It’s that time of the year again. The beginning of a new season. A time when we all give our collective heads a shake, dig out our boots and cozy sweaters, and start thinking about the new year.
But wait a minute—let’s back up a bit. Before we can plan for the new year, we have to have a solid grasp on how the past year has played out, right?
Were goals and production schedules met? Did morale take a dip? Have you gained or lost employees? Are all of your teams functioning at the appropriate levels? And, of course, because it’s always beneficial to look inward as well, were you the best leader you could have been, and, if not, what adjustments can you make for next year?
Enter the department-wide performance evaluation.
Department-Wide Performance Evaluation Versus Individual
Performance evaluations are nothing new. They’re not always fun, and can often be stressful—for employees and management alike—but they are a vital cog in the wheel of year-to-year business growth.
Often companies conduct performance evaluations on an employee’s “date of hire” anniversary. Individual performance evaluations have certain merits. They provide valuable one-on-one time with management and allow for privacy and sensitivity (especially important if an employee’s performance has been sub-par). They also create a safe-zone, in case the employee needs to talk about problems within the team or issues with a particular colleague.
However, as a manager, you can end up with a seemingly never-ending stream of performance evaluations on your calendar, as anniversary date after anniversary date rolls over. You may struggle to develop a “big-picture” view of where your teams are at, or how well they function together as a unit. That’s where a yearly department-wide or team evaluation can help.
Set a Date for an Annual Department-Wide Performance Evaluation
Think of an annual department-wide performance evaluation as the hybrid offspring of the individual review and your good old-fashioned team building exercise. And this is a great time of the year to slot them into everyone’s calendar. As I mentioned above, we’re all still coming off the slightly more relaxed summer months. While work still gets done, obviously, many of us are also juggling kids, camps, long-weekends, and well-earned vacations.
A department-wide evaluation helps teams to not only refocus, but also to see how their jobs and contributions over the course of the last nine months or so fit within the organization. It also allows you to look at what’s working and what’s not, which will be a tremendous benefit as you map out your goals and projections for the new year ahead.
Group evaluations also help employees feel valued. And, by reviewing the entire team’s performance, everyone’s activities come under scrutiny—leaving the “he said/she said” of private evaluations at the door.
Mapping Out a Team Evaluation
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel for a team or department-wide performance evaluation. In fact, using the same steps and processes you would use to prepare for an individual’s review—slightly modified, as you’ll see below—will help you easily map out your team meeting.
Take the SMART model, for example:
S – Specific: Were the department’s overall goals and objectives for the year specific, explained clearly and with enough detail so every employee could understand them well?
M – Measurable: It’s up to you, as team leader, to determine how you will measure success. How will you articulate to your team whether they have met those goals? If you feel they have not achieved certain objectives, explore whether there were bumps in the road that were out of your team’s control. Perhaps a higher than normal staff turnover rate set them back, or a valued member was out sick for an extended period. Also, did you make a point to evaluate your department’s progress on a regular basis? If not, why not?
A – Attainable: Were the goals attainable (or even feasible) given the resources available? If not, were you made aware of these problems? And if so, did you address them so that the department had a chance to succeed? Ask your team to be honest with you. Maybe you feel the problems were resolved, but they don’t, which is valuable information to take with you into the new year.
R – Rewards: Were goals met or exceeded? Bonus! Make sure to celebrate those wins and give everyone the praise they deserve. A department-wide evaluation shouldn’t be, in a perfect world, all about failure. If you’re heading into a team evaluation knowing there’s good news, and the budget allows it, take some time to talk about what your employees would like as a reward. Maybe an afternoon off, or a night out together (all expenses paid!).
T – Time: There are only a few more months left until we toast the New Year (hard to believe, I know). If you discover things have gone a bit off the rails, use this meeting to brainstorm how your team can pull it together and accomplish what they need to before year-end. Ask for feedback, especially regarding time: How long do things *actually* take? Were your time-projections reasonable or impossible? As you begin to strategize for next year, will it your employees need to factor in more time for Objective X or Project Y?
Again, and I can’t stress this enough: These types of evaluations aren’t intended to be outward facing employee soul destroyers. They are meant to be a way to facilitate open sharing of opinions and initiate a deep-dive into what went right and what could have been done better. They are meant to help both management and employees understand their strengths and weaknesses. And they are intended to celebrate success and to give props where props are due. Done right, you’ll end up with a reinvigorated team, excited for the year ahead.