Although there is no legal requirement that employers conduct performance evaluations, most employers have a system that rewards employee effort and provides feedback to their employees. The performance evaluation is the perfect opportunity to document employee effort while simultaneously creating a sound foundation of recordkeeping regarding employee performance.

Most employers have employees that can improve in one area or another. Providing the employee with specific feedback during a performance evaluation helps to improve performance. Additionally, if the employer is ever required to terminate or discipline an employee, performance evaluations will provide the employer with protection by documenting performance and protecting the company from claims of unfair treatment.

As long as the company’s employment practices are sound, the performance evaluation can also provide written proof that the employee has met the legitimate expectations of the employer. Employers should consider consulting with competent counsel to develop employment practices around performance evaluations. One of the key items to consider is the development of a performance evaluation form. Management should fill out the performance evaluation form in advance, providing as much detail as possible. The performance evaluation form should identify areas where the employee excels and note areas where performance improvement is needed. Concise and detailed language should be used, with specific examples listed.

The performance evaluation form should be presented to the employee during a performance evaluation meeting. Management should inform the employee that the appraisal is based on established performance standards and that the employee is encouraged to participate in the conversation. The performance evaluation form should be reviewed in detail together after the employee has first been given an opportunity to look over the document. Another member of management should also be present during the performance evaluation meeting. The purpose of the performance evaluation meeting is to discuss past performance and plan for future development. Many employers conduct performance evaluations on at least an annual basis.

During the meeting, the manager should discuss the major responsibilities of the employee’s position and point out the employee’s strengths. Areas of improvement should also be discussed where needed. Finally, the employee should be given an opportunity to make comments or ask questions. The employee should also be given an opportunity to sign the performance evaluation form in the presence of the witness. Additionally, an employer should not apologize for the performance evaluation, even if it is critical of the employee or make promises regarding future employment, possible raises or promotions, or even to promise the employee that their job is secure.

Some areas should never be discussed during a performance evaluation meeting. Specifically, the employer should never discuss other employee’s evaluations or ratings. The employer should never make a reference about the employee’s protected class like race or gender, or discuss the employee’s participation in any on-going company investigation. The employee’s health or the supporting reasons for any recently taken leave should also not be discussed.

When conducted properly, performance evaluations assist both the employee and the company. Performance evaluations also provide the necessary documentation to ensure that the employer treats all employees fairly. With these considerations in mind, both management and the employee should be ready to participate in an effective performance evaluation.

Copyright ©2011 by L&L Communications d/b/a Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine, Thomas A. Cox. Jr. Esq, author. Posted with permission from publisher. All rights reserved by the original copyright holder.