Managing and Evaluating Performance - Questions and Answers

This page contains questions asked on the topic of Managing and Evaluating Performance both during the webinar and via the Have a Question feature. For your convenience, we have the questions broken out by theme. 

Questions and Answers

Jump to question section:
| General | Goal Setting | Check-Ins | Performance Evaluations | 

General

Q: Suppose one of your staff members is disengaged, feels he/she needs no supervision or direction, and generally feels any supervisory input is "micromanaging my work?"

A: This sounds like the "how" of performance, although if an employee is disengaged and is not open to direction from their supervisor, it's likely that they aren't delivering results. Even if this employee is meeting expectations for what they accomplish (i.e., they achieve results), if an expectation for their role is that they accept and act on feedback and align their work with the goals and priorities communicated by their supervisor, then this an important part of performance that the employee is not achieving. In this case, communicate this as an expectation, provide feedback and coaching on this, and then include it in performance and development conversations. 

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Q: If one of my subordinates is hired for a lower job classification and now meets the job requirements of a higher job classification, do I have to promote the individual to the classification which meets their current job responsibilities?

A: Generally speaking, the scope and complexity of the work an employee is expected to do in their job should correspond to their job classification. However, for specific University job reclassication procedures go to: https://humanresources.umn.edu/job-classification-system/reclassification-process-policies and/or contact Central OHR for more information.

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Goal Setting

Q: My department was using the job description, can you address how to transition to goals?

A: A job description typically describes job duties at a high level. Transition to goals by describing the duties in terms of broad goals for a particular year as well as shorter-term and more specific goals throughout the year. Also, be sure to include the what and the how of each goal.

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Q: What is the best way to document goals? via email?

A: Documenting goals can be a formal or informal process. What's most important is actually going through the goal-setting process and then determining with the employee how he/she will accomplish those goals.

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Q: Setting SMART Goals is sometimes difficult with long term employees that have been in front line positions for many years. Any tips?

A: SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) are a common practice in many organizations and can take a lot of time and energy to create.  However, for many roles, changes in the work over the course of a year will render SMART goals obsolete. Instead, once you have set annual goals, use ongoing check-ins to update and revise goals as well as to create more specific, shorter-term flexible goals.

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Q: How can one make goals exciting to entice a team that does not see value in the Performance Appraisal process as a whole?

A: This is where employee input is crucial. Goal-setting is a two-way street and employees will be more likely to find the goals meaningful and motivating if this is a collaborative exercise. Having them take ownership for their own goals and development can help you steer them in a direction where the goals are "exciting," but more importantly, motivating and meaningful.

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Q: How do you balance setting measurable goals with the need to conduct day to day business? Goals often seem like special projects and may distract or hinder meeting day to day needs of the job.

A: This is why it's important to create flexible, shorter-term goals that can flow with the work throughout the year. This way, goals stay aligned and are updated to reflect the needs of the day to day work. Keep in mind that goals include the "how" of performance, not just results or deliverables. For example, in many consulting roles, an important goal for day-to-day business is to "Analyze problems and processes in new ways that lead to innovative ideas and approaches." If your goals feel too much like special projects outside of day-to-day work, then chances are behavioral competencies may be a good focus for goal-setting. For more information, check out http://supervising.umn.edu/behavioral-competencies

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Q: What happens if the goal ends up being too hard for the supervisee to complete? How do you communicate that effectively and how do you attend to the frustration/disappointment of the employee?

A: Goals should be challenging enough that they push employees outside of their comfort zones, but are achievable with significant effort. If an employee is becoming frustrated, make sure you're having regular check ins and unpack the goal into more manageable goals. In this case, it is also important to assess whether the person is struggling because they lack a key skill or area of expertise needed to achieve a goal. If this is the case, then it will be important to figure out how they can acquire these missing skills or expertise and, if that isn't practical, you may need to consider revising the goals or think about which coaching steps you both can take to impact their ability to be successful. 

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Q: How do you encourage a seasoned employee who doesn't want to set goals, they are looking toward retirement and don't feel goals are applicable to them?

A: For results (the "what" of performance) think about whether the goals are challenging for them. For behaviors (the "how" of performance), tap into their motivation - would they be motivated by mentoring and supporting another employee?

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Q: Should I weigh professional development goals and project-related goals differently?

A: Generally, meeting expectations for results (the "what" of performance) and behaviors (the "how" of performance) are equally important. As a result, developing the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to meet expectations for results and behaviors is an important part of managing and evaluating performance and should be weighed similarly to project-related goals for many jobs. Professional development goals that are not related to expectations for results or behaviors in the current job are important for motivating and retaining talented employees, but would typically not be weighed heavily as part of managing performance.

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Q: Our staff work 1:1 with various U of M community members. How, as the staff's supervisors, do we measure feedback from the consumers?

A: When you receive feedback from others, be sure to think carefully about it’s relevance and usefulness - and consider how the feedback fits with your own observations and other information. Many people do not have the full picture and only see a portion of someone’s performance.

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Q: How might one frame goals in terms of positive behaviors when what we really want is a negative behavior to stop? 

A: A negative behavior is best addressed directly as a performance issue, whether the issue with the negative behavior is in regards to what is being done or how it's being done. If that conversation has occurred, it is then possible to create a goal that highlights what the behavior should be for the goal to be achieved. Also, consider whether you can describe what success would look like in a way that is incompatible with the negative behavior. For example, if someone routinely interrupts others during meetings and doesn't let them finish their thoughts, you could explain that you expect them to "Listen respectfully and openly to others and allow people to finish their thoughts before speaking." Because it is not possible to achieve this while also interrupting people, focusing on the positive behavior might be more helpful. For descriptions of positive behaviors, check out our behavioral competencies at: http://supervising.umn.edu/behavioral-competencies.

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Q: How might you modify the goal setting process for a team?

A: It helps to start with goals that are important for the team to achieve and then move into how the individual's goals help the team move forward.

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Q: How should we set goals when they may depend on projects that may not yet be funded?

A: That's the beauty of having flexible, short term goals that can be adjusted throughout the year. If a project's funding is uncertain, it may be helpful to create broad, annual goals for the project. Once the project is funded, you can focus on creating short-term, specific goals for how the work will get done.

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Q: I have had experience with employees thinking that goal setting, especially challenging ones, exist outside of their current work....that perhaps it should indicate a promotion. How do we work goal accomplishment into current workloads?

A: When you are setting goals, make sure to clarify that there are performance goals for the current work and development goals which move both the individual and the department/unit ahead. It can be very meaningful and helpful to work with an employee to see how developing a skill or ability within their current job would do this and wouldn't have to mean a promotion.

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Check-Ins

Q: Generally speaking, how frequently should these check-ins occur and about how long should be blocked for each check-in?

A: For most roles, be sure to check-in at least once per month. Use your judgment regarding what will best support the performance and development of each person you supervise.

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Performance Evaluations

Q: What I find very frustrating about the annual review process is that my college uses an awful form that is required for civil service and labor represented employees and it includes the self ratings which I do not find very effective.

A: You are not alone! Many national and international surveys show that managers and employees find formal performance management forms, tools, and processes to be frustrating. Consider how you might incorporate some of the leading practices from this course into your local process. For questions about the forms and processes in your college or unit, your local HR team would be a good resource.

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Q: You're telling us that self-evaluation is not recommended, but it is required on the U of M HR Performance Appraisal Tool. How do we reconcile that?

A: It is not unusual for units to incorporate self-ratings into performance reviews as this has historically been common in organizations. However, the latest research and leading practice would suggest that this is likely to create defensiveness in the review discussion. This may be something to consider when opportunities arise to improve and enhance performance management tools and practices.

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Q: The rating system is the same across dept, but not everyone uses it correctly. It's not fair when certain people get outstanding (5) across the board, while other, better employees, get nuanced scores. How to solve this?

A: Generally, a fair, consistent rating process is very important. There are three best-practices that leading organizations use to support this. First, ensure that rating systems are clear and that supervisors are trained in their use. Second, use an effective calibration process where supervisors discuss how they are rating employees and reconcile differences in how supervisors are applying ratings. Third, put in place a mechanism for holding supervisors accountable for not following the rating process.

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Q: How much leeway do we have in departing from the U's standard form?

A: We do have templates, but policy requires that employees have an annual performance review and while there are standard forms that exist, departments/units do have latitude in developing their own tools because we're decentralized. Check with your local HR team who can then confer with central OHR.

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Q: If asking others for input on an employee, I think we also need to ask that employee for feedback on others; otherwise the employee will feel targeted. Do you agree?

A: A good practice is to treat all of your employees consistently in terms of seeking feedback. So, if you are asking for feedback about one employee, it is generally a good idea to do the same for all of your other employees. Asking each employee for feedback on others is also usually helpful.

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Q: How do you go about soliciting feedback regarding performance, i.e. many times people are hesitant to provide critical feedback of others unless it is anonymous - employee may not feel it is fair because they can't respond . How do you address that?

A: Getting candid feedback can be a challenge and it is true that people may be hesitant to provide entirely candid feedback. However, this can still be an important and helpful source of information to help an employee understand what they are doing well, what they need to work on, and what success looks like in their role. Keep in mind you're seeking feedback on an employee's accomplishments as well as their areas of opportunity, so focusing on positive feedback and examples from others can be powerful and motivating. Allow your employees a chance to respond to the feedback during the review process.

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Q: The U of MN standard form asks for us to rate our employees 1 through 5, how can we submit the form without those ratings? When my performance eval form includes self-ratings, how can I best manage that since you have shared that this isn't ideal? Essentially - how can I make the best of it?

A: If self-ratings are required, you can still focus your narrative and the review discussion on the employee's impact, including their key accomplishments, what they did well, and where they can improve. Many of the best practices described in the Quick Guide to Performance Evaluation can still be useful even if self-ratings are part of your process.

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Q: Should you wait until after the department calibration process before discussing your review with the employee?

A: Yes, generally, it is a good idea to wait until after the calibration process to discuss the review with the employee. If you do share the score first, be sure the employee knows it may change through the calibration process. Then, if the score does change, it will be important that you can explain this change to the employee.

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Q: How closely should pay be connected to the results in performance reviews?

A: The question of how to connect pay and merit increases to performance evaluation is a good one and organizations around the world have adopted a variety of practices to accomplish this. There is a lot of research and leading practice in this area, but this topic is beyond the scope of what we cover in this course. Your local HR team would be a good resource for questions about practices within your college or unit.

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