Evaluating Employee Performance: Are You Ahead of the Game?

Employee Performance

The primary goal for a leader in HR or talent development is to recruit and develop the kind of employees that will have a positive impact on the organization’s operations, productivity, and culture—in short, the kind of employees that will contribute to the organization’s overall success.

Poor hires are expensive, leading to productivity loss and the costs of recruiting and hiring replacements. But identifying the right employees—and gauging their progress following a hire—requires some trial and error.

So, to keep employees at all levels on the right track and identify and solve any potential problems before they take root, organizations use a variety of assessment tools to gauge each employee’s skills, development, and cultural fit.

Is Your Organization up to Speed on Leading Evaluation Methods?

Traditionally, self-assessments, peer evaluations, and 360 assessments have dominated the evaluation field. But these days, HR departments are starting to throw traditional assessment models out the window in favor of more reliable, effective methods.

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1. Pulse Surveys: Consistent, Multi-Directional Feedback

Once upon a time, assessments were conducted once a year—or maybe once a quarter—by managers, for subordinates. But the reality is, not even the most comprehensive annual assessment can get a full view of an employee’s behavior and satisfaction over time.

Instead, organizations are turning to “Pulse Surveys,” which consist of quick, simple surveys designed to be completed every few weeks—or even weekly. These allow employers to collect near-real-time feedback on employee satisfaction and morale, and they encourage employees to take an active, engaged approach to their own workplace happiness.

The same employers that are bent on receiving regular feedback are also focused on giving regular feedback.

Rather than waiting for annual or quarterly reviews to address issues, they’re making time to give employees real-time feedback after any and every event, from a sales call to a team meeting to a product launch. While periodic discussions require employers and employees to recall events that may have happened months ago, this cultural focus on constant discussion empowers employees to take and implement feedback right away, turning positive strategies and behaviors into habits.

2. Feedforward: Trading Static Recall for Dynamic Engagement

The main problem with standard feedback is that it focuses on the past. This leads to limited discussions that dwell on past failures and shortcomings.

Feedforward, on the other hand, focuses on both parties’ future aspirations and the steps and changes employees can make to achieve those goals. This strategy empowers employees to think positively, focusing on the developments they want to undertake in order to achieve goals that excite them. It reinforces the possibility of change (rather than reinforcing negative cycles), and comes off as far less confrontational as even the most constructive feedback.

It’s the difference between telling an employee he failed and giving him advice on how to be successful next time.

3. Data-Driven Behavioral Assessments: Identifying the Drivers behind the Feedback

While traditional and new assessment models have plenty of benefits, they’re all missing a critical piece: the foundation of the perceptions these evaluations highlight is behavior. Whether they’re administering 360 assessments, pulse surveys, or “feedforward,” leadership’s goal is to uncover the behaviors driving the opinions. That’s the gold standard of employee evaluation.

But while we can talk in generalities about those behaviors—“something about you rubbed me the wrong way,” it’s always been hard for employees to give and get accurate feedback, and behavior has remained impossible to measure in a useful, scalable way.

But advances in technology are enabling us to measure people’s behaviors objectively—independent of the people rating them—by evaluating their communication. After all, the way we present ourselves through verbal and nonverbal signals is the foundation of how our peers, superiors, subordinates, and customers perceive us.


These evaluations go beyond peer opinions and reactions and give leaders objective insights into the granular traits behind each team member’s success (or lack thereof), and a high-level view of strengths and skill gaps common among the whole team. What’s more, this method is especially useful for external-facing employees and leaders, as the evaluations help management understand the impact a particular employee has on outside audiences (like customers or investors) in a way other assessments can’t.

Like the Myers-Briggs or the Big Five, these assessments can be used to dig into a candidate or employee’s personality—are they confident? Passionate? Aggressive?—to predict performance and evaluate cultural fit. But unlike traditional personality tests, they don’t rely on subjective self- or peer-reporting.

By capturing and analyzing a subject’s everyday communication—in a team meeting, a phone conversation, or even an employment interview—HR leaders can eliminate the subjectivity of traditional evaluations and drill into the hard data on what drives employees.

In any organization, it’s ultimately the people that lead to success or failure. But by identifying the right way to evaluate performance—before and after hiring—HR leaders can ensure they’re recruiting and developing the talent the organization needs to achieve its goals.