Earlier this month, my company rolled out a new evaluation program to better gauge not just how well employees are doing, but also to help us set goals. The online program is simple to use, yet offers the opportunity to go beyond the simple evaluation process in which so many of us are familiar.
Even so, I approached the task with trepidation. While I’m all about goals and lists, it’s tough to be truly honest about how you feel you’re doing in your job. And it’s also scary to set objectives for the year. How can I set ones that will challenge me but are still obtainable? What if I don’t achieve them? It’s a dilemma for all employees as well as their supervisors.
Whether you stick with a simple written evaluation form or try an online version, it’s critical you’re engaging self-storage staff about their overall job performance. Conducting evaluations can be daunting for all those involved. The evaluator must walk the fine line between praise and constructive criticism, and challenge employees to push themselves. Employees sometimes don’t want to hear where improvements are needed. Or they might disagree with the evaluator’s assessment. Still, these reviews are necessary to keep everyone moving forward in the right direction. Let’s look at some suggestions for conducting—and receiving—evaluations that will put you on that path.
First, evaluations should be a priority, not something you do after the first 90 days of employment, then never again. While an annual review is acceptable, some experts agree a bi-annual or even quarterly one is even better. This keeps everything top of mind. Who can remember something from 10 months ago? So, pick a timeframe and stick to it. If you have several employees, it might be easier to schedule them around the same time as you’ll be in “review” mode.
When it comes to actual assessment, it’s time to take a different approach. Rick Beal, the district manager and part owner of Cubes Self Storage in Salt Lake City, calls it “feed-forward” rather than “feedback.” The idea is a job assessment should help staff improve, not simply dwell on past failures. Of course, you need to evaluate the previous months, but the focus should be on how staff can excel in the job moving forward.
Follow-up is an essential part of the process. Again, if you only speak about objectives and goals once a year, they’re likely to be missed. Circle a date on the calendar—three or six months out—as your “check-in” time just to see if your staff is on the right track.
If you’re on the other end of this scenario, you may feel powerless. Most of the time, that’s not the case. While there will always be some totalitarian bosses out there, most will seek your input during the evaluation process. This may come in the form of a self-evaluation, or you might work on the assessment with your supervisor. When your input is requested, make the most of it. Be honest about what you feel you’ve achieved, areas in which you might improve, and what you can do to help the company be more successful.
This is also the time to ask for support or resources, should you need them. Perhaps you want to improve your phone sales skills and need training. Or you’re struggling with a management software function and would like to attend a webinar. Being honest about your needs won’t make you look weak. Rather, you’ll seem proactive about improving your skills.
For most of us, evaluations will never be easy. But they’re a necessity for business and career growth. The challenge is to find an approach that’s positive and a little bit less painful for supervisors and staff. The end result will be a more profitable company and happier employees.
What’s your advice for conducting employee evaluations? Add a comment below or on Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online community.