Hot Monthly Info 2016

Happy Holidays

December – Employee Evaluations – Junk Science

In our organization and management studies for planning and building departments we generally ask:

1.      Do you have an employee evaluations program? A few don’t but most do.

2.      Are the evaluations up to date? Very few are.

3.      Do you like doing the evaluations? No.

4.      When you want to terminate an employee do you find the employees evaluations are up-to-date? Often they are not.

5.      When you examine the employees past evaluation reports, do they accurately document the problem enough to provide cause for termination? Normally not, in fact often the employee has been getting satisfactory evaluations.

These are true stories. “Some companies – including some big, legacy ones – are removing the idea of performance reviews. This is logical. Performance reviews are mostly a dumpster fire more rooted in process than, well, actually improving the employee being evaluated. There’s been research for years that killing performance reviews will actually develop employees quicker.” (taken from the

Many years ago the noted management guru, Edward Deming, suggested that the performance evaluations as being practice should be eliminated in favor of more frequent evaluations, I agree.

I left government management some 25 years ago and employee evaluations have not changed much over the 25 years. I was always bothered by the five-part scoring system which was a bit like playing God. To focus instead on the evaluation, I required that all employees be scored above average, unless it was someone on the road to termination. This helped and worked well until my Human Resource Department found out what I was doing and called it to a halt.

This led me to another idea – a self-evaluation. Under this system, the employee filled out their own evaluation form which was used as a focus for meeting with their manager or supervisor. The form is attached to this article and you can feel free to adapt it to your needs. In my case, I simply stapled it to the county’s form. This system was a big improvement to the evaluation program.

The authors, referenced above, have suggested another approach they call, “Career Conversations.” They suggest:

“Be their Barbara Walters.”

“You schedule a 1-hour meeting with a direct report. You ask them real, probing, pertinent questions about their life and career to this point. Why did they make this decision? How about that one? This is a very rare experience for most first-world, white-collar employees. Their manager tends to only talk to them when they (a) f*&% up or (b) the manager needs something.”

Some questions that could frame career conversation might include:

•You’ve been in this role for (x-amount of time). What are the pros and cons?

•Are there any responsibilities you’d like to try that you haven’t?

•What do you see as the next step?

•Does the work of any other department interest you?

•Concerns about pay or the middle/top being clogged?

•Are you aware how promotion decisions are made here?

•How do you think you could grow?

•Where do you want to be in 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months?


Bottom line, give these two methods a try. Encourage your HR department to make some changes. After you try this, email me with your results.

For better employee evaluations,

the Management Doctor