I am not sure who dreads a performance assessment more, the employee on the receiving end or the manager that has to prepare and deliver the assessment! I have seen assessments done many ways over the years and I have never found one that I really like.
I recently read Bob Lutz’s book Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership after seeing him speak at a PMI breakfast in Calgary. The book is an interesting read full of stories and situations that Lutz worked through during his long career in the auto business. He has a lot of good leadership lessons buried in the book but the most interesting thing I got out of the book was the performance assessments that he provided for people he worked with and reported to.
The model is very simple, fits on one page and is easy to complete (download the Performance Assessment Excel template of this tool from the Business Tools page on this site). It does not involve complex psychological models and performance dimensions. It consists of the following 10 elements;
1) Integrity (character, honesty and trust)
2) Courage (willing to take on personal risk, be “unpopular”, does not turn tail in adversity)
3) Style (bearing, charisma, command presence)
4) Communication skill (ability to influence others through spoken word and written word)
5) Toughness ( holds people accountable, tackles low performers)
6) Adaptability (ability to adjust to changing environment, modifies approach as needed)
7) Consistency and Focus (no buzzword or initiative of the week)
8) Sense of Priority (unwavering commitment to key strategic goals)
9) Creativity (inventive, imaginative, able to see new approaches and solutions)
10) Results (the bottom line over time, consistently delivers what was committed to)
Lutz assigned a weight to each of the 10 elements and then he scored everyone on a 1 to 5 scale for each element, multiplied it out and added it up. He shows his assessments for a number of leaders including Lee Iacocca and Robert J. Eaton in the appendix of the book (the book is worth the purchase price just to review these scores!)
I am not necessarily advocating Lutz’s performance assessment system (although for some roles and businesses it might work very well). The assessments that you use in your business should be applicable to your business, simple to implement, easy for managers and staff to understand and it needs to drive both personal growth and business growth.
There are many tools available in the marketplace to help with this process and many companies take these tools and modify them to fit their business. For example, Korn/Ferry International’s Lominger system is used extensively in performance assessment systems. There are also 360 degree feedback systems in place from companies like Custom Insight.
Google uses a very simple system that keeps employees focused on performance against established goals.
Bottom line is that regardless of what system or forms are used, the performance assessment process needs to be a process of continuous (not once a year), constructive, factual feedback that employees can use to improve themselves and stay engaged at work. When your employees are engaged and when they are continuously getting better your business will reap the benefits.
Click on this link for additional information on gathering and providing properly grounded feedback.