There are two sets of factors that companies measure when evaluating job performance. Quantitative data, such as sales figures or success in meeting deadlines, can be measured fairly simply, but qualitative data, such as leadership skills and communication skills, is more difficult to measure. Most job performance evaluation methods are a company's attempts to measure this qualitative data in an organized way. Depending on an employee's duties and the nature of a particular company, employers may use different methods or a combination of methods to evaluate employees.
Employee performance evaluations began to occur around the time of World War II in response to the employee-driven zeitgeist of the time. Their original purpose was to consider salary and wage increases in an organized and methodical way, and salary considerations remain an important part of today's performance evaluations.
There is no federal or state law requiring that companies provide performance evaluations or mandating the content of those evaluations. Though many companies implement performance reviews and provide specific guidelines as to their use, they are not required to do so.
Employee performance evaluations are designed for two main purposes. First, they provide employees with the opportunity to have balanced feedback on their work, giving praise and suggestions for performance improvement. Second, employee performance evaluations are an opportunity for employees to share their career goals and considerations with managers, providing employers with insight into how a certain employee's career might progress.
There are several different types of job performance evaluations.
The most common are top-down job performance evaluations in which employees are evaluated by their direct supervisor. Some employees may have top-down evaluations from high-level supervisors as well as their immediate supervisor.
In peer-to-peer evaluations, workers evaluate their co-workers at the same level.
The 360-degree performance evaluation enlists feedback from all the people with whom the employee interacts, including his direct supervisor, co-workers, other departments, customers, vendors and staff.
Self-assessment reviews require an employee to rate his own job performance, usually against a list of provided criteria. These reviews are most frequently used in combination with another type of review.
Each type of evaluation has its pros and cons.
A person's immediate supervisor is usually the person with whom he works most closely, so top-down evaluations can often give an accurate picture of performance. However, because they rely on the input of one or two people, the evaluations may be skewed by the reviewer's personal biases toward or against certain characteristics. In larger companies or in companies where much of the work is independent, supervisors may not have close knowledge of an employee's work.
Peer-to-peer evaluations work best in team-driven environments where co-workers work closely together. Often, team members are the best people to evaluate their co-workers' efforts and success. Peer-to-peer evaluations should be used carefully, however, since in certain environments, they can cause office drama.
The 360-degree performance evaluation is perhaps the most well-rounded look at an employee because it draws on so many sources. However, these reviews may violate an employee's privacy since they call on sources outside the company to evaluate an employee's performance. In situations where a manager is being reviewed, the appraisals from his staff may be skewed by concerns about making managerial complaints.
Self-assessment reviews are a good way to see how an employee feels about the work he is doing. Often, they point toward growth opportunities for a particular employee. Because leadership feedback is an important part of employee morale, they are best used in conjunction with another type of review.
Because employee performance reviews are often based on subjective criteria, it's important for companies to have clear, universally applied criteria in place for their evaluations. When evaluation methods aren't clear, there is the potential for lawsuits.
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