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11 Questions from Managers about Performance Feedback

You know those live sessions at a conference or on a webinar that inspire, motivate and give you all sorts of great knowledge and ideas?  The ones that make you feel great for an hour and then you go back to the daily grind and the info just slips away slowly because we’re back in the real world and actually making those changes isn’t realistic or doable? We’ve all been there, we strive for excellence and want to make the world a better place, or at least our work world. Recently I attended a webinar on Performance Feedback Best Practices, and this wasn’t one of those webinars. Our own Pam Heline, HR Manager at Relias Learning, spoke about giving performance feedback to employees, how to do it well, how to do it legally, and how to manage it when things don’t go well. We at Relias try to walk the walk and talk the talk about employee training and development. We recently reviewed and revamped our own formal employee evaluation process.  Pam shared her insights from years of working in HR as well as real world examples, what we’re doing at Relias to try to improve.  Were all in it together and you all asked some very practical, real world, “How do I…” type questions.   Below are all the questions from the webinar with Pam’s answers.

I was wondering more about monthly staff supervision meetings….when we review their caseload/workload, how things are going….we do them monthly (social services) and I am just wondering how the manager documents and if there is a specific format?

One of the most important things to remember is keep these two types of supervision meetings separate from each other.  The more clinical, how to work with clients, reviewing cases, challenges and how to deal with them is a different meeting from overall employee feedback about performance.  It’s easy to get caught up in the tactical, day to day aspects of the work and discuss how to work with the people you serve vs. how to perform better.

What about the things that come up that the employee does not anticipate they need to do next quarter?

That’s not a problem at all. This is a fluid process and will almost always happen and should be taken into consideration when providing feedback.

Are there books or other resources that would be helpful for us to read?

If you search performance feedback on Amazon.com under books, it will return over 28,000 resources. I would suggest refining by average customer reviews and look for 4+ stars. Read others opinions of the books. Everyone has a different style and approach, as you’ve noticed, I’m very straightforward in mine, so you have to find an author that aligns with your style or who can capture/speak to you thru their words.

Can you share your organization’s PIP format?

We follow a progressive discipline process – verbal warning (usually after multiple conversations) which is emailed to the employee as a follow-up and confirmation of understanding, then a written warning, and then termination or successful completion of the PIP and sustained improvement.

Do you have a format for documenting monthly employee supervision/performance reviews?

We don’t have monthly reviews. If you are referring to the 1:1 meetings, we do not have a formal process. We allow managers to use that time with their employees as they see fit.

Do you think it is a good idea to have employees to sign 1:1 conversations?

I don’t think it can hurt but I would wonder why you would need to formalize a conversation. I would suggest signatures or electronic email confirmation if there is a warning being issued.

I have a question regarding progressive discipline, not so much about performance evaluations. My question is, how do we address the issue of a bad attitude and rude behavior from one of our supervisors?

You should hit this “gray” area head on and be black and white about it.  The manager must sit down with very specific instances of where the “bad attitude” or “rude behavior” was displayed and let the employee know the behavior(s) will no longer be tolerated; give a verbal warning (followed up with a confirmation email).  If the behavior occurs again, the very next instance, the employee must be put on written warning.

Do you recommend letting the employee complete a written evaluation on their performance prior to the meeting and bring it with them or would that create another bias? (answered in webinar)

It really depends on how you and your organization operates.  It’s always valuable for an employee to complete a self-evaluation.  People often has a hard time talking about their performance in a positive and constructive way.  Forcing an employee to do that however really makes them think about their own performance and I think it’s very important.  Don’t make it very long or lengthy, but it is important for the employee to come prepared with a list of accomplishments.  Especially when you have managers with a larger number of direct reports, it’s difficult to think about what employees completed 10-11 months earlier in the case of an annual review.  An employee can bring those to the table to use as a discussion point.  I would caution against the self-assessment being reviewed or part of the performance review that the manager does. The manager needs to be honest and provide feedback to the employee how they are doing in the managers eyes vs. the employees brings a very positive review of themselves and the manager falls into the habit of agreeing.

How do you give feedback to a peer (not someone who reports to you) especially if it’s constructive feedback?

Same structure, be straightforward, be specific, honest and direct, include the impact.  Be prepared the person will be surprised and shocked, go through SARA.  Key to keep it constructive and straight forward.  Not “I felt you were rude” which can be attacking, it’s all in the delivery, something like “you might not have noticed the impact you had on someone xyz.  “I’m bringing this to your attention so it doesn’t’ happen again, that it’s not ok”

What if you heard of an employee violating policy but didn’t witness it, you have no specific evidence, do you address it?

As an HR manager, yes, that is my job and I have to follow-up directly with the employee to address any policy violations.  As a manager, it is your responsibility to bring it to the attention of HR if you become aware of an employee violating policy.

Is there a different feedback mechanism for new employees?

Yes, we have a new employee process of a 30-60-90 day process.  Review goals at each stage, expectations, how things are going, documented and reviewed, have regular conversations, 1:1s weekly or biweekly at least. Best if written and both employee and manager signed the document.

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