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Performance Evaluation Interviews: How to Conduct an Effective One

Updated on October 10, 2012
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

Performance Evaluation Interviews require care to do effectively.
Performance Evaluation Interviews require care to do effectively. | Source

That Dreaded Evaluation...

It's Monday morning and you need to talk to an employee about scheduling some time to go over his annual performance evaluation. You know this employee has had some performance issues that have been communicated to him, as needed, over the last six months. There has been some improvement in those troubled performance issues, but there is still much to overcome in order to meet the expectations of the job. However, sitting with that employee appears to be a daunting task, and you do not look forward to doing it. You actually think about faking a dental appointment to stall the inevitable. But, reason comes through, and you rise to the occasion. How do you make the most of the upcoming meeting?

An evaluation interview should be heald in a private location to ensure a meeting free from distractions and interference from others.
An evaluation interview should be heald in a private location to ensure a meeting free from distractions and interference from others. | Source

Performance Evaluations are an Accepted Norm in Today's Workplace

Whether they are liked or not, performance evaluations are an effective management tool to document employee performance in today's workplace. When done correctly, performance evaluations can get the desired performance from employees. Employees have really become accustomed to the performance evaluation's role of formally documenting their work and expect to have them done timely to keep a record for their file. Supervisors, therefore, are tasked with doing them timely, fairly, and in a consistent manner that communicates any strengths or weaknesses in their performance. When all of these things happen for the employee, trust and loyalty will develop through the working relationship of the employee and their supervisor. Having an effective means of communicating the evaluation, such as in an interview with the employee, will foster this formidable relationship.

A quiet, private place to have the performance interview will be a productive meeting place to discuss performance issues.
A quiet, private place to have the performance interview will be a productive meeting place to discuss performance issues. | Source

Get Ready for that Important Meeting

Performance interviews are simply a formal meeting between the supervisor who completed the evaluation, and the employee who is the recipient of it. Since supervisors want this meeting to be successful in motivating the employee to work toward goals and objectives, it is important to make some necessary preparations prior to the meeting. Consider the following:

  • Have a neat, completed performance evaluation document ready to present to the employee. In an age of personal computers, wifi technology and Ipads, it is always professional to have a printed performance evaluation document with the supervisor's comments. For those who prefer to write in the ratings with accompanying comments, it is important to use an ink pen. A pencil should not be used unless for a draft to be finalized, in ink, later for distribution to the employee. Employees will want to be able to read the evaluations without cross-throughs, erasures, and any messy scribbling on the document. Such lack of care presents a notion of indecisiveness, uncertainty, etc. Have a final document that is clean and ready to present to the employee at the interview.
  • Schedule the interview with the employee. It is important to give the employee some notice or warning so that they will not be surprised when you sit down with them to go over the evaluation. If the evaluation interview is likely to be difficult due to some of the ratings being unsatisfactory or below expectations, it will be less stressful on the employee who is aware of the interview.
  • Review the job description. It is always helpful to have the job description handy so that the supervisor will have a good understanding of the different aspects of the job. Having those tasks at hand will provide some good information for a productive discussion.
  • Select a quiet place to have the meeting. In order to be certain that the supervisor has the undivided attention of the employee, the supervisor should choose a private, quiet place as the location of the meeting. The meeting should be free from interruptions of all kinds. These interruptions should include the supervisor not answering the phone, checking emails, etc. The supervisor should allow enough time for the meeting to show that the performance evaluation interview is an important event to the supervisor. Rushing through the process is likely to produce an unwanted reaction from the employee.
  • Review last year's performance evaluation. In order to be aware of any unresolved issues or feelings from the last evaluation, it is often useful to review notes from the last performance evaluation interview. As a supervisor, it is prudent to know of any potential toics of discussion that could be sensitive to the employee.

Much like the performance evaluation itself, the performance evaluation interview takes time and preparation to achieve the desired results. A carefully selected location where effective communication can take place between supervisor and employee should be a part of the preparation. Such planning and preparation for the event will have a rewarding outcome for both.

Effective Communication in the Interview

A performance review must be an honest evaluation of the employee's performance. The focus of the evaluation meeting must be on the job, not the person. As there are many legal pitfalls in the performance evaluation process when the evaluation is done incorrectly, it is equally important to always communicate effectively with the employee to be sure that they understand the performance expectations as required of the position. Some effective points of the discussion are as follows:

  • At all cost, it is wise to be positive. It will be very important to promote the positive aspects of the employee's performance as well as recognizing those areas of performance needing improvement. Many HR professionals suggest to lead off the discussion with a positive point to get the interview off to a good start.
  • Be sure to ask open-ended questions of the employee to get an idea of what they are thinking of their performance. Some supervisors utilize a self-evaluation form in addition to the regular performance evaluation. Comparing how the employee and the supervisor rate the employee's performance is another way to get the discussion started.
  • Give specific examples of performance issues at the interview. Vague comments on a written evaluation can be discussed and expanded on during a formal discussion.
  • Provide specific examples of methods and objectives for improving performance. Since the overall purpose of the performance evaluation is to improve performance in the future, a supervisor should be able to guide and advise the employee as to how to reach the improvement goals in their performance.
  • The supervisor should make eye contact to show their sincere interest in the employee and their contribution to the organization. Employees need to know that their success in their performance is the supervisor's goal as well. By constantly looking at their watch, answering their cell phone or interrupting an employee who is discussing their performance will not show much support to an employee who needs leadership and direction from their supervisor. Employees who think their supervisor is engaged in seeing them succeed will likely excel in their performance.
  • In addition to the personal goals of the employee, it is wise to discuss the organization's goals and how the employee figures in reaching those goals. Supervisors who take time to sit with their employees will demonstrate their commitment and support to see the employee succeed in their work.

After the Performance Evaluation Interview

Once the performance evaluation interview has been conducted, it is important to follow up with the employee regularly for discussion on how they are progressing in their goals as outlined in the performance evaluation interview. Supervision requires regular feedback to the employee about their performance. If there are any questions with the goals and objectives that have been set forth during the performance evaluation interview, consistent communication with the employee will eliminate any uncertainty about the expectations of the supervisor. When communication is constant in a working relationship between a supervisor and an employee, there is a great likelihood of an established trust that will help both the supervisor and the employee be successful in their roles in the organization.


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