An alternative name for this article might be, "Keep It Real." If, as a manager, you are delegating much of the authority for the work, projects, or production to employees under your management, and you are doing it well, then there are several things that are probably a part of your everyday experience.
You and your staff find time to get to know each other throughout the day. Your work area is a place where people feel comfortable to move about, to think, to plan, to take breaks, and to work independently, as well as together. The basis for effective work relationships, which leads to a productive and quality company, happens in these nooks and corners. And that, too, is where the assessment and feedback begins -- in the real give and take of daily life on the job.
If your team talks, is open to sharing freely with each other, without fear of repercussion, and can discuss the positive and negative aspects of plans with respect, then your company has a solid foundation for the assessment and feedback processes that are required in every business or organization.
Assessment starts with goals. When everyone knows the goals, the expectations that the entire company supports, and each employee is trained to accomplish those goals, then the assessment part of that relationship between the company, management and the team will flow naturally.
When a team is able to communicate clearly throughout a task, assessment will be only one part of that communication. If both the employee and the manager are assessing the work, the plans, the products, the time and materials along the way, there is no surprise at the outcome. The manager who leaves assessment for the end of a production is missing the skills needed to manage effectively. If a manager waits until the project is completed to give feedback to employees, those abilities in management are ineffective.
For effective work in any organization, the assessment and feedback part has to happen on a regular basis, on an informal, as well as formal basis, and done in a real and honest manner. From the beginning to the end of any job, an effective manager will be interactive only to the point of monitoring, guiding, and training to bring the team into top form -- and that has to include assessing and giving feedback.
1. Assessment and feedback must happen from the beginning of any task, especially when delegating much of the work.
A manager who is worth anything knows that from the start of a job, communication about setting goals and the objectives to reach those goals is a requirement. When the team or employee sets his or her work in the form of goals that are stated clearly, are explained with behaviorally written objectives, and steps are taken to achieve those goals, the process begins. With monitoring dates set up ahead of time, the employee is creating, on his own, a place for assessment.
When this is on-going throughout the company, day after day, it will become a natural part of the work progression. Managers will be seen meeting and discussing every aspect of the work with employees who are demonstrating and explaining their work to the management, because they know that this is simply the way business takes place. The production is an interactive place where every level, from the bottom to the top, shares openly, grows together, and expects support as opposed to criticism. Setting up this natural progression for monitoring the work provides a seamless and regular assessment of that work. Feedback is ongoing from management to employee, from team member to team member, and from staff back to management. It is a two-way street.
This is just one more reason that setting goals and objectives in delegation is such an important way to start. It establishes a clear set of guidelines that is built by the staff or the staff and management together and communicates exactly what will be done and when. If it doesn't happen according to that plan, then those same people will be in discussions to figure out why and how to make appropriate changes or to get back on the track. Assessment comes out of these discussions and feedback results.
2. A manager who is able to manage with guidance, training, and monitoring of goals will establish assessment in a nonthreatening way to his employees.
One of the biggest difficulties in assessment and feedback is that it looms as a discussion of failure and lack of skills in an employee's future. Managers often puts themselves into the role of "master" and becomes be punitive with employees, instead of resourceful. Both manager and staff resent each other for this situation, and no one feels good about it. The manager becomes the bad guy who has to explain to the workers what they did wrong, and the workers are left to hear about their failure without any way to move forward with a positive feeling.
This doom and gloom mentality sets everyone up for one bad experience after another. It creates a negative atmosphere within an organization, and it can permeate across the work space until the whole business is affected.
To counteract this experience, the managers have to train employees how to set a plan for working that incorporates monitoring by the manager or peers at every step. Those conversations and examination of the production along the way provide for guidance in a more positive manner, before the entire project has gone wrong.
With monitoring set up in this way, it is done by everyone on every task, so the employees become used to the assessment as just part of work. The manager is given chances to provide positive, as well as negative, feedback. It is easier to mold a small misdirection, than to trash the entire project. It is easier to correct a small employee error, than to allow him to fail at the entire job. When a manager is able to delegate in many ways, his time is given over to the continual monitoring, guidance, and training, so employees will be able to grow and create a depth of skill as they are working. The manager becomes less of an ogre, and more of a leader.
3. A company that sets the standards high by increasing positive relationships, communication, and daily interaction between management and staff, will find assessment and feedback to be more positive, as well.
When employees get up happy to go to their job, because they feel respected, valued, and trusted, then the day-to-day management of employees, which includes their work being monitored and assessed, will tend to be a positive interaction. Even when a manager must redirect an employee, it can happen within positive interactions. If, as a natural part of the day, the team member interacts with his manager in many ways, then the moment of an interaction for the purpose of assessment will be a more natural event.
The fear of being assessed or getting feedback happens when employees have so little contact with their manager that they really do not know if that manager approves of them and their work or not. This makes the evaluation or assessment event a kind of defining moment that creates discomfort for both employees and managers, alike.
It is easy to see that creating more of these moments, improving the amount and types of interaction with informal time to "hang out," will change the whole mindset about assessment. Too many times, a company makes a big deal at a certain time every year or every three months with a call to come to the office for the employee's assessment.
Other companies make a big deal about employees filling out a self-evaluation form, as if that will make it easier. When a staff member and a manager hardly know each other, the employee is always second-guessing how he evaluates himself. The expectations are just not clear.
A business that creates a natural flow of communication in the company, with management given freedom to become personal with the employees and no wall put up to separate the various levels of administration, then the positive effects will move across all boundaries, and even into the dreaded assessment period.
4. If management is to give feedback that has real meaning, then the management needs to understand who that employee really is and what she is about.
Getting true valuable feedback through an assessment process is very important to the employee, the manager, and the company. It is through this process that an employee becomes more aware of the goals, her own strengths and weaknesses, needs for training, change of habits, readiness for more responsibility, and promotion. It should be a time of openness, sharing, and true interactive evaluation of the work. When the focus is on the production, as opposed to the employee, then the negative aspects of the work will less likely damage the credibility of the worker -- and that is very important.
An employee may require a change in habits, the development of new or improved skills, or lead to a better understanding of the processes, but it is never appropriate to be disrespectful, demeaning, or derogatory toward an employee. Management needs to take the lead in getting to know and understand the employees, stay involved in the monitoring of work, and interact with staff on a regular basis in preparation for a future of working and growing together.
In the Ace Company, at the end of each quarter, employees were asked to complete a self-assessment form before their evaluation meeting with the manager. The employees dreaded this. Four times a year, the company atmosphere was tense. Employees did not know if they should rate themselves as they really saw themselves -- as high -- because maybe that was what the manager expected, or low, to appear as though they did not want to brag.
The biggest problem was that nobody really knew what the management expected. Even those who had been there for years had not figured it out. Going into the meeting after having submitted the self-evaluation forms, employees were asked to sit in a chair while the manager sat behind a desk. He would indicate that he had the form and proceed to tell you little that was not generic in both negative and positive ways and never even refer to the self-assessment. When it was over you knew little about what he felt about your work.
Because of this the staff who were experienced tended to see this whole practice as a farce. The evaluations never resulted in any promotions, bonuses, or firings. It was considered a big waste of time. Employees felt like the management did not really care about them, their work, or their thoughts. They, in return, had little respect for their company or the quality of their work.
In the Acme Company , the management had informal discussions with employees from the moment they were hired. Time was spent explaining to them the company goals and the processes for using goals and objectives for all work. They learned up front about the way the work would be monitored throughout the process, how they would be given responsibility as they both felt the employee was ready for it, and that on a regular basis they would talk about the work and how it was going.
The manager told the employees that she would watch their work for signs of needed improvement and training would be offered. The manager also pointed out that she would also be looking for signs that the employee was on track for promotion and leadership. During informal times the manager made a point to hold conversations with all employees, learning about their struggles and successes -- both at work and outside of work.
During each step of every task, the manager would go over the work, letting the employee lead in discussing how the work was progressing and what he felt his successes and failures were. The manager would probe the employee to find out what he was learning and if he felt he had any areas of weakness, making a note to help the employee find some training. The manager would share informally about her own successes and failures over the years, and encourage the employee to keep moving forward.
Staff at this company felt respected and valued. In return, they respected and valued the company and the management.
Set up your physical or computerized notebook:
It is important for a manager to be able to share their own experiences. In this article about assessment and feedback, variations in this process were discussed. There are ways to set up an organization for a natural flow of assessment and feedback on a regular basis.
In your notebook, you should be able to write down some of your own experiences, either as a manager giving feedback to an employee, or as an employee getting feedback from being assessed. Try to remember some of your experiences early in your working life. If possible, try to remember back to time when you had your first jobs. What do you remember about being evaluated, assessed, and about the feedback you were given.
Write down times when you felt degraded, as well as times you felt encouraged. Managers must remember those feelings to relate personally to the employees for which they are responsible.
1. Consider how you feel about using the process of goal setting to improve how a company assesses its employees.
2. Consider the positive aspects of assessment and feedback using goal setting.
3. Consider what negative aspects of this type of assessment.
4. Consider how you might introduce this plan for assessment in your work.
If you are unsure of these considerations, go back and review the material.