Monday, November 16, 2009

Do Performance Evaluations Add Value?

Within the past week, I've had two clients ask me about performance evaluation systems. I have some strong opinions about this topic and wrote a blog with my thoughts before deciding that this would be a really interesting topic to ask for some feedback first.

Most HR people will tell you that you need performance evaluations for these 3 reasons:

1. To legally protect the company by documenting the performance of each employee - essentially providing a paper trail that supports future employment actions.

2. To provide positive feedback for good performance and encourage improvement in the areas where development is required.

3. To ensure compensation decisions are based on a structured system that links rewards to performance.

Here are the questions that I have for you:

Question #1. Have you observed a situation where a performance review history successfully supported an employment decision? In what way?

Question #2. Have you personally changed a behavior and/or been motivated to better performance as a result of a discussion that occurred during a performance evaluation? Feel free to share your best and worst experiences.

Please share your comments on this blog. Once I get some feedback, I'll share the blog that I wrote earlier.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Think you know who's legally protected?

A week or so ago, I would have answered "yes" to this, now I'm not so sure. For years I've been training managers which classes of people are protected and highlighting the fact that straight white males under 40 were pretty much the final unprotected group. Now, that's changing.

In a recent case here in Michigan, Gorbe v. TCF Bank, the plaintiff needed to prove that he was in a protected class. However the court ruled that: "all employees are inherently members of a protected class because all persons may be discriminated against." Wow.

So what happened in Gorbe? Mr. Gorbe, a caucasian, argued that Ms. Habbas-Nimer, of Middle Eastern descent, got a job assignment that he wanted. He believes she got the assignment because of her ethnic heritage and because their bank is located in Dearborn, MI an area with a large Middle Eastern population.

As a white male who used to be under 40, I certainly haven't advocated that anyone discriminate against this group. However, it was comforting to believe that there was one safety zone for making employment decisions - kind of like when I play the board game "Sorry" with my kids, where you can land, be safe, and not have to go back to start.

Usually the managers that I've worked with have been pretty good about not discriminating based on the traditional protected classes. What I have had to fight is the urge for them to give preference to their golf and fishing buddies. Perhaps if Mr. Gorbe really wants to climb the ladder at TCF Bank, what he needs are some good golf lessons.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) Chaos

Earlier today I sent out a reminder to my clients that November 21st is the deadline for posting the new GINA poster. Unfortunately I'm just nerdy enough to spend some time on the web reading about the law and some presentations on it. One of those presentations reminded me again why normal people make fun of Human Resources folks. The attorney who wrote it actually recommended that companies NOT send sympathy cards to sick employees and/or family members because of this Act. What?

I understand that personal health information needs to be closely guarded, but really, no sympathy cards? In the past, I was one of the company representatives designated to attend the funerals of employees, spouses, and close family members. While I suppose I could have used that opportunity to grill the remaining family members about their health histories, the thought honestly never crossed my mind.

Discrimination is a bad thing for many reasons, but showing the people who spend the majority of their waking hours with you that you actually care about them, is simply good management. The goodwill that you generate will provide a lot more protection than strict adherence to a legal principle that alienates your employees. So, go to funerals, send flowers and cards, and then make your employment decisions based on each individual's knowledge, skills and abilities. That's what really matters in the long run anyway.