The Importance of Performance Reviews
In my career, I have worked for a variety of nonprofit organizations. These organizations represented private and public universities, hospital systems, national and international organizations, social service organizations, public health organizations and consulting firms. My performance reviews through the years have run a negative gamut. Sadly, I have not enjoyed a model performance review experience.
Here is a sample of what I have endured.
- Received a one-paragraph written summary from the president that represented my annual evaluation.
- Bureaucratic nightmare of having 10 people provide a written top down, bottom up and sideways evaluation. One evaluation was from the president, but politics played a role in the selection of other evaluators over time. Graded on a 4.0 scale.
- Received no written or oral evaluation from anyone.
- Received inconsistent and infrequent oral evaluation from superiors.
- Received evaluation based upon fundraising metrics but no additional information given.
- Worked in organizations with weak human resource directors who never created, advised or supported the concept of performance reviews.
For me, the concept of performance reviews was a non-concept. As a manager of staff, I was left to my own creativity to implement and maintain a performance review program that was not utilized throughout the organization. When trying to motivate and inspire staff, how can you succeed without a continuous process of evaluation and review with your employees?
BambooHR notes that a performance review is a formal assessment in which a manager evaluates an employee’s work performance, provides feedback and sets goals for future performance. These reviews can be annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly. Managers that use performance reviews effectively can use this tool to improve employee performance in a variety of ways.
Nonprofit AF article states that many performance reviews have been poorly structured as people were judged based upon expectations that were never established at the beginning. Annual evaluations do way more damage than they help, and consideration needs to be given to changing or eliminating this activity.
When nonprofit employees are evaluated, consideration must be given to the fact that staff must play multiple roles, flexibility is critical as situations change and motivations to do work vary. Annual reviews should be eliminated in favor of a culture of continuous feedback based upon specific goals, organizational value attainment, constant feedback, mutual feedback and holistic feedback from managers trained in coaching and supervision techniques.
According to the National Council of Nonprofits, there is a strong argument based on research that continuous feedback is the trend in employee performance evaluations. The formal annual appraisal system is not 100% effective as a learning process that can reverse substandard performance. There is room for doing both continuous employee feedback plus an annual review of an employee. The performance appraisal can align employee goals with organizational goals.
Continuous coaching can provide positive feedback and enable positive feed forward actions to help the employee focus on positive behavior changes and set goals. It is a must to develop an organizational culture of candor and continuous learning. Developing outstanding talent is an important metric for a progressive nonprofit to utilize.
MissionBox emphasizes a clear, thoughtful and consistent employee appraisal system that enhances the productivity of your nonprofit. Understand that performance reviews help manage talent and develop leaders, align staff work with organizational priorities, increase employee productivity and improve employee morale.
As you create an employee performance appraisal system, consider the criteria to use, feedback sources, ratings, timing, goals and self-directed reviews. Create an evaluation form for each employee. The form should include the basics, such as name and job title, statement about the purpose of the evaluation, a statement noting that the appraisal is confidential, instructions, areas to which an employee will be rated, list of goals to that will be rated, list of employee accomplishments, an area of employee key objectives for the next year, an area of comment from the employee and reviewer, plus area for signatures by employee, reviewer and HR representative.
Make sure the form consists of examples of what the employee did well and areas for improvement. Managers need to go over the review with each employee and let each staff member know where they stand in the organization moving forward. Joan Garry notes that one attribute of a thriving nonprofit is regular performance reviews and assessments for both staff and board.
Key elements of having an excellent performance review program are:
- Developing goals, job descriptions and success metrics.
- Creation of attributes that members of your team must have to thrive.
- Meet with each staff member in advance and develop goals for them to attain. At the appropriate time, review the success of the agreed upon goals, metrics and attributes made at the beginning of the process with them.
- Hold your staff accountable for their performance.
Nonprofit HR states that today’s new generation of workers prefer a much different system for receiving feedback in the workplace. Nonprofit HR has abandoned the annual review. They look at an employee cultural fit rather than how well they have performed on individual tasks. They recommend managers hold one-on-one meetings with their team members at least quarterly to allow direct reports maximum benefit from the review process.
A culture of trust needs to be fostered between manager and employee, so honest feedback can be shared. Organizations need to give employees the opportunity for professional development. Additional ways should be established to compensate employees for their performance besides monetary methods. Empower employees to feel they are an important part of their organizational growth and development. Evaluate your current performance review program and process, and determine ways for improvement. Ask employees how and when they would prefer to give and receive feedback.
Your organizational goal is to make progress. Your management objective is to have the best team possible to enhance performance and success. If you do not have an employee performance review program or need to improve your current performance review program, now is the time. If your employees understand the ramifications of the total program, they will support it. Meet with your human resources director as soon as possible, and make sure everyone understands the importance of employee performance reviews. You will reap the benefits of this action step.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.