Reevaluate employee evaluations

Jul 16, 2023


It’s time to give up employee evaluations and instead commit your focus to the enjoyment and fulfillment employees have with their roles in your company.

Each March and September, our company invests time in “employee evaluations” that don’t include the phrases “exceeds expectations,” “recommended for promotion,” or “needs improvement.” Looking back on past mistakes, while helpful for reflection, wasn’t helping us create excitement about future possibilities. So, we gave up employee evaluations for a forward-looking, fulfillment-goaled exercise: Enjoyment Checkups.

When we gave those traditional evaluations up years ago, we decided instead to focus not on the minutia of past performance, utilization rate goals, or bonuses or raises based on “performance.” Instead, we decided to commit our focus to the enjoyment and fulfillment employees have with their roles in the company, knowing that a happy, fulfilled employee will perform efficiently, treat coworkers and clients with respect, be a willing participant in our culture, and accept constructive feedback with a desire for awareness and a reaction less defensive. Checkups are administered by what we call a “developer,” who is a colleague with coaching related to active listening, thoughtful, productive questioning, and empowering conversation skills. A person’s “developer” is intentionally not a supervisor or a boss to ensure the conversation can be open, honest, vulnerable, and geared toward improvement.

Checkups are driven predominantly by the employee, who prepares the Enjoyment Checkup agenda/form in advance of the meeting. The agenda/form focuses on progress of the employee’s individual personal/professional development plan, successes, challenges or shortcomings, new ideas, ways in which to become more efficient, strategic ideas, alignment to company purpose, and other similar topics that allow the employee to talk out anything they choose, work or non-work related.

This outlet gives the employee a chance to voice and address deficiencies, celebrate victories, and touch base on a personal, individual level. Part of this process is an open discussion around what the company can do better and ways that our firm, as a whole, is falling short, so that leadership can innovate to improve the company and enhance things that are going well even more.

The following are some elements of our Enjoyment Checkups that create an open, thoughtful conversation and a positive feeling of accomplishment:

  • Alignment with the big stuff. How does the employee both live and not live the company’s mission, vision, purpose, core values, etc.? What impact does that have on the employee and those he or she works with?
  • Strategic planning. How can and/or is the employee helping move our strategic priorities forward?
  • Role alignment. What are the best parts of his/her role; what are the frustrations with the role?
  • Reflection on past six months. What went well? What worked? What didn’t work?
  • Future development. What plans and ideas for personal and company improvement does the employee want to develop over the subsequent six months.
  • Positive and constructive feedback. This is gathered from several peers before the Enjoyment Checkup meeting. What awareness does this feedback bring?

Changing the narrative from purely criticizing and grading past performance to looking ahead to ways to improve and enhance the future has changed our business and employees. Perhaps it could change yours, too. Consider ditching traditional evaluations. Does anyone enjoy them anyway? Implement something that gets employees excited, helps them map a sound plan for success, and lets them exceed expectations by accomplishing that plan for fulfillment. Encourage and support them growing as a person and an employee, and the result will be a company that grows along with them. 

Matt Hoying, P.E. is president of repeat Best Firm To Work For Award winner Choice One Engineering, a civil engineering, landscape architecture, and surveying firm in western Ohio. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Click here to read this week's issue of The Zweig Letter!

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.