Improve Your Association Through Performance Reviews

2016-1-19 Performance reviews USE ME

Image Credit: Samuel Zeller

By Jennifer Rothman, account manager

Working with associations, we are always asking the question, “What can be improved?” We look for ways to expand member benefits, streamline processes for the Board of Directors, and otherwise improve the associations we serve. One part of that mission for greatness is conducting annual performance reviews of all our staff.

Lindsey VanMeter and Julia Volino of Capital V Consulting gave a helpful presentation on the importance of and best practices for employee performance evaluations during their January 6, 2016, webinar “Effective Performance Management & Discipline Webinar” offered by AENC. Below are the key points that I walked away with and hope to apply in the coming year.

When done properly, annual performance evaluations can do the following three things:

  1. Provide feedback and counseling
    It’s important that the feedback is honest and constructive. Many managers don’t want to have uncomfortable conversations, but if these conversations don’t happen, we are doing a disservice to our employees.
  2. Help to allocate rewards and opportunities
    Conducted properly, annual evaluations encourage employees in areas where they are strong, and provide support in areas where they need to improve.
  3. Help to determine employees’ aspirations and planning development needs
    Making the employee part of the overall process is the key to helping them feel they have a say in their growth within the association. Providing time for the employee to share their feedback and personal goals creates a team approach that shows management’s interest in the employee’s role in the association.

Annual performance reviews of staff provide an opportunity to benefit the association through evaluating how the team’s strengths are being utilized. Take time to discuss with staff what skills they have that are not currently being used to the best advantage. You may find that someone is interested in helping with social media, HTML, or taking on more responsibilities in conference planning. Also, ask staff where they feel they are not working within their strengths. This opens up opportunities for professional development and training to improve skills where staff is lacking confidence. Or, in these conversations, you may find that some tasks can be shifted within the team so that each person is working within their strengths.

Now that we’ve discussed the “why” of performance evaluations, let’s talk about the “how.”

How to best prepare for providing an annual performance evaluation:

  1. Keep a folder for each employee so you can file away examples during the year of where improvement is needed to use as input for performance review. It is always appreciated when you can share an example when giving constructive criticism.
  2. Don’t forget to also keep track of the examples where the employee excelled and showed growth! You always want to give credit where credit is due.
  3. Do your homework. Look over last year’s review to compare performance. In what ways did the employee improve? Where does the employee still need improvement? Are there goals that were not met? Are there goals that were exceeded?
  4. If you are nervous about the meeting, practice. Take the time to practice, out loud, what you are going to say so that you are more comfortable when you sit down with your employee.

Do’s and Don’ts of an annual performance evaluation:

  1. DO stick to your performance evaluation schedule. One of the most serious complaints among employees is NOT how the review is done, but those that are not done or are late.
  2. DO keep a file on every employee. If you only keep files on problem employees, it can be seen as targeting.
  3. DO give reinforcing and corrective feedback when needed. If the employee receives a low rating in a specific area during their annual review and it is the first time they have heard that the area needs improvement, it can feel like they have been blindsided. If the annual review is the first time they hear of an issue, you are not giving the employee an opportunity to improve which can be discouraging and frustrating.
  4. DON’T rate an employee’s performance based on how they compare to another employee’s performance. Ratings should be based on objective, measurable standards.
  5. DON’T use a template review tool. A template is a great starting point, but each evaluation should be customized to the job the employee is doing. It takes time to customize the evaluation but the end result will be more effective and meaningful.
  6. DON’T draw your own conclusions. When you are documenting an area where improvement is needed, provide the facts and focus on the deficiencies, not the perceived underlying cause. Facts and solutions are the areas in which you should stay firmly planted.

Do you have any other advice for providing effective performance reviews? Share with us in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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