Evaluations and Feedback Help Employees and Managers All Year Long

Lisa Riccio

The start of a new year makes many of us consider making resolutions. But it's never too early, or too late, for managers to reflect on an employee's performance over the past calendar year and to set goals for their departments and employees by looking at results from last year. When taking some time to be reflective, managers should be asking themselves the following fundamental questions as they look back on the previous year: How did I do? How did my team perform? Was my department under, over, or within its budget? What did our customers say about us in 2012?

Most of you had already done this type of analysis long before the ball dropped on New Year's Eve. But for those of you who haven't, here are a few strategies to get a fresh start by reviewing performance, setting goals, and giving feedback. If this sounds like the fundamentals of performance appraisals, well, you are correct! Even if it isn't time to write a performance appraisal, it's still a great time to follow these steps to get you, your team, and your boss ready for the challenges of 2013.

Consider the following:

  • Take a look at the previous year's objectives for your department, your employees, and yourself.
  • Assess whether or not the goal was met, and to what degree. Identify contributing factors that led to the successful completion of the goal or identify the barriers that prevented achieving the goal.
  • Assess the goals themselves: Were they too easy to achieve based on last year's estimates? Were they too difficult? Do they require a dissected approach where pieces of the overall goal are staggered as objectives over a period of time?

Once you have a felt understanding of what happened last year, it's time to set some goals and objectives and communicate them with all stakeholders. In goal setting, the "golden rule," or in this case, the "golden acronym," is SMART. Many of you are familiar with SMART goal setting, Specific, Measured, Attainable, Realistic, Time Sensitive, and using this model, you will be able to set some goals that align nicely with your department's strategic plan or mission. The next step is even more important: the communication of the goals. How are these goals that you have exhaustively developed communicated broadly across your department or organization? How often they are revisited has a significant impact on the achievement of them. To help, I've assembled a few simple strategies for successful goal communication. They are:

  • Make the goals visible by posting them in the middle of the work group, preferably on a poster-sized notice that is updated at least once a quarter. Include information about the progress made and celebrate wins, recognizing team members' contributions as you go along.
  • Define specific tasks associated with meeting your goals, and assign them to individual team members. Make sure that the assigned task appears on the goal section of the performance evaluation and conduct a check-in monthly, or more often, to measure the employee's progress, offer guidance, and give assistance.
  • Hold regular staff meetings to review the status of each project. Discuss potential barriers to goal completion and brainstorm alternatives.

These processes will assist you in goal development and provide you with strategies to keep organizational goals in the front of your mind and focused on achievement. They also have another significant impact: they raise the morale of your employees. Regular communication between employee and supervisor about what each needs from the other to be successful makes the organization successful and leads to a more satisfying work experience and a more invested work group.

Lisa Riccio is the Human Resources Director for the New Hampshire Local Government Center. She may be contacted by email or at 230.3344.