Eliminating paper-based review processes.
In 1995, the Riverside County, Calif., board of Supervisors adopted a policy to require annual performance reviews for all 12,000 county employees. The policy was designed to improve communication between employees and managers.
Riverside County departments are not required to use computer software for their reviews, “but it is a management job we have to do, and it solves the problem of getting the review done on time and with the proper language,” says Dennis Morris, the county’s human resources director. “It’s hard to cover all these bases by using a paper form.” Usually with paper-based reviews, employees tend to ignore them, but with an automated performance review system, supervisors are able to give meaningful feedback.
Using a step-by-step process, the system prompts managers to rate an employee’s performance in key areas, such as communications, cooperation, adaptability, dependability, initiative and job knowledge.
Based on the manager’s rating, the program generates supporting evaluation text. Instead of spending time struggling with wording on a blank page, managers simply click on different rating numbers to see which text fits their assessment of performance. This text becomes the basis for the narrative portion of the review.
Managers are often ill-prepared for – and typically dread – the performance review process. By eliminating the “blank-page syndrome,” managers can concentrate on performance issues and effective communication with the employee.
The automated performance review system also has an employee log feature because frequent feedback is an effective way to improve employee performance. This tool helps managers document performance – achievements or problems – throughout the review period and encourages them to discuss these events with the employee. At review time, the documented performance issues can be used as examples to support performance observations.
In addition to documenting performance, many systems provide a language check to search the review for phrases that may be discriminatory or overly subjective, such as “young,” “old” and “bad” attitude.”
Password options also allow department supervisors to secure sensitive review data, and as new departments adopt the system, information services personnel can conduct training sessions. The software is easy to use, even for people without previous computer experience.
Cities and counties can customize the performance review system with built-in language to more exactly fit their specific requirements. There are add-on modules available to modify or replace built-in language with words and performance criteria that are specific to the organization.
Some hospitals and fire departments have customized review language to include levels of proficiency with equipment and procedures. One city replaced the word “employee”with “representative”to help staff members become conscious of their role as representatives of the city.
Automated performance review software has been around for a few years, but it is only recently that the software has been refined and become more flexible. The new designs allow organizations to set and measure goals, extract data for historical or comparative analysis and offer an increased level of security.
As cities and counties explore a performance review system, consider the needs of the municipality. Are goals incorporated into the review process? Are ratings involved in the review process? Are personnel departments setting the standards to which managers should adhere? Are managers allowed to set standards for their own department? A good automated performance review system should be flexible enough to fit these requirements.