Employee evaluations are one of the most important communication tools an organization can use to improve productivity and enhance morale.

They benefit employees and employers because they provide an opportunity to provide feedback, recognize quality performance, and set expectations for future job performance.

Employee EvaluationsAnd, of course, evaluations are a chance to have candid conversations about subpar performance and ways to improve it.

So how often are they necessary?

Employee evaluations should be done at least annually to provide workers with honest feedback on how well they are (or are not) meeting their employer's expectations.

Ideally, having that information will help employees develop in ways that advance the organization's business goals.

Avoid These Mistakes

To ensure that performance appraisals are as effective as possible for you and your employees, and to avoid potential legal problems down the road, steer clear of these common pitfalls:

  • Reviews are too infrequent—or nonexistent. If performance evaluations are not conducted as scheduled, "back-up" documentation will be missing if disciplinary action or discharge becomes necessary.
  • The established review process isn’t followed. This includes failure to conduct evaluations within designated time frames. Differences in process from one review to the next can create questions about consistency and lead to claims of discrimination.
  • The employer’s assessment is a surprise to the employee. When performance coaching and feedback don’t happen regularly throughout the year, employees can be caught off guard and put on the defensive if they’re hearing a negative comment for the first time.
  • The evaluation is not honest. For many organizations, the evaluation process is problematic because supervisors are reluctant to provide honest, candid feedback, especially when they need to discuss poor performance. Out of a desire to avoid conflict, managers often end up glossing over problems, giving employees an overall rating of satisfactory (or average) or better, even if it’s not deserved. Grade inflation can often hamper an employer's ability to take adverse employment actions if and when they become necessary. During employment lawsuit trials, for example, juries often view a rating of average or better as evidence that a manager who discharged an employee for poor performance is covering up an unlawful motive for the termination. Juries are often resistant to accept the idea that average means something less than meeting the employer's expectations.
  • Employer feedback is vague. Failure to identify specific examples of positives and negatives, or failure to make specific suggestions for correcting problems, often leads to employee confusion and difficulty substantiating future disciplinary actions.

About the author: Shel Myers is a partner at the labor and employment law firm of Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Hartford. The firm represents the interests of employers only.