HR’s Role in Employee Evaluations

How HR leaders can take an active role in designing, coaching, and enforcing consistency and fairness in employee performance reviews.

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HR's Role in Employee Assessments

Most HR departments are transiting to focus on People Operations (People Ops). People Ops puts employees first by seeing your people as a company’s most valuable resource. This changes the model from viewing employees as cogs in a machine to advocating on their behalf and finding ways to simplify processes and improve the quality of the workplace.

When it comes to annual reviews, employee evaluations, and employee self-assessments, this means making sure the application of fairness and consistency across the organization.

Fairness in employee assessments

different supervisors and managers may apply different standards and metrics to judge how an employee performs. HR needs to ensure there’s consistency in these measurements and evaluations.

One of the most important things HR does is instill a sense of fairness and equity in the work environment. Making sure your employee assessments, and the overall performance review process, are fair to everyone is crucial.

However, the person in the best position to evaluate employees is their direct supervisor. They have more hands-on contact than anyone else in the organization and are closer to their day-to-day work. At the same time, different supervisors and managers may apply different standards and metrics to judge how an employee performs. HR needs to ensure there’s consistency in these measurements and evaluations.

There are several ways to conduct annual reviews or performance reviews, including:

  • Supervisor assessments
  • Peer assessments
  • Self-assessments
  • 360-degree assessments

Whichever evaluation process you chose, you need consistency, and consistency starts with standardization.

Standardize processes

HR should take the lead in designing the appraisal process. While you want a simple procedure, you also need to go in-depth enough to make it valuable. HR leaders are in a unique position to objectively evaluate the process and how it works across functional areas in order to design a comprehensive system.

HR leaders will also need to ensure there is a standard approach used across the organization. While different jobs in different areas will have their own set of responsibilities, the standards by which they are assessed should be consistent.

To improve effectiveness, the criteria used to judge performance needs to be the same across the board regardless of who is conducting the evaluation. This criterion also needs to be clearly communicated to the staff so they know what to expect.

Coach the managers

Training and coaching are crucial parts of standardizing your evaluation process. You need to make sure everyone knows what is expected and what measures you are putting into place. Training should include not just what to do and how to do it, but why it is necessary.

For example, when done properly, reviews can lead to improved performance. They can also uncover hidden problems. Discussions can help identify areas where employees need additional training or more challenging work. The process can also help define career goals and aspirations for employees so the organization can help workers achieve them.

The better job you do training your organization’s managers, the better the entire process will be. While it’s clear that new managers or supervisors need the training, so do experienced leaders. There’s a significant benefit in revisiting the performance evaluation process periodically to get everyone aligned.

Training should include setting measurable and realistic goals and tools to measure soft skills and behavior. Managers will also benefit from understanding strategies for reviewing employees that need to make significant improvements as well as how to motivate top performers.

For HR leaders, the process doesn’t end with training, however. An important part of making training stick is consistent measurement and coaching. HR leaders need to keep an eye on performance reviews and assessments and actively look for opportunities where coaching is needed for improvement.

While it’s clear that new managers or supervisors need the training, so do experienced leaders. There’s a significant benefit in revisiting the performance evaluation process periodically to get everyone aligned.

Look for consistency along with problems

It’s a good idea to review performance evaluations before finalizing them for several reasons

  • It helps you make sure there is consistency in employee rating systems within functional areas and across departments.
  • Performance reviews often exacerbate strained relationships between managers and subordinates. Often, you can see these impacts in manager and employee self-assessments.
  • The review process can surface coaching opportunities to improve the overall evaluation process.
  • You can uncover areas for additional training, retraining, or upskilling.

When problems are found, HR needs to step in. It may require changing processes, providing additional training and guidance, or even mediating issues.

Feedback and follow up

Too many organizations treat annual reviews and performance evaluations as one more item on the checklist required to meet corporate mandates or compliance. Proper assessments, however, become invaluable tools for companies to improve performance and set the stage for meaningful conversations with employees about their roles and future goals.

It is important to get feedback on your process in order to judge its effectiveness and fairness. By soliciting feedback on the process, you can gain insights for improvement.

Review the data

As part of the employee evaluation process, HR leaders should also review the data generated from the reports. For example, if one manager consistently scores their employees higher than other managers, there may need to be some recalibration. However, it also may be a sign of a high-performing group, which could yield insights to use in other areas.

Data reviews should also look for signs of unconscious bias, such as unfairly evaluating groups of employees, especially those in protected classes. HR leaders need to be attentive to bias within the process itself as sometimes the very gathering and conducting of employee assessments can bias the outcomes.

Tracking results within functional areas, divisions, departments, and workgroups can also help uncover areas where more training or coaching might be needed. This also gives you a way to measure your progress over time.

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HR plays a pivotal role in the performance evaluation process

HR leaders aren’t typically involved in the evaluation of individual employees except for those that are direct reports. They do, however, play a pivotal role in designing, coaching, and enforcing consistency to ensure fair and accurate reviews.

A poorly designed and executed employee review program won’t move the needle. A strong employee review program, however, can produce substantive and sustainable improvement.

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