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Performance evaluation as a management tool.

In 1986 our property management company conducted a detailed employee attitude survey. Although the company was experiencing a period of high growth and employee opportunity, our survey revealed that most employees had no idea of corporate values or goals or of how their job contributed to company plans. Employees were dissatisfied with a lack of stated objectives and the absence of regular feedback on their performance.

In response to these findings, the PERFORM system was developed by our Human Resource Department. PERFORM combines specific job descriptions and objectives with regular performance evaluations. Prior evaluation methods relied on subjective supervisory observation or ratings based on very general skills or attitudes. PERFORM focuses on the specific goals each individual is expected to attain within a specific timeframe and measures the progress toward those goals.

Setting goals

The job description for each position is divided into several "domains," or areas of responsibility. Figure 1 is a sample job description for assistant manager/leasing agent. The domain lists the specific duties for that general area, such as: assist manager with resident renewals." The PERFORM system develops a corresponding goal and objective for each domain.

In the example above, a goal is: assist manager with resident renewals on a monthly basis. A specific objective would be: "increase resident renewals to 80 percent by contacting residents before sending renewal notices to set up appointments with them" Figure 2). Each domain on the job description is covered by a goal and specific objectives. The supervisor may elect to concentrate on one domain, providing several objectives, or cover all domains and limit specific objectives assigned in each.

The employee and supervisor work together in determining the goals and objectives. The employee is urged to participate so that the goals are realistic and the timeframe for achieving them is reasonable.

By participating in goal setting, the employee has a stake in the outcome. He or she knows precisely what is expected and when and how it is to be accomplished. Employees should also have a clear understanding of how the objectives fit into their job descriptions. The supervisor should explain how the individual's contribution furthers corporate or property objectives.

The employee, the supervisor, and the department supervisor all sign the PERFORM goals. This final step helps ensure that PERFORM goals are consistent with corporate or departmental objectives.

Monitoring progress

When the PERFORM goals sheet is completed, employee and supervisor agree on a date for the next review, usually three to six months in the future. A PERFORM file is established for the employee, which is retained by the supervisor. The file contains the PERFORM goals, job description, and evaluation instructions. Each employee also retains a copy of his or her own PERFORM goals.

During the rating period, the PERFORM goals are reviewed periodically. Supervisors are encouraged to keep a record of employee performance on specific objectives and an "Employee Action Log" is provided in the PERFORM file for this purpose.

Prior to the scheduled review date, the employee receives an "Employee Self-Evaluation Form." This is a questionnaire to be completed by the employee to prepare for the evaluation. It includes questions such as "What have my major accomplishments been during the past rating period and how have they related to my goals and objectives?' " In which areas could my performance have been more effective?;' and "How can my supervisor help me to be more effective in the future?" A copy of the completed self-evaluation is given to the supervisor prior to the evaluation.

The supervisor also prepares for the evaluation by reading the employee's self-evaluation, analyzing the Employee Action Log, and reviewing the PERFORM goals. The supervisor then completes the performance evaluation rating sheet.

On the performance evaluation rating sheet (Figure 3), each domain of the job description or PERFORM goals sheet has a corresponding rating. The perform goals and objectives are restated on the Performance Evaluation form, and a numeric rating is given for each domain. The ratings are from one to five, with one being unsatisfactory performance and five being outstanding performance. An overall rating may be computed by averaging the ratings for each domain.

The last section of the evaluation permits written suggestions by the supervisor for obtaining a higher rating during the next evaluation period and sets priorities for the next rating period. There is also a section for employee comments. Both supervisor and employee sign the evaluation, and a copy is retained in the PERFORM file as well as given to the employee.

Achieving success

Through the PERFORM system, supervisors have concrete feedback to give employees regarding job performance. As a result, both parties are better prepared and more enthusiastic about regular evaluations. Employees know at all times the criteria by which they are being measured and that they are specifically related to their jobs.

For our firm, the results of implementing the PERFORM system have been dramatic. Before PERFORM less than half of all employees had any written performance evaluations. Today, over 90 percent have evaluations that have been completed within the last six months. Employee turnover has been reduced by 20 percent. Corporate productivity and profitability has improved in spite of a severe downturn in several of the markets in which we operate. PERFORM was incorporated into a policy and procedures manual for supervisors which received honorable mention in the 1988 IREM Forms and Brochures Contest.

A Gold Star Productivity Program

A successful resort hotel, the Lodge of Four Seasons, located in the Ozarks midway between St. Louis and Kansas City, has served families and business clients for over 25 years. But with a staff of 1,000 employees, over one-third of whom are seasonal workers, training was a continual challenge.

To determine the training needs of the organization, Carol Eicher, the director of human resources for the Lodge, surveyed employees and managers on their training needs. The single largest area of concern for most employees was providing customer service. With this training goal in mind, Eicher worked with Gary Joseph, of the Miami-based Joseph-Ross Group, to develop Guest Star, a training program with a difference.

"Guest Star is aimed at improving service by not teaching employees standardized, 'robotic' responses," says Eicher. "Instead, the program works to build employee self-esteem and self-awareness; to instill in each employee a sense of personal responsibility for customer satisfaction."

To foster this image, each employee spends eight hours learning techniques for building rapport with the customer through role playing and critiques by both peers and the Lodges full-time trainer, Sheila Green.

"We found that many of our employees were reluctant to try to take action to solve customer concerns which they felt were not part of their particular job," says Eicher.

"The training gives them the experiences and the tools to understand that they can take responsibility; in fact, that is the most important thing they can do," says Eicher. "If an employee has a strong sense of his or her own value, personal concern for the welfare of others will evolve naturally."

Eicher notes that an added benefit of the program is that employees often translate these same skills into their personal lives.

The training is given to all employees and managers, permanent and seasonal employees alike. Employees attend on a rotating basis, working in small groups made up of workers from all parts of the resort.

"By mixing the group, we give employees a chance to come in contact with workers they may have never met;' says Eicher. "The mixed group also gives employees freedom to be more involved, separate from their co-workers and their supervisors."

Eicher notes that even those employees not directly involved with resort guests participate. "The Guest Star program does not define customer' as guest;' she says. For a cashier, the 'customer' may be the accounting department, which depends on the cashier's accuracy for billings. The training shows employees that responsibility to fellow workers is also part of service."

In addition to an annual refresher course for all permanent employees, the Guest Star program reinforces skills by honoring employees whose work demonstrates the program's principles.

"Employees are encouraged to report actions of fellow workers that exemplify the techniques taught by Guest Star," says Eicher. "Recognition reports are reviewed by our trainer, and five individuals are selected each month and honored with a group lunch, their pictures on the employee bulletin boards and their names on a plaque in the lobby. They also become eligible to be selected as employee of the year."'

So successful has the program been in improving customer service that a parallel program for managers, Star Manager, has been implemented. This program concentrates on enhancing leadership and training skills to managers at the resort and the company's neighboring real estate development.

Ultimately, the final measure of the training programs success is the level of customer service. Here, too, Guest Star has succeeded. Reports Eicher, At a large convention we have hosted for several years, one repeat customer attached a note to his bill that said, The service and attitude of the employees are awesome."'
Figure 1
 Job Description
 Assistant Manager/Housing Agent
 incumbent: All
 Division: Property Management
 Date: January 1, 1990
 Reports to: Property Manager
 Supervises: No supervisory
 internal Property managers,
 property accounting
 External Contacts: Tenants, vendors
 Output of Job Scope and Purpose)
 Role occupants are responsible for
 keeping accurate property records, for
 seeing that available space is leased,
 that tenants are retained, and that the
 property is effectively maintained within
 budgeted parameters.
 Primary Responsibilities
 Domain 1:
 Assist manager/acting manager (Assist
 as requested; perform manager duties
 in the absence of the manager)
 1 Assist manager with resident
 2 Help resolve resident disputes
 and problems,
 3 Help gather data for preparation
 of the annual property budget.
 4 Supervise and direct staff in
 absence of manager
 5 Schedule make-readies to prepare
 units for new residents,
 6 Schedule outside make-ready
 services as needed and budgeted.
 7 Inspect units to ensure readiness
 and adherence to company

Figure 2

Setting Goals and Objectives

Employee: Jane Smith

Supervisor Approval:

Position: Assistant Manager

Employee Approval:

Property/Dept.: Best Apartments

Approval Date: 3-1-90 Remember that goals are somewhat general and should state what is to be accomplished and when. Objectives are more specific and should answer the questions of how," "when," and how much." An individual's goals and objectives should help the department of property achieve its goals.

Overall Goal for This Position (What, When):

Assist property manager in seeing that available units are leased, residents are retained, and property is effectively maintained within budgeted parameters.

Goal 1 (What, when):

Assist manager with resident renewals on a monthly basis; ensure the property maintains a high curb appeal and that vacant units are made ready to company standards.

Objectives (How, When, How Much):

1 Increase resident renewals to 80 percent by contacting residents before or immediately after sending renewal notices to try to set appointment to talk with them. Take resident a small treat to show how important they are.

2 Walk property, vacant units, and make readies on a daily basis to see that they stay ready to show to prospective residents.

3 Develop a checklist to track routine maintenance and upkeep work around the property by May 7, 1990.

Goal 2 (What, When):

Keep current residents satisfied and informed of what is going on in their community. Ensure maintenance requests are completed within 24 hours.

Objectives (How, When, How Much):

1 Edit and send out a property newsletter by the first of each month. Continue to have new ideas for newsletter Keep in touch with-residents and accommodate them whenever possible.

2 Plan and organize the Thanksgiving brunch and Christmas party. Plan two events for the children throughout the year.

3 Write maintenance requests as soon as notified by the resident. Ask the resident questions in order to get details and ensure a complete understanding of the problem to avoid confusion for the maintenance crew. Call residents and notify them if maintenance requests cannot be completed within 24 hours.

4 Be available for on-call hours every other weekend and in emergencies.
Figure 3
 Performance Evaluation
 Employee: Jane Smith
 Property/Dept.: Best Apartments
 Position: Assistant Manager
 Review Date: 9-1-90
 Ratings: 1 Unsatisfactory performance
 2 Needs improvement
 3 Meets performance expectations
 4 Exceeds performance expectations
 5 Outstanding performance

Rating Category Rating

Domain 1: Assist manager with resident renewals and property maintenance 4.0

Give statements to support rating:

During the last six months, the resident renewals have increased from 70 percent to 82 percent thanks to Jane. She always contacts residents at least 45 days before the end of their lease. Many evenings I have seen her leave the office after closing with lease in hand and a small potted flower on her way to visit a resident and get them to renew. Jane walks the property every day and makes a list of anything she sees that needs attention. She developed a maintenance checklist that maintenance personnel uses weekly.

Domain 2: Keep current residents satisfied 4.5

Give statements to support rating:

Jane produces an eyecatching, newsworthy newsletter every month. She always includes recognition and items about residents. She planned a huge community egg hunt for the children at Easter This was not only fun for the kids but received TV and radio publicity and generated significant traffic for the property. It was a lot of work, but very successful. She always calls residents to follow up on maintenance requests and even developed a satisfaction survey to send to residents.

Domain 3: Collect rents and notify residents who are delinquent 3.0

Give statements to support rating:

Jane has completed Level II and scored satisfactory on the test. She still has trouble completing and processing rental reports. The bank has called three times within the last couple of months with deposits that were not totalled correctly, Our property accountant has complained on several occasions that rental receipts are sent in incomplete. Jane tends to give residents the benefit of the doubt and waits until the sixth or seventh before contacting them on overdue rent.

Domain 4: Preparing reports and paperwork 2.0

Give statements to support rating:

Jane is a fantastic leaser, and she gets along with residents. She gets rushed with the paperwork, though, and does not take the time to thoroughly complete forms or check over her work before turning it in. She always fills in prospect's name and apartment size they need, but fails to get other information on the traffic report. I am constantly having to correct her work or give it back to her to correct before it goes to the corporate office.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Goodnough, Angelique
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:May 1, 1990
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