Evaluation Time?

10/20/2012 7:00 AM

Given that for me it is the time of year when we evaluate staff, it is the number one management topic on my mind. This begs the question, “What is the status of your employee evaluation process?”

If you are a typical producer, the answer is most likely, “What evaluation?”

Why do evaluations?

No one likes being told they are doing anything wrong, but without feedback, how does anyone improve? Further, I can attest to the fact that no one likes telling someone they are not performing up to expectations. But without feedback, how does the business improve? And without improvement, how does the business keep up and prosper?

If you have never done an evaluation, knowing where to begin the process can be confusing. What do I evaluate? What is good or bad? How often should an evaluation take place?

Where to start?

I personally prefer objective evaluations. What I mean by this, is I want to lay out a series of tasks or objectives that can be easily measured against a desired outcome, for success or failure. An example would be a cropping employee attending a field day. Either they attended the number you believe necessary or they did not.

What I like to stay away from, are fuzzy measurements. An example here would be rating the employee’s positive attitude. How can this be measured?

The proper frequency of evaluations has been a big management topic for years. Those with lots of time on their hands believe evaluations should be done often, perhaps quarterly. No way does a farmer have time for all this paperwork. In my opinion, yearly evaluations come around fast enough. Only for “problem” staff am I interested in more frequent evaluations.

When to do evaluations must be decided, and here there is no hard and fast rule. I like to do evaluations immediately after the year’s Program of Work is completed. For a crop farm, this would be anytime from when the harvest is complete until planting. But what if you wish to evaluate your milkers? There really is no end to their year’s work. My advice is to do all evaluations at same time.

What to evaluate gets to the heart of doing evaluations. Evaluations should measure compliance with the key objectives of the business, staff contributions to profitability and the overall reliability of the employee. One size definitely does not fit all employees. A small operation with few employees could get away with one evaluation, but the larger the farm gets, the more likely there will be a need for multiple evaluations based on job descriptions.

Once done, then what?

Once the manager has completed the evaluation, it must be reviewed with the employee. No one benefits from an evaluation unless there is communication. The evaluation meeting must be viewed by the employee as a fair process, where the manager and the employee discuss the results. Evaluations must be tied to desired outcomes, or else what’s the point? So the meeting must outline where the employee met desired outcomes and where improvement is needed.

For me it just seems logical to use evaluations to decide raises for the coming year. They also help employees understand where they are excelling and where work remains. Evaluations must never be, on purpose, a trip to the wood shed. This is not to say that repeated poor evaluations are to be tolerated; they cannot be. The goal must be an honest appraisal of how well the employee fits into the goals and objectives of your business.

Editor’s Note: Michael Evanish is the manager of MSC Business Services, a member service of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. MSC Business Services provides Business Analysis, Consulting, Income Tax and Tax Planning, and Payroll Services to businesses throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland. For more information call 717-731- 3517.

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