Employees are the face of our businesses: The way they dress, speak and act toward customers can make or break us. But once you’ve hired and trained your frontline, how do assure each member represents your business in the best way possible?
Regular employee performance evaluations access individual performance, of course, but they are also a great way to improve communication between superiors and subordinates. Most employees have a desire to do a good job; by evaluating their job performances regularly, they are motivated to do so.
In short, evaluations give the supervisor the opportunity to discuss the employee’s performance, give guidance in the areas that need improvement and, just as important, offer a pat on the back for a job well done. It doesn’t cost an employer a cent to give encouragement; however, it goes a long way to cement good employer/employee relations. Positive feedback builds loyalty to the company. Moreover, happy employees are usually productive employees who’ll contribute to improving your business.
Employee evaluations can be used as a good counseling tool. If your employee doesn’t know he needs improvement, has never been evaluated or told how to improve, how can an owner expect a different job performance other than the one given every day? No feedback at all can be debilitating to staff. If no one ever shows/tells you a better way of doing something, you will keep doing it the same way and getting the same results.
In this respect, employee evaluations hold supervisors accountable. If you have an employee who keeps making the same mistakes, perhaps you need to take a long hard look at yourself. Do you lack the expertise or communication skills to train your staff? Looking at the evaluation’s results can be like looking in the mirror. Maybe it’s time to train yourself to be a better leader or hire a consultant who can. The industry has plenty of resources; don’t overlook them.
Evaluations can be an invaluable means of assessing staffing needs. Your assessments will give an overview of who needs further training, which employees are good candidates for future growth and which need to be replaced.
Evaluations become vital documentation for meeting Equal Employment Opportunity requirements or for human resource purposes, too. If you have an employee who’s been evaluated, counseled, re-evaluated and still falls short of a passing score, termination may be imminent. Evaluations can become the backbone of defense in a wrongful termination suit or determining eligibility of unemployment benefits.
Timing and Preparation
There are no rules about evaluation scheduling, but professional human resource directors typically slate the first one at the end of a 90-day probationary period. This is a good time to assess if an employee has achieved initial goals and is performing at expected standards. Retrain, if necessary, and always provide constructive criticism in areas needing improvement. If you don’t, how does an employee know where he stands? More important, how can you ever motivate an employee to succeed if you don’t point him in the right direction? Be clear and encouraging with your directives.
At the very least, conduct evaluations once a year. Throughout the year, keep record of employees’ performances. Use e-mail communications, site visits and inspection reports to help build a full overview. It’s impossible to remember everything, so make a concerted effort to note successes and failures through the work year to be recalled easily during the evaluation period.
Ask other employees and supervisors for input when piecing together the annual evaluation, especially if they work more directly with the employee than you. This also enables you to create a balanced and objective review.
Before sitting down with the employee, go over your documents so you are fully prepared and don’t overlook important points to share—for better or worse.
Self-storage management duties are possibly more varied than a lot of management positions. Facility managers must possess good customer service skills, have superior sales abilities, be skilled at collection calls and the lien-sale process, oversee daily office operations and be handy at maintenance.
It may be difficult to find an employee evaluation sheet that fits the self-storage manager’s job duties to a T. Get your hands on a good generic evaluation form and “tweak” it to fit your facility and the manager’s job duties. You might find one on the Internet or through a software program, but you can also elect to outsource your evaluation task to a human resource company.
When the paperwork is complete and you are comfortably knowledgeable with the materials you’ll share with the employee during an evaluation, call him and schedule a time to meet in your office. This sets a tone of serious importance in addition to guaranteeing you’ll have privacy and few interruptions, not an easy thing to do when the phone is ringing or tenants are coming and going.
Plan 30 to 60 minutes of dedicated time with each individual. Be sure to give each employee a personal copy of the evaluation to read along with you, and then have each employee sign your copy of the review. This will become part of their employment file, and should be pulled again to compare with next year’s evaluation form.
During your evaluation, ask the employee for input. Are there areas he would like the company to improve upon, such as the work environment, company policies or procedures? Maybe your assistant manager knows how to build a better mouse trap and streamline operations. Be prepared to listen and act on any productive ideas generated from these meetings, which can improve operations simultaneous to strengthening your employer/employee relationship. If you empower your employees this way, they are more apt to take the job seriously, which can never hurt when they stand at the frontline—dealing with tenants every day.
Finally, an evaluation is a good time to reward deserving employees with a raise. That’s not to say a raise is expected or required, but it does afford you the opportunity to reward some with an hourly raise or a bonus, or even redesign your existing bonus program. Remember, conducting employee performance evaluations are not always an easy task. It takes time and thought to prepare and conduct them correctly, but you’ll find it is usually a positive and rewarding experience for both you and your employees.
Pamela Alton-Truitt is the owner of Mini-Management, a nationwide manager-placement service. The company also offers full-service and operations-only facility management, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting and training seminars. For more information, call 800.646.4648.