good Employee Assessment Tools
Performance review tools can assist with both light check-ins and formal employee assessments. Primalogik’s tools offer a range of features that solicit the right manager feedback and ensure fairness.
Adopt a Clear Scale and Rubric
If using software, these tools are typically built-in. You may have several rating scales to choose from. Opting for 5–7 items rather than just 2 or 3 will provide more nuanced insights.
The rubric will explain what each number or rating item means, minimizing ambiguity. Here is a sample rubric:
1 = Employee never displays the behaviour stated.
2 = Employee occasionally displays the behaviour stated.
3 = Employee sometimes displays the behaviour stated.
4 = Employee often displays the behaviour stated.
5 = Employee always, or nearly always, displays the behaviour stated.
Design Good Prompts
Including several open-ended questions will garner more detailed responses. Each open-ended question should prompt managers to be as specific as possible. Asking for a certain number of examples can encourage that specificity. For instance, “Describe the top three challenges the employee experiences at work.” (See the template below for more examples.)
Train Managers on How to Assess Employees
Every manager should receive guidance on how to conduct assessments. They should also receive coaching on how to hold performance review meetings with employees.
In particular, managers must learn to avoid bias and rater error. Several common errors can affect employees’ assessment ratings. They can also affect open-ended responses. For example, managers give vague feedback to women more often than men.
“Men were more likely to receive longer reviews that focused on their technical skills, compared to shorter reviews for women that were more concerned with their communication skills,” writes the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Train managers to review the criteria for evaluation thoroughly. Reminding them of the criteria in the rubric can help combat bias, notes SHRM. Also explain common types of bias, like the halo and horns effects or recency bias.
Now, let’s turn to what questions to ask on your employee assessments.
Employee Assessment Questions
Great questions will help produce an assessment that delivers all the benefits described above. Here are some examples of rating questions to include. A rating scale of 1 to 5 accompanies them. On the scale, 1 indicates the lowest level of agreement with a statement and 5 represents the highest.
Does this employee … 1 2 3 4 5
- Prioritize daily tasks effectively?
- Maintain a high level of self-discipline?
- Work well independently?
- Complete tasks on deadline?
- Balance all work responsibilities successfully?
Creative and Critical Thinking
Does this employee …
- Exercise creative thinking?
- Strive to support team members’ work?
- Problem-solve effectively?
- Work to build new skills regularly?
- Share ideas that benefit the organization?
Does this employee …
- Listen to feedback carefully?
- Strive to improve using feedback?
- Treat everyone with respect?
- Collaborate with others effectively?
- Voice ideas clearly?
- Handle customer interactions professionally?
- Participate actively in brainstorming sessions?
- Resolve conflict effectively?
Does this employee …
- Demonstrate leadership potential?
- Mediate conflicts between others effectively?
- Guide group discussion when appropriate?
- Mentor newer employees successfully?
- Take accountability for any mistakes?
- Speak confidently in group settings?
Does this employee …
- Contribute to a positive company culture?
- Notice how others are feeling?
- Demonstrate compassion toward others?
- Share criticisms tactfully?
- Work to understand people’s perspective thoroughly?
- Build a high level of trust with coworkers?
If using high-quality assessment software, it will provide a template and questions to include. You’ll also be able to customize them as desired.
The following template provides an example of what an assessment can look like. Rating questions provide input in a broad range of subtopics. Meanwhile, open-ended questions provide detail on key areas like overall strengths and weaknesses.
Employee Assessment Template
Employee Name: _________________
Manager Name: _________________
Describe the employee’s top three areas for growth, providing examples.
Describe the employee’s top three strengths.
Has the employee made significant progress over the review period? Please describe, explaining specific areas of growth.
Has the employee’s performance declined in any ways? Please explain in detail if so.
How to Measure an Employee Assessment
Measuring the fairness and accuracy of your assessments will help you get the most from them. Plus, it will help you make better decisions based on their results.
Schedule employee assessment calibration sessions, suggests the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This means bringing managers together to discuss how they evaluated employees. By holding these sessions, HR can help ensure they’re using the same standards.
HR should also objectively measure assessment results to evaluate fairness. Using good software will allow them to compare managers’ rating styles. Plus, they can look at how employees of different demographics are rated, identifying potential bias so they can correct it.
Best Practices for an Employee Assessment
These guidelines will help managers give employee assessments that deliver clear results.
- Block out plenty of time for these reviews, including for the written review. Rushing through it frequently leads to biased responses.
- Review goals and KPIs. Look at objective performance management data as well as your own notes. Then, compare this data against goals and KPIs. Have employees met specific benchmarks and achieved concrete objectives?
- Share observations that illustrate specific behaviours. As you consider any undesired behaviours, ask yourself if they’re actually harmful. If they just reflect an approach that differs from your own, they don’t necessarily need to change, points out SHRM. Reflecting on this can help avoid cloning bias—rewarding behaviours that are more like your own. Such bias guides employees to become more like you, even if other behaviours are equally effective.
- State the effects that these behaviours have had on others and the organization. This applies to both positive and negative behaviours. Never presume that employees understand the effects of their actions. Stating their impacts can increase motivation to change when needed, too.
Ask employees to complete a written self-assessment before the review. It can include open-ended questions like the following:
- What are your greatest accomplishments for the past review period?
- In what areas did you fall short of expectations, and why?
- How can you work to remediate these issues during the next review period?
- What are your three greatest strengths, and how do they benefit your performance?
- What are your three greatest weaknesses, and how do they impact your work?
- Describe any new strengths you’ve cultivated over the last review period.
- Describe any new challenges that have arisen.
- Complement the formal assessment with everyday feedback. In-the-moment feedback will keep employees up to speed on needs for growth (and successes). Daily check-ins also provide a space for questions.
When you implement a great assessment process, everyone wins. Continue to evaluate it over time so you’ll spot any weak points and gain more accurate results!
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