Positive & Negative Effects of Assessments in the Workplace

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Treat employees fairly during assessments to avoid accusations of bias and discriminatory treatment.
Treat employees fairly during assessments to avoid accusations of bias and discriminatory treatment. (Image: innovatedcaptures/iStock/Getty Images)

Many companies have workplace assessments in the hopes of gathering useful information to make decisions about salaries, personnel, goals and performance. If you’re thinking about implementing assessments in the workplace, be aware that positive effects can be outweighed by negative results. Weighing the possible outcomes of workplace assessments will help you determine whether they can help or hurt your business.

Purpose

For many businesses, the purpose of workplace assessments is to formalize and standardize information gathered to make decisions. Assessments might provide feedback about how employees are attending to responsibilities, help make salary decisions, determine whether employees merit promotions, learn more about employee career plans and assist in making decisions about probationary periods for problem employees.

Types

Workplace assessments can take different forms. Employees can meet with one or more supervisors to discuss achievements and target areas for improvement. Supervisors sometimes assess workers with rubrics and checklists, rating abilities to perform specific tasks. Assessments might also include reviewing goals set forth in previous evaluations to determine whether employees have worked to meet those goals. Employers can also ask workers to complete self-evaluations to assess their own abilities.

Positive Effects

There are plenty of reasons for implementing assessments in the workplace. Evaluations let employees know how they’re doing; workers don’t like to wonder whether they’re meeting employer expectations. Accountability is another benefit; employees know that their actions will be evaluated and discussed, with potential repercussions, during assessments. It also standardizes evaluations for salary increases and promotions, removing guesswork for managers.

Negative Effects

Workplace assessments can also have negative effects. Employees sometimes suspect that their employers don’t trust them to perform quality work or they may feel like they’re being constantly watched for mistakes. Assessments can also be costly and time-consuming; employers must set aside resources dedicated to evaluations that could be used in more profitable ways. Depending on what’s discussed in assessments, legal liability could become a problem if employees feel that they were snubbed, castigated or treated unfairly by managers.

Challenges

Employers must address and overcome challenges for assessments to be effective, creating more positive than negative results. Transparency can be a problem; employees don’t want to feel that their assessment results are secret weapons that could be used against them. Bias is also a potential problem, because workers might feel that certain managers sabotage assessments in real or imagined retaliation. Employee buy-in is another challenge. If assessments lead to no change, whether positive or negative, employees might feel that there’s little motivation to perform well if they’re not going to be rewarded following warm assessments or penalized after critical ones.

Solutions

Increase transparency by allowing employees access to assessment materials and evaluations; this lets workers know the criteria upon which they’re being evaluated and decreases paranoia about negative files. To address bias, permit employees to contest or respond to negative assessments so that both sides of the story are considered. Boost buy-in by implementing changes promptly following assessments so that employees can clearly link personnel changes and promotions to assessment results.

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