Printer Friendly

The key to retaining professionals.

Ask a well-trained technical professional why he or she left a good job and you might hear, "I never got any feedback from my boss" or "I didn't feel my efforts were noticed or appreciated. " It's impossible to overestimate the importance of performance feedback in retaining professionals.

Performance evaluations show management is interested in an employee's work. In the absence of such feedback, one assumes the worst, and who wants to work at a place where his or her efforts aren't appreciated?

A professional cannot be judged by the same methods used to evaluate an assembly-line worker. With a professional, the person shapes the work. Even though two programmers are working on similar assignments, the way each approaches the job will be different. One approach is not necessarily better than the other, but each bears the mark of the individual's education and experience.

When little basis for comparing people's work exists, the professional has no formal yardstick to measure himself or herself against. Issues such as coming in on time, meeting budget, and satisfying the end user can be evaluated. But suppose the end user would be delighted with anything, or suppose the end user is impossible to please. A good manager can make a huge motivational difference by instituting a work appraisal system.

Many managers dispense with performance appraisals altogether because they fear negative feedback. Others avoid them because they don't understand the advanced technical level of an employee's work.

To most managers, performance appraisal means criticism, and nothing is more damaging to a relationship than criticism. A Harvard Business School study found that criticism breeds defensiveness, and the more defensive an employee becomes, the less improvement will occur. Even an employee doing marginal work may get a satisfactory performance rating since many managers convince themselves that criticism will only make matters worse. The employee is thus never confronted with his or her poor performance.

Such action is unfair to the employee in the long run. Many organizations are trying to streamline their operations, and those people with questionable value to the organization are often let go. Without a history of honest feedback and attempts at improvement, such people can become unemployable.

Recently, for example, an employee with 23 years of experience was let go by an organization that was trimming its nonproductive staff. Since the employee had 22 years of performance appraisals that indicated he was doing standard work, he didn't understand why he was being terminated for failure to perform. He could not find a new position without references from his former employer, so he sued the organization.

A cursory investigation proved the employee had been performing below standard for a long time. Each manager, however, had been anxious to get rid of him. To ensure his attractiveness for transfer to some other unsuspecting manager, the employee was given standard performance ratings. The man stated that by not being told of his shortcomings, he had not had an opportunity to change his behavior. The judge agreed, and the man won his case.

PERFORMANCE FEEDBACK CAN BE given without criticism through a method called coaching. Sales organizations have coaching developed to a science. It involves focusing on a very specific situation and discussing it with the person as soon as possible.

For example, in a typical training situation, a sales manager may go on a customer visit with a new salesperson to observe. An entire exchange takes place between the customer and the salesperson. Immediately afterward the sales manager and the salesperson discuss what happened.

Manager: How do you think it went?

Salesperson: Great. Did you notice how I handled the customer's questions on A, B, and C, and how I redirected his attention from D to E, and then how I presented X, Y, and Z?

Manager: Your presentation of our product was the best I've ever seen. However, the customer didn't buy. Why?

Salesperson: He didn't understand the value of our product.

Manager: Assuming that, what could you have done differently to make him understand?

Salesperson: I could have asked more questions about his problems and made a stronger connection between his problems and the ability of our product to solve them.

Manager: Good idea. What else did you notice about your interaction with the customer?

Salesperson: I could tell by the way he reacted to my mention of costs that he didn't like our prices.

Manager: I noticed that too. What could you have done differently to achieve a positive reaction?

Salesperson: I could have talked more about the benefits of our product before I mentioned price. Then he might have seen that it is valuable.

Manager: Great idea. Next time we visit a customer, what will you do differently?

Salesperson: I'll ask more questions to discover the customer's problems, and I'll talk more about benefits before I mention price.

The keys to coaching for better performance through performance evaluation include the following:

* observing behavior

* discussing it immediately with the person

* asking questions that cannot be answered with yes or no

* building on and using the person's answers as much as possible

* concluding the discussion by making a commitment to do something differently next time

Usually a manager will fill out a good, better, best" checkoff sheet, have a short discussion with the employee, and send the form to the personnel department. However, improvement does not come from forms but rather from the dialogue between the manager and employee. The dialogue should be based on the issues and problems the employee thinks limit his or her ability to get the job done.

The boss usually doesn't see the situation the same way the employee does. The employee may be making the best decisions he or she can with the limited information available.

When a boss criticizes, the employee may think., "How do you know? You weren't there when it happened, and if you had been there, you would have done the same thing." As long as the employee is busy mentally justifying his or her actions, no performance improvement will occur. It's not productive to tell someone he or she is wrong without asking for and listening to his or her point of view.

The following is an example of a dialogue that might occur if a manager overheard an employee's phone conversation ending, "If you aren't happy with our service, maybe you should take your business elsewhere!"

Manager: Why did you hang up on that call?

Employee: You don't have any idea what kind of abuse I was receiving from that caller, and I'll tell you something-you don't pay me enough to listen to that sort of thing.

Manager.- I'm not saying you weren't justified. But if the same thing happens again, can you think of a better way to handle it?

Employee: As soon as I realize I'm losing control, perhaps I should turn the call over to someone else.

Manager: That's a great idea.

This line of questioning tells the employee that other ways to handle a situation exist. It does not say, "You are wrong. " All the manager needs is a commitment that the employee will act differently in the future. This may seem like a small difference in semantics, but it's a huge difference to the people involved. Making people admit they're wrong does not create an impetus for improvement; it creates an impetus for defensiveness.

Much has been written in management texts about whether to give performance feedback orally or in writing. Orally is nice. Putting it in writing, especially when it is not expected, is powerful.

The most important thing about performance feedback is that it be given immediately and that it be very specific. Saying, Great job, Harry! I especially liked the nontechnical introduction. It will make it a lot easier for the sales and marketing crew to understand what our proposal is all about, " is powerful. But saying, "Great job, Harry, " doesn't let the employee know you took the time to examine his or her work.

THE MOST MOTIVATIONAL KIND OF performance feedback allows employees to make the judgment for themselves. Many organizations are attempting to design self-evaluation systems.

Research has shown that an increase in productivity occurs when employees are informed daily of their production levels, because they can measure today's successes against the yardstick of yesterday's achievement.

A few high-tech firms are trying out a new approach to performance feedback. For example, a work group sets its own standards and measures its productivity against those standards. With this system, the group sets up its own achievement targets in the form of ratios. The group's total output is then evaluated against those ratios. So far, this system seems to be working well in word processing and customer service. It has had limited success with groups of technical professionals or with project teams.

It can also be beneficial for employees to evaluate their managers. The following questions from the manager often produce worthwhile information:

* Do I do anything that makes your job harder?

* What can I do to make your job easier?

* What is your understanding of my expectations for your performance?

* What should I be doing to help prepare you for your next promotional opportunity?

* What can I do to assist you better in working toward your full potential?

ONE SIGNIFICANT QUESTION REgarding performance feedback that

should be addressed is, Who is the performance appraisal system for? If a manager evaluates all his or her staff as unsatisfactory, the organization may have a poor impression of the manager. On the other hand, if a manager rates every employee superior, the staff may feel they don't have to work at getting better since they've already achieved a state of perfection. A manager caught in either situation might give employees an unfair evaluation to create a balance.

The real purposes of performance appraisals are to ensure the best employees will rise, provide employees with feedback for development efforts, document performance so that personnel actions (like termination) are legally defensible, excite employees about their work.. motivate employees to better levels of performance, solve problems that prevent optimum productivity, and clarify expectations regarding employee performance and managerial support.

Perhaps the best way to view performance appraisals is as a series of steps to ensure that expectations are clear and as an opportunity to cement the working relationship between the employee and the manager. DeAnne Rosenberg, certified speaking professional, is a professional speaker and training consultant in Lexington, MA, who specializes in management education and supervisory development. For more information, contact her at 617/862-6117.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
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.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Rosenberg, DeAnne
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1990
Previous Article:The myths and realities behind security lighting.
Next Article:Aviation Security: Strategies for the '90s.

Related Articles
Attracting talent North.
CIMA Training annual conference.
Protecting your loyal customer base: protecting a customer base and generating loyalty forms a key part of firm strategy. It is essential to...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters