Why Benchmarking Beats Employee Performance Evaluations

BY Kathy Crosett
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The annual performance evaluation is dead. HR professionals and businesses leaders made that announcement a few years back. But is that statement true? A WorldatWork survey finds that over 90% of businesses still use some form of employee performance evaluations. These evaluations aren’t a terrible idea, as long as you are giving your employees regular feedback and encouraging them to take an active role in planning for their future.

Employee Performance Evaluations

The concept of employee performance evaluations gained ground when team members could be easily measured for the quantity and quality of output. These exchanges often involve one-​way conversations during which managers share their perceptions. They tell employees what they’ve done well during the previous 12-​month period, and managers explain what they’d like to see more of.

Employees who only receive feedback once a year find it hard to stay engaged at work. They start to wonder if anyone cares what they’re doing most of the time. One survey reports that only 29% of today’s workers have a clear picture of whether they are always performing to expectations. Another 21% of surveyed workers say they never know if they’re doing a good job. This employment arrangement is about the same as telling your people you don’t care about them.

When we asked sales reps why they had voluntarily left positions, 38% said they had no opportunities for advancement, and the same percentage said the company didn’t seem to care about them.

The Power of Benchmarking

One way to keep your employees engaged and to show you care is to set up a benchmarking program with them. You may be more familiar with applying benchmarking to the success of a new ad campaign or a new product launch. As Kevin Eikenberry explains, you can use the concept to establish and measure professional goals with your team members.

Research shows that engaged team members want to see that they have a career progression in the organization. They also want to maintain their skills. You can help your employees determine the types of positions they’re best suited for by asking them to take a psychometric assessment. Assessments will reveal their natural work traits, such as drive and empathy. Their primary motivators will hint at their levels of originality and their need to either fit in or be distinctive. Many employees hope to assume management or leadership roles at some point in their career. 

Measuring Progress

Great managers will first review assessment results with employees and then discuss specific goals. For example, your team member may want the opportunity to manage employees, but their assessment and work performance shows they sometimes fail to complete tasks on time. If your organization has an intern program, give this team member the responsibility of assigning and tracking intern work as a way to help them improve this critical skill. On a monthly or biweekly basis, meet with them to see if deadlines are being met. Ask if they are meeting their own deadlines, too.

When they miss deadlines, ask about how they track details. If they haven’t thought about using a system of calendar or app-​based reminders, encourage them to try. Ask them to follow this system for at least a month, to ensure that new behaviors become ingrained.

While employee performance evaluations serve as important documentation, they don’t work as tools to improve work output. They also don’t help managers develop employees or increase engagement. Now is the perfect time to help your team members begin to benchmark their work output as the first step in professional development.

Photo by AlphaTradeZone from Pexels