Ask the HR Pro
By Ashleigh Petersen Ashley Cuttino, Ogletree Deakins, co-chair COVID-19 Litigation Practice Group

Ask the HR Pro

Human Resources Tip of the Month

Q: Do performance evaluations really matter?

A: Yes. While many employers and employees have long considered performance evaluations to be a nuisance that is ineff­ective at improving employee performance, done correctly a good performance evaluation can be an invaluable tool. A good performance evaluation should be divided into two parts.

First, it is an evaluation of past practice. That, of course, may involve kudos for a job well done or a rehash of past mistakes. If the performance review is limited to past mistakes, behaviors and less than favorable results, a performance evaluation can demotivate employees. It is, however, important, to document performance issues and indicate if the poor performance has declined, improved or remained the same after the initial incident. In this regard, it is important to note that a performance evaluation should not be the first time an employee learns of problem behavior. If a problem with employee performance is occurring it should be addressed, documented and corrected in real time.

Performance evaluations also should be accurate. Rankings of performance should be consistent across departments and management. All managers should have the same understanding on a 1 to 5 scale of the definition of a three versus a five. Any manager that gives fives across the board has probably not spent sufficient time thinking about the significance of the performance review process. After all, no one is perfect at all things all the time.

Second, a good performance evaluation is a time to set clear, measurable goals for employees. Work goals allow employees to have a manageable and obtainable target. Goals are a tool for motivation and positive behavior. Studies have shown that employees are more engaged and motivated when they know what they are working toward. Employees like to feel successful. Meeting a goal is a measurable way to show success.

Performance goals can be both short- and long-term. Longterm goals show the company is investing in the employee which in turn results in the employee investing in the company and working for long-term success. In today’s job market, loyal and committed employees are a priceless commodity. Short-term goals also are key to help keep employees motivated. Short-term goals allow for continuous feedback and communication between employees and management. Once one goal is met a new goal can be set.

It also can be very valuable to ask employees to set their own goals prior to management’s review of their performance. This can give management an indication of what employees would like to gain from their careers. Do they want additional training or are they striving for promotion? Asking employees what they want allows the employee to invest in their own career and allows the employer to give direction and guidance on how to achieve the goals of the employee.

Remember, the ultimate goal of performance reviews is multifaceted. A good employer will document problems, reinforce positive behavior, set goals, improve accountability and ultimately increase productivity, retention and employee engagement across the board.

This column is provided by Ogletree Deakins, Atlanta, as part of a partnership with the American Rental Association (ARA) for ARA’s Human Resources Assistance Program. ARA members can receive a single sign on from the ARA webpage to a microsite specific to ARA on the Ogletree Deakins platform; get access to two 30-minute calls with an HR professional per year; access to an FAQ section as well as to Ogletree Deakins’ library of webinars; and access to Ogletree Deakins’ ARA-specific webinars. To learn more, visit

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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