Effective employee evaluation and motivation
August 15, 2011 | 11:10 am CDT
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Do you remember a time when you wondered if you were appreciated in your work — either in your current position or some years back? Have you ever been uncertain that you were performing up to company expectations or those of the one to whom you report? Well, you are not alone because everyone experiences this in one way or another. You may be one of the thousands in the wood products industry that have left a company because of this very frustration.

In December I wrote about adopting a new Management Paradigm, wherein the structure of a company is less formal and rigid and away from that of the traditional layered organizational chart. This month I want to offer an effective way to evaluate and motivate employees while avoiding their frustrations and disappointments.

It is all but certain that there are those in your organization who are wondering how they measure up to expectations and worry about the future of the company, as well their own job security. It behooves you and your leadership team to have a plan of motivation and evaluation in place to maximize the effectiveness of everyone involved in your operation. An outline of such a plan is illustrated on the next page and is further discussed below.

Start With Goals
In order to give meaningful direction, it is imperative that you have goals and objectives to which the company is working. The problem too often encountered when reviewing this subject with clients is that they have no specific goals much beyond “to survive.” I have quoted many times what my favorite philosopher, Yogi Berra, said to his wife as he was driving through the countryside on the way to his Hall of Fame induction: “We may be lost, but we’re making good time!”

We laugh, but without goals you and your team will flounder, with no idea of how effectively they are contributing to the success of your organization — or even if they are doing a good job. So, the first step in an effective employee motivation and evaluation process is to set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

Discuss the Goals

These goals are not just something to write down and put in a drawer, only to sit there until someone remembers to pull them out and admires how profound they are. We need to communicate them to all of our associates so they are aware of their existence and understand how and why they are intended to steer the company toward success. This cannot be accomplished by simply sending a memo or e-mail, but requires a dialogue — a discussion.

This is important so that the team leader, or supervisor can explain the goals, why they are important and most importantly, how they relate to the employee’s job responsibilities. This conversation must include a discussion of what specifically he or she can do to help the company achieve its goals. The next step is to ask for input from each employee during this process and encourage them to set personal goals that in turn will help the company achieve its goals. Remember that each associate’s goals must also be SMART goals.
At this point, the employee is knowledgeable about corporate goals, the goals of his department and has his or her own goals. The next step is to make sure he or she is empowered to make a difference.

This diagram represents an effective plan for
Employee Evaluation and Motivation that will
promote Continuous Improvement.

Empower Your Employees

Many times employees are given goals but left powerless to make a difference. In today’s manufacturing environment everyone must be empowered to make decisions and be involved in a Continuous Improvement process in order to make a difference in how things are done.

Therefore, it becomes critical during the discussion process to explain just how much latitude the employee has in exercising independent judgment and implementing change. As I have mentioned before, you must have a structure to your empowerment effort so that everyone puts forth a coordinated effort to achieve the objectives. Positive change must occur at a controlled pace to avoid outstripping your resources and hurting productivity.

Employees who are empowered and understand what they can do to make a difference will be happier at work and feel greater job satisfaction and job security — a tremendous employee recruitment and retention asset no matter what the economic climate is at that time.

Continually Observe
Having done the above, these empowered employees cannot just be left alone to “do their thing.” You must now continually observe what is going on to see if there are positive trends toward reaching the broader company goals and objectives. On the personal level, each employee needs to be observed to ensure progress is being made with their own goals and if they are contributing to the overall corporate objectives.

This is not intended to be a series of sinister observations, but a continuous evaluation process to gain information to help the employee become more effective in reaching his or her goals, and thus feel a sense of accomplishment. Notes should be taken and kept for future reference and any relevant insight should be shared with the employee as soon as practicable.

Provide Feedback
Timely positive feedback is the best way to motivate someone to aspire to a higher degree of achievement toward the goals they have set and to help the company reach its objectives. The way you present your observations will determine the way the associate will react. I have always believed that there is no such thing as constructive criticism when it is essentially a spoken or written opinion or judgment of what is wrong or bad about somebody or something.

No one does everything wrong and it is what they are doing right that needs to be emphasized during this feedback process. Surround the issue with positive affirmations and don’t use the words “but” or “however” when you discuss suggested changes in behavior.
For example, “John” is tremendously motivated and has great ideas for quality improvements in the machine area. The issue is that John’s energy level is such that he is working at about 60 percent of what is considered standard. The temptation is to say: “John, your quality improvement ideas are great...but your work pace is really slack!”

Instead, try: “John, your quality improvement ideas are great. Wow, if you could find a way to increase output at your operation, we could really make a dent in all of our goals.”

Instead of communicating disapproval, you are challenging him to realize that he has some productivity problems himself. Better he sees this and is self-motivated to improve than for you to motivate him through a direct or implied threat. This is why I label this step “Provide Positive Feedback.” If this does not work, a more direct approach may be necessary.

Annual Self Review
Feedback is very important and should be continuous throughout the year. At the end of the year, an informal one-on-one meeting also should be held with employees to look at the annual results of reaching the corporate objectives and goals so that they understand how the year went on the broader scale. This will also give them an understanding of where the company performance was weak and hopefully motivate them to look for ways to improve the situation.

After reviewing the corporate performance, it is time to go over each individual’s goals. After you have let “John” know how much you appreciate his efforts, you can ask him to review his goals and objectives while encouraging him to make suggestions for improvement in areas where he was weak or failed to reach his goals. If the ideas for change and improvement come from the employee, they will be made willingly and produce a sense of accomplishment and well-being within.

If John experiences this kind of review, he will be more highly motivated to set meaningful goals for the next year and the process cycle will begin again.

Tom Dossenbach is the president of Dossenbach Associates Inc., a Sanford, NC-based international consulting and research firm. Contact him at (919) 775-5017 or e-mail [email protected].


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About the author
Tom Dossenbach