While it may seem like a given, keeping a performance log is not something all companies do consistently or correctly. In fact, for some, the importance of a regular employee performance review is only realized when it is nearly too late. Performance appraisals, after all, allow employers to identify top performers as well as weed out those who cause the firm more damage than good. As such, regular and proper staff evaluation and documentation of findings can be a great help as the company strives to move forward. Here are some tips for making sure that your performance log fulfills the functions it was created to.
1. Keep performance records timely and relevant.
Just keeping a performance log is not enough — it is important to ensure that entries show the correct date and time of performance appraisals, as well as the employee’s position and the names of people present during the evaluation. Furthermore, it is essential that these records are updated immediately after the employee has been evaluated. If the Human Resources Manager or the employee’s direct superior wait too long before updating such records, it is highly possible that some pertinent details will be left out. Additionally, records that are not kept up to date can easily be questioned for accuracy, which is something that a manager should not have to deal with, especially when referring to the performance log for disciplinary action.
2. Acknowledge both the positive and negative.
Managers should keep in mind that the purpose of keeping a performance log is not to punish, but rather, to have a tool which makes it easier to assess employees fairly, pinpoint any areas for improvement, acknowledge accomplishments, and help people do their jobs better. With this in mind, performance appraisals should not just zero in on negative behavior and actions, but also recognize the positive. For example, an employee who made a bad judgement call and bypassed his boss may have done so out of the intention to speed up processes. By pointing out the positive, his manager will be able to coach him on alternative courses of action he could have taken. Also, knowing that the positive is recognized can actually encourage employees to be more open to feedback and improvements.
3. Keep it factual and detailed.
The next step to keeping a performance log is making sure that pertinent details about the employee, which includes behavior, attitude, actual courses of action, and statements are accurately recorded. While it is good to keep things concise, it is even more important to ensure that the language used in the performance appraisal is not unjustly biased against the employee. Keeping performance logs that are riddled with statements of judgement can be counterproductive, because these may easily be dismissed as prejudiced, especially if the parties end up in a legal dispute. “Show, don’t tell” is a good rule to follow. For example, saying that Diane was “being unreasonable” is not considered factual. Even if the manager thinks this, it would be better to quote Diane or make a record of her demands instead.
4. Create a sense of continuity and consistency.
The necessity of keeping a performance log complete and updated may not be obvious at the moment, but it never hurts to be prepared. This can be very helpful to other managers, should the employee receive a promotion or be moved to a different department. Since all members of management, regardless of the department, should consider themselves as part of one big team, then it’s a good idea to help fellow team members along by giving them an idea of what to expect from a new subordinate. Such records can also come in handy if another manager wants to identify employees with specific strengths and characteristics for a certain position or project. By keeping a performance log which is well-organized, relevant, complete, and updated, all parties in the company stand to benefit.
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