Episode 412: All About Performance Evaluations

How are performance evaluations done at your business? Everyone all at once? On each employee’s yearly employment anniversary? Which method do you think is best? Performance evaluations can be done in several different ways to match the needs of whatever business the employees belong to. However, doing them all at once at the same time each year can make it rough on not only the person giving the reviews but also the employees themselves. Listen to Jennie McLaughlin and CeCe Wilson as they take over the mic this week to talk about best practices around performance reviews. 

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Voice Over: You’re about to listen to another episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss and sometimes even solve some interesting HR problems. 

Paul: And… I’m gonna go off the rails sometimes and talk about whatever I want. 


Jennie: Welcome, everyone, to this week’s podcast. I am Jennie McLaughlin. I am the head of Compliance here at CEDR, and I’m joined with CeCe Wilson, who’s our head of HR. Hi, CeCe. 


CeCe: Hi, Jennie. 


Jennie: We’re here together in the podcast form without Paul, our usual host, as he’s unavailable at the moment. So we’ve decided to record without him while we ponder a topic that we’ll figure out what to do and then we’ll tell Paul what we’ve decided. 




Jennie: So I wanted to get together with CeCe today because, you know, we often get questions from our CEDR members about how to do performance reviews, and CEDR’s always done them where you do a performance review around the employees anniversary of working there, which is typically what we tell our members to do. But I know not everyone does it that way. And I actually have a friend who works for a pretty big, big like, you know, national company and she’s pretty stressed because it’s performance review season – 


CeCe: Oh!


Jennie: At her job. So her anniversary work date is like October or something.


CeCe: Uh hmm.


Jennie:  But there they do all performance reviews for all employees. All of them take place in June. 


CeCe: Well, I’ve worked somewhere that did that. 


Jennie: Yeah, I’ve never worked somewhere that did that. And I’ve heard of places doing that and I’ve never…I always come up with reasons why that’s not a good idea. But since you’ve worked somewhere that did it, I wonder if you have some positive things to say about it. But this employee, who’s a friend of mine, was saying that she is really stressed out because she’s worried that her manager is not going to give it a lot of attention because they have to do so many and because everyone knows everyone’s getting their review.


CeCe: Uh hmm.


Jennie: And their review is also tied to, you know, salary increase. 


CeCe: Yup.


Jennie: Everyone’s kind of talking and comparing and like writing to see how everyone’s meeting went and, you know, worried about who’s going to get the best, the best raise and all these things. And it seems like a really stressful time, which doesn’t sound like a good experience for the employee.


CeCe: Uh hmm.


Jennie: [scoffs] So I definitely feel for her. But also, I was trying to think about how I would handle that as a manager if I had to review all of my team at the same time. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Jennie:  I think that would make me insane.


CeCe: Yeah.


Jennie: I mean, I wait till the last minute to fill out – [laughter]


CeCe: [laughing] You do!


Jennie: My performance review paperwork every time. Review’s in two days? It’ll be done tomorrow. [laughing]


CeCe: You’ll get an email follow up from Alex.




Jennie: I’m thinking about it. Just haven’t filled it out yet. So then I have to fill out what? This is a big company. 50 of them?! All on the last day. That’s not going to make any, it’s not going to work.


CeCe: [laughing] Yeah.


Jennie: So I think this sounds terrible, but CeCe, you’ve done it this way before.


CeCe: I have.


Jennie: So should we be doing it this way?


CeCe: No.


Jennie: Am I missing something? 


CeCe: No. You know, it’s funny, because when I came here and I realized that that’s how we do them, and also in my experience, uniquely, I am also in all of the review meetings themselves.


Jennie: Uh hmm.


CeCe: Which typically at prior places that I’ve worked, I wouldn’t be in the meetings. I would review the review forms, but not be part of delivering that to the employee.


Jennie: So who would be in the meeting? 


CeCe: Just the manager and the employee. 


Jennie: Oh!


CeCe: Yeah. 


Jennie: That sounds like a problem.


CeCe: [laughing]


Jennie: So how many times have the employee come back and say that their manager threw things at them or yelled at them and said something inappropriate? 


CeCe: Yeah. Well, I actually have had several instances where either somebody, you know, with more authority than me conducted an internal interview.  So an interview with an internal candidate by themselves, and then that candidate had a very different story about what the conversation was than the manager and that created a lot of problems. And I’ve had situations where the review, you know, the person said, “Well, they promised me this,” or “They said that,” or whatever. So, yeah, we always tell our members, yeah, there needs to be at least two of you.


00:04:41:09 – 00:05:03:19

Speaker 3

There’s the person who has to have the conversation, whether it’s a performance review, offering them a raise or telling them that they’re on a corrective action period. Whatever it is, there needs to be another witness there, right, to prevent all of these. He said she thinks she said things from happening. Yeah, but so back to kind of the the cycle that we do them on.


00:05:03:29 – 00:05:29:10

Speaker 3

When I came here, I thought that that was well, I was skeptical about it, I guess, because I’ve actually never worked somewhere where we did reviews on the anniversary date and I thought, oh my gosh, that’s kind of a burden to track them all and that is the common complaint that I hear, or the common concern when people are deciding which method to use is that you have to track all of them.


00:05:30:01 – 00:05:53:18

Speaker 3

But then the more that I thought about it, I’m like, Well, we track them anyway, because hopefully you’re recognizing people on their anniversaries in some form or fashion, right? So you have to be tracking what their hire date was anyway, right? So this is just like an added thing that you do at that time for each person. I think there’s a lot of pros to doing it on their anniversary date.


00:05:53:23 – 00:06:14:17

Speaker 3

I’ve in the places that I’ve worked where it’s all everyone’s at the same time of year, it is it’s such a burden on the managers themselves, especially if they have a larger team to be reviewing five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten people all at once. That’s a lot. I mean, that’s like you’re spending your days for at least a week, just completing performance.


00:06:14:17 – 00:06:34:19

Speaker 3

Yeah. Just anything else get done because companies for like the month of June. No, I mean, it really does. It becomes kind of all about that. And there’s, you know, there’s the people who like the second you send out the hey, it’s review time, they’re like, reviews are on your desk. The next day you’re like, well, I know you didn’t actually like put any thought into that.


00:06:34:19 – 00:06:41:10

Speaker 3

Right. And then there’s the people that you’re reminding and reminding and reminding, and it’s like the last day and they haven’t turned them in yet.


00:06:43:20 – 00:07:09:22

Speaker 3

But I think that it creates it makes this process just so much more of a burden. So not only am I reviewing the manager and the employees self-evaluation, but I’m reviewing, you know, 110 of them or something. And so then I can’t dedicate a lot of time either to really reading the whole thing. I’ve got to skim and just make sure that a manager didn’t put something totally wild in there.


00:07:10:00 – 00:07:35:22

Speaker 3

That’s a huge problem. You know, Susie was late every day last week. Well, Susie has an aCeCeommodation, right? She’s got my her like. I know, like so no, we get but so there’s that burden. There’s also, I think, a tendency to more compare people to each other when you’re doing them all at once. That’s how my friend’s feeling right now.


00:07:35:22 – 00:08:08:03

Speaker 3

It’s not about her. It’s like this weird internal competition with her peers. But then the manager, is he looking at her? Right. She’s just comparing everybody. Yeah. So then low performers get weighted even lower because they’re not being looked at as their performance holistically. It’s like their performance in comparison to their highest performers. And there’s always going to be I mean, no matter what, you’re not going to have all of your team be top performers because that’s just not the way it works right now.


00:08:08:10 – 00:08:27:23

Speaker 3

Somebody is your lower performer. Even if they’re still a great performer. But when you’re thinking about them in comparison to other people and you rate them lower because of it, that can be very defeating. Yeah. And your lowest performer may just be the person who comes in and does their job and does it proficiently, and there is nothing wrong about it.


00:08:27:23 – 00:08:52:13

Speaker 3

They’re not going above and beyond. They’re not looking to maybe move up or do anything. They just they’re happy doing their job. And that’s great. Those people, we absolutely need those people. Everybody wants a promotion. You’re you can’t be a worker in a promotion. Yeah. So yeah, we want person. If you’re evaluating them by themselves, you could think about it that way, like you’re doing a good job.


00:08:52:20 – 00:09:13:09

Speaker 3

Yeah, that’s great. You’re doing what I need to do. And you can have a conversation about if they want something different and, you know, but if you are, if everyone else on their team is, is going further, that doesn’t mean the person’s doing anything wrong, but it’s going to seem that way if you’re evaluating them all at the same time.


00:09:13:14 – 00:09:37:11

Speaker 3

Yeah. And you know, it’s really interesting because in general, performance reviews are like this dreaded thing that people, people are like, can we just not do them at all and hate them? That’s always been the sentiment. And I see that in h.r. Groups, too, that people are like, well, we just stopped doing performance reviews entirely and we just do regular check ins now.


00:09:37:28 – 00:10:03:28

Speaker 3

And it’s like, well, you should be doing. But of course, the that documented if you’re doing it right and you’re doing it genuinely and you’re actually putting effort in that annual documentation can really help you. Yes. And it can not only help you if you’ve got a problem and you need to move somebody out, but it can help you reflect when you’re looking for who needs to be moved up.


00:10:03:28 – 00:10:23:02

Speaker 3

If you’ve got an opening and a spot for a promotion you can look back at that history and it can help you in your own coaching because you can look at whether or not the person’s progressed over the years. I mean, it can just be really helpful documentation to have if you’re not just doing it just to do it.


00:10:23:13 – 00:10:46:16

Speaker 3

Yeah. And also from the employee perspective, it’s more of an open opportunity to talk about maybe if they want advancements or if they’re having struggles because I’m just thinking I have weekly or every other week one on one switch with each of the people who report directly to me. And we’re usually kind of checking in on, on what’s going on at that time.


00:10:46:16 – 00:11:19:22

Speaker 3

And like there are some bigger picture things and everything, but you’re really kind of focused on what’s going on in the present and if we didn’t have that annual review period, I could see it being kind of daunting for an employee to try to change up that conversation, to say, Hey, I’d really like to start working on this, or is there an opportunity here because that changes, you know, the tone of that weekly conversation, and that could seem like it’s coming out of nowhere.


00:11:19:22 – 00:11:33:17

Speaker 3

And, you know, for some managers that might seem like, oh, I don’t like that, that you did that because they’re not in the mindset of thinking about it. And and you just, you know, if it surprises you, that’s fine. Take a step back, think about it. Tell them that I’ll get back to you in a week or two.


00:11:34:07 – 00:11:58:12

Speaker 3

But having that dedicated time to talk with the employee in a broader perspective, you know, about what has and hasn’t gone well and what we could look for, you know, moving forward. That’s really important for the employee. Yeah. And for goal setting, because it’s really easy to just deal with the study state the day to day. We have so many things that come up.


00:11:58:12 – 00:12:26:07

Speaker 3

Yeah. But if we’re not kind of reaching for that longer term goal and something outside of all of the things that pile on us day to day, it’s really hard for growth to happen organically if you’re not setting a goal and reaching for it. And so then people stagnate. They just get really good at doing, you know, these ten or 15 things that they do every day, but they’re not progressing beyond that.


00:12:26:07 – 00:12:59:08

Speaker 3

They’re not growing, they’re not being your suCeCeession plan. There’s just all these opportunities that are missed when you’re not kind of setting future goals with them. But at the same time, it’s not good enough to just set the goal. No. Then a year later, you’re like, Oh, we didn’t do that because all these other things happen. And so I do think it’s important, you know, I do this with my staff is to check in, you know, in the next three to six months, depending on what the goals are and say, Are we on track or are our are you prepared to meet these things so that I’m not doing them a disservice by getting to


00:12:59:08 – 00:13:22:11

Speaker 3

their year and going, Oh, you didn’t do it. I’ve you know, I’ve checked in and made sure that I’m doing what I need to do to support them to make sure that they’re on track to meet their goals. To some thinking, like just about the the idea of doing them all at once, to me, it kind of seems like if you’re doing that, you’re doing the annual review for the sake of doing it.


00:13:22:11 – 00:13:51:16

Speaker 3

Yes. And you just want to be what you think is administratively efficient. But if you’re doing it for the sake of doing it, I mean, I’d almost rather you not do it because it’s not going to be productive and it’s not meaningful. And like here at Cedar, one of the benefits of having CeCe and h.r. Sit in on each of the annual review meetings is one like when i have to fill out an evaluation form about my employee, they have to also fill out an evaluation form.


00:13:51:24 – 00:14:11:25

Speaker 3

They go we send it to each other, but it also goes to CeCe and h.r. And usually CeCe will also review the managers before we send it to the employee and so we have the opportunity to kind of collaborate and talk about a little bit more big picture and, you know, look at the budget in different opportunities and what’s going on with the company.


00:14:12:03 – 00:14:33:25

Speaker 3

So we have a really thought out well-rounded conversation with the employee because it’s not just a manager trying to like fill out a form for the sake of doing it. It’s actually meaningful. No one else is really paying attention to the fact that like, oh, it’s Ali’s performance review because like, sure we celebrate it her anniversary. Yeah. For not doing them all at the same time.


00:14:33:25 – 00:14:52:04

Speaker 3

So no one’s thinking about it and thinking about like, oh, what’s she going to get? You know, so it’s more private and you have you can have a longer productive conversation because you have some focused time on it. If I had to do all of them at the same time, I would just be trying to get done with it.


00:14:52:12 – 00:15:20:22

Speaker 3

Yeah. And I don’t, I don’t think there’s any benefit to doing that because also if the paperwork is rushed it’s not going to be good documentation, right? There’s going to be problems there. So if you want them, you know, what’s the purpose of doing that? You know, I think when you think about should we even do performance reviews because there are some companies who choose not to, you’re not required to by any reason, by law, but if you’re going to do them what’s the reason for it?


00:15:20:29 – 00:15:45:04

Speaker 3

And make sure the way you’re doing it supports that reason. Yeah. And so it’s interesting because here we do them on the anniversary date. And I really don’t come across anybody who really dreads reviews, you know, and I know you were saying how you always wait till the last minute and it’s true, but just because I don’t feel like filling out the form.


00:15:45:05 – 00:16:06:22

Speaker 3

Yeah, it’s just well, and you’re so busy and so but it’s not because you actually hate doing the review. You, you like sitting down and talking with the employee and giving them the feedback and studying, carving out that time. That’s kind of just for them and that’s really kind of the general sentiment here, even from the employees who have to do their own.


00:16:06:22 – 00:16:29:04

Speaker 3

So I’ve worked in companies where that’s optional and a lot of people just don’t do it at all. And, and it’s such a great exercise of self reflection to sit down and do your own and really think about read the criteria. Am I actually excellent at this or am I right or am I just pretty good? How can I be better at it?


00:16:29:14 – 00:16:51:16

Speaker 3

And I see people here do those with kind of a genuineness that I’ve not ever really encountered in other places. So. Well, that’s nice. To hear. Yeah, that’s theater. Yeah. So it’s really influenced kind of how I think about performance reviews now, too, experiencing them the way that we do them in the way that our staff approaches them.


00:16:52:27 – 00:17:15:02

Speaker 3

And then as an added later layer, we also do three Sixty’s for management. So yes, so management not only get does their own, they get their supervisors review of them, and then they also get a review from their peers so that all the other managers here and then their own staff. Yeah, and the staff and the peers are anonymized.


00:17:15:02 – 00:17:37:02

Speaker 3

So those come in to my department and my team puts them together and takes excerpts and, you know, makes it so that it’s anonymous and it’s a little bit more general. But for the most part, I think people really enjoy that process too. Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s you know, there’s obviously always this, it’s anonymous and there’s some trust area.


00:17:37:02 – 00:17:57:03

Speaker 3

I can tell you, it’s like we, we give them to someone in h.r. To just pick out statements from and generalize. And I am a manager. I’ve gotten three sickos from my peers and from my employees. I’ve never been able to have aCeCeess. I mean, i’ve never sought it, but, like, i don’t have aCeCeess to find out who who wrote one, what.


00:17:57:12 – 00:18:22:08

Speaker 3

And we very much respect the process because we do it for each other. And it’s really useful because, you know, you see some type of trend or you you get a sense of it, but also the fact that the employees have an opportunity to say something no matter what it is, i think people find very valuable because it also just shows that door is open and we want to hear from you.


00:18:22:29 – 00:18:43:02

Speaker 3

And so think people do you take more care with it? They take it a little more seriously. But like you said, no one here is freaked out by it. Yeah. And I think that sets a lot to do with our culture, the fact that we have one on ones with our employees anyway, but we really just treat it as this is our time to have a conversation.


00:18:43:06 – 00:19:14:18

Speaker 3

Yeah. And it’s not a punitive thing because if there was something the employee should be worried about, they should already know about it. Like, that’s not the purpose of that performance review. Yeah. And I mean, again, that’s a great opportunity for me to reading the reviews before because there shouldn’t be something I’m surprised about either, right? So if a manager’s putting something on there like this person is doing terribly either, you know, and that’s not a conversation we’ve already been having, then, then that is a very different discussion too.


00:19:14:18 – 00:19:37:14

Speaker 3

Yeah. Yeah. That’s, that’s and that, that ends up being a problem you’re having with the manager more than the employee because managers raise this issue. So, you know, that’s, that’s helpful. So sounds like my friend he’s having some stress over this is rightfully stressed and we’re not going to move to doing all of our annual reviews at the same time.


00:19:37:22 – 00:20:04:01

Speaker 3

No. Yeah, good. OK, well, that’s nice to hear. I was right the whole time. Silly idea. To do them all at the same time. Yeah. Yeah. So and I think the other takeaway is either do them well, be genuine, do them intentionally and have them have some sort of purpose and not just a box that you’re checking. Yeah, yeah, yeah.


00:20:04:04 – 00:20:23:24

Speaker 3

If it’s a box that you’re checking no one’s overseeing to make sure that box was checked, you know, you’re not required to do that yourself. You’re not going to make them meaningful. Why? You know, why waste our time Dom? Yeah, but at the same time, they should be meaningful. So this should be a meaningful part of how you run the business.


00:20:23:24 – 00:20:42:02

Speaker 3

And so, you know, just think about how to do that in, in a productive way for everybody. Yeah. How can you turn them into something that is a really valuable way to spend a little bit of time together? Yeah. Yeah. Great. All right, well, thanks, CeCe. Thanks, Jennie.


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Jul 26, 2023

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