This time of year, it is very common for companies to schedule performance appraisals for employees. There may be a policy that governs how these evaluations are conducted, and there are likely standardized sheets used to guide those evaluating. This process sometimes becomes such a part of the routine that it is shortcut or ignored. Keep these things in mind working through the process:
- Education for those doing the evaluation is a must. This includes reasons for evaluation and how it should be conducted.
- Communication is essential, both in obtaining input about employees and letting employees know the results.
- Consistency is necessary. The same scale should apply so that evaluation means something with how the employees are viewed and how they are managed.
- The information in the forms matters. We are all familiar with situations where an employee has been a chronic problem for years but performance appraisals are glowing. That really helps a former employee with a claim alleging pre-textual termination.
- Honest and accurate evaluations can assist in many areas, whether it is in review of a business unit or department, function of supervisors, or investment of resources. They can lead to better work from employees or can inform decisions about taking adverse employment action.
They can also be minefields of potential legal issues. These can be pay, discrimination, harassment, personal injury, and any number of other issues. But there are some steps employers can use to reduce those risks:
- Consider having events without serving alcohol. If alcohol is served, arrange for a limit and consider providing transportation;
- Have a plan, agenda, timeline, or schedule of events and stick with it;
- Provide any necessary security or support services;
- Avoid any activities or discussion that targets certain belief patterns or groups of people. Religious and ethnic issues around holidays are often very charged;
- Ensure all invitations and notices state that activities are not mandatory;
- Keep events social social and not work-related. Scheduling away from the workplace can help;
- Give adequate directions and information, and ensure the location is accessible;
- Ensure that management or those in charge remain at the event until it ends;
- Immediately investigate any claim of inappropriate conduct;
- Plan activities that appeal to all employees to avoid feelings of being “left out” or targeted;
- Remind employees of the company culture of respect and the expectation that employees will treat each other with respect during the event.