By Carrie B. Cherveny
There’s one time of the year self-storage owners dread more than tax season—performance-review time! One of the most difficult employee relations activities is also one of the most important: documenting employee-performance issues. In today’s extraordinarily litigious society, performance feedback can have a six-figure impact on an employer.
What storage owners often miss is the written documentation. While hard to create and even more difficult to deliver, this sets everyone up for success. Employees who have a clear and written account of their performance have a genuine opportunity to correct their behavior and succeed in your organization.
However, consistency is of paramount importance. Employers who provide feedback on a sporadic or inconsistent basis set themselves up for trouble. Consistent reviews and documentation across your company demonstrates to “inquiring minds” an employer’s legitimate and good-faith efforts to address employee-performance problems.
When it comes to employment litigation, perception is reality. Employees talk to each other—a lot! They know who’s been disciplined, who hasn’t and why, and they compare notes. An employee who may be disciplined for the same misconduct as another will surely feel singled out if a coworker wasn’t likewise disciplined.
An employee’s perception that he has been treated unfairly can lead to claims and litigation. When an employee is provided with written documentation, he’ll have a more difficult time believing as well as convincing others that he’s suffered some form of discrimination or retaliation.
The question I’m most often asked is how do you write this documentation and how do you deliver it. Here are some guidelines for the “how.”
Don’t wait. Deliver timely feedback. Memories fade and it’s important the employee has a clear and recent recollection of the events and circumstances or you may lose a valuable learning opportunity.
Be clear and concise. Don’t lose the message in the words. Wordy and verbose reviews can have exactly the opposite effect. The employee may not understand the message and instead will feel confused and frustrated, and leave the meeting with a negative attitude.
Be concrete. Be sure employees have a clear understanding of the desired outcome and how their current performance “doesn’t measure up.” Use examples and attach company policies when applicable.
Be realistic. Be sure to set staff up to succeed by setting goals and objectives they can actually achieve. Define and set goals that are clear and understandable.
Offer resources. You’ve invested time and money in hiring, training and developing your employees, so set them up to succeed. Offer resources and tools when applicable to help them overcome their performance challenges.
Employee-performance reviews will likely never be easy. However, they are a necessary part of operating a successful storage business. Be clear about your expectations and hold your employees to these standards.
Carrie B. Cherveny is vice president of employment practices for AlphaStaff, which offers human-resources management, insurance and employee administration services. She oversees the general counsel’s office and human-resource services, and is involved in business development. She has more than 15 years of experience as an employment attorney and a human-resources professional. To reach her, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.alphastaff.com.