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A Better Way to Evaluate Employee Performance

How should we evaluate employee performance?
How should we evaluate employee performance?

Companies have to evaluate employee performance, right? Well, I believe the answer is yes. But too often, both employee and managers hate going through this process.

Often I think the problem and friction with these processes is how we go about doing them and the measures we compare against. Thus I also believe that those thinking or saying we shouldn’t or don’t need to evaluate performance have their reasoning lie in the problems of execution. Not the concept of evaluation as a tool to improve and reward. Those that disagree with the process just don’t like how we go about it.

To evaluate employee performance, you need to gather information about how employees are doing. This is stressful for both employees and managers. Typically looking at employee performance over a set amount of time, like a year. Employees feel excessively monitored and that can impact performance. Managers can be taken away from other duties to do monitoring and gathering of performance data.

I would add that the evaluation of employee performance is great as a tool to reward employees for performing well and to identify and help employees that are struggling. Making the process an important tool for building strong teams and strong organizations.

Evaluating employee performance by the numbers

Back to the measurement of performance and how we evaluate performance. Too often we measure by someone’s best performance. Or compare against others best performance. Those top level performance metrics or numbers, while maybe not isolated, are also probably not typical. Anyone can remove obstacles from their path for a short period to be capable of excellent work. But can it be maintained?

So what is that measure of best performance? Why is that not a correct measurement practice? A best performance is what they’re capable of. Under ideal conditions. However, you should also look at how someone performs on their worst performance. Because you don’t typically get the best. At least not every time and likely not even half the time. The average over time then becomes the best measure.

As employees, there are times where you will be stretched. Times where you will have conflicting priorities. Or times where you will be trying to figure out complex issues and solutions. Really, any multitude of things that happen that interfere with typical work and thus performance.

How a person handles and performs on average can be a better measure of performance. Simply because all the problems and items that interfere with work will occur. They cannot be removed and thus should be a part of evaluating employee performance.

Toss the outliers to better evaluate employee performance

I would argue that when you evaluate employee performance, you need to treat some of the performance numbers like common statistical and data gathering practices. Where outliers are removed.

Very low and very high numbers should be tossed. If for no other reason, there are ebbs and flows in work performance. So for every high performance, there is probably a low performance. Measuring on either is not just unfair, but likely an incorrect process. If isolating the view to high numbers, you are missing the full picture.

But when evaluating an employee’s performance, it is really an average for the time period you are looking at. Thus I feel that evaluation can be skewed right from the beginning when not using an average.

Additional reading that you might be interested in

A great article from Indeed on evaluating performance. Discussing the benefits and how to go about doing employee evaluation. Check it out here.