Appraising Your Company's Appraisers

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Let's face it - employee performance appraisals are a chore.

They can seem confrontational and take time that managers would rather spend on more pressing demands. Sometimes managers rush through them and the results can be sloppy and useless, both to the employee and the company.

Then again, your managers are only human and may find it difficult to separate personal feelings about some employees from their professional opinions. If you're worried about the accuracy of your staff's performance appraisals, you can bring in some extra muscle.

Finding "customers" is easy: You can recruit colleagues in your personal network or ask friends and relatives. Or you can hire professional "secret shopper" agencies. To make sure the reports are accurate and fair, your customers are going to need a little help. Here are some guidelines:

Set up job descriptions. The customer needs to know what tasks each job requires and what you expect from those employees.

Create performance measurements. List formal ways of determining acceptable service so your customers can gauge whether a job is being done right. For example, some types of behavior that might be used to measure friendly service in a retail establishment:

  • Greeting the customer within 10 seconds.
  • Offering additional assistance within 10 minutes unless it's requested sooner.
  • Using the customer's name at least once.
  • Thanking the customer for choosing your business.

Give your customers specific tasks. Be clear about what you want them to evaluate. For example, should they be looking for certain behavior or workplace cleanliness?

Set limits. Your customers must remember their observations until they can write them down. To make sure their memories are accurate, limit the number of assessments in one visit.

Compare these reports with the performance evaluations you have from supervisors and managers. Check to see if the information matches, or whether your customers are complaining about problems that aren't mentioned in your evaluations.

If you find discrepancies, talk them over with the supervisors. But be careful so that it doesn't appear as if you don't trust them.

Setting up your own "secret customer" plan is simple and helps you strengthen your employee appraisal process. Even better, it guarantees that the face you want the public to see is the one they get.

Use pretend customers to assess your front-line employees - the ones who have critical interaction with your customers.

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