Although they can be a bit uncomfortable for both you and the employee, evaluations serve as an important part of reviewing staff performance and making sure a business runs smoothly. Here are a few answers to some common performance review questions. You can call it a performance review, evaluation or just a check-in...just make sure you do it right! Why should I evaluate? There are a few reasons performance evaluations benefit employers. First of all, and most obviously, evaluations are a great opportunity to have an honest and open dialogue with employees about their work. While some people get uncomfortable or upset by criticism, having a set time when the employee can prepare themselves for feedback helps the conversation run a bit more smoothly. Evaluations also encourage employers to focus on each worker individually, and can be a good tool to keep tabs on growth and output. Additionally, performance evaluations can be a valuable tool in the litigation context. An evaluation that creates a record of an employee’s performance can help to build an excellent defense to an employment discrimination lawsuit. As with everything in HR, documentation is key, and evaluations create a paper trail of warnings, discipline, and criticisms. How should evaluations be conducted? The key to a useful evaluation is training the evaluators correctly. Evaluators should be taught a few main points: Be honest. Often times evaluators are afraid to be truthful about how an employee is performing and give higher marks than are deserved. This not only sends the wrong message about what work quality is expected, but also could create confusion down the road should the employee sue for wrongful termination. Know how to handle an evaluation that goes poorly. Emotions can run high during evaluations as employees can feel attacked. A good evaluator should know how to keep the mood stable and deal with problems as they arise. Be specific and prepared. A good evaluator goes into the evaluation with concrete examples of good and poor work. Some find it useful to review the employee's job description beforehand as a clear list of what is expected from the employee. Evaluate uniformly. Make sure all evaluators are on the same page when it comes to what evaluation terms mean, and how they are applied. Also, use the same process for each evaluation. Using the same forms and ranking systems for each employee helps to avoid any discrimination charges. Check your Model Policies and Forms Guide for sample evaluation forms. What happens after the evaluation? After the evaluation is finished, submit a copy to the employee and have them review it, then sign it. This prevents the employee from claiming they didn’t understand the criteria or results of the evaluation. It also can provide proof of fairness, evidence that the employer has engaged in an interactive process with the employee, and can potentially alert the employer to additional problems with the employee. After the employee has signed off on the results, the review should be retained permanently and securely. It is important to keep performance reviews for each employee together so they can be reviewed as a whole and show a clear history. Ready? Set? Review! Looking for more information on performance evaluations? Click here to gain access to a wide range of employment law topics.