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Help farm workers meet goals with performance evaluations

Jim Lewis and Andy Nytes Published on 24 November 2014

“I wonder if my supervisor thinks I’m doing a good job.”

Understanding what your employer thinks of your job performance is a key to improving and meeting your goals. Employees who are unsure of how they are doing are likely to continue at the same level of performance, assuming that “no news is good news.” However, any employer knows this is not always the case.

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The owner or supervisor’s perspective
Improving overall farm business performance presents an everyday challenge for employers and owners. Continuing at the current level of performance is never really considered an option for goal-oriented people, whether they are owners or supervisors. We are always striving to do better, increase production, increase quality, increase profits and so on.

As managers, however, we quickly learn that we cannot accomplish improved performance on our own; we must rely on those that work for us. Motivating employees to join our quest for improvement requires they understand several key things, the first of which is the goals of the organization.

Second, they need to be aware of how their work impacts these goals, including areas where they are doing well and areas where they have room for improvement.

This is the essence of a performance evaluation: Communicate management’s perspective of job performance and provide guidance and direction to employees to improve their contributions as they grow professionally.

Employee perspective
The need to be validated is one of the most basic needs people have. This is true whether it is on a personal level, in our relationships or in our work environment.

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By nature, most people aspire to do a good job. It brings about personal as well as professional satisfaction through the feedback received from others, particularly employers or supervisors.

Receiving feedback in a formal setting is different than a supervisor simply saying “good job” or criticizing performance in a specific situation. An evaluation draws on a more comprehensive look at an employee’s performance rather than a single episode or situation.

Receiving this feedback and evaluation is often the single-most important opportunity to grow and become better in one’s job role.

The evaluation process provides an opportunity for a two-way dialogue in which the employee can seek clarification on the feedback given. The discussion can also enable a supervisor to understand the employee’s own aspirations. During the conversation, the supervisor can identify ways in which employees can grow within their current jobs and gain experience to prepare them to move into other roles.

The process
It is not fair to employees at any level to simply call them in one day and evaluate their performance over the past year. To be effective, the process must begin by setting expectations and ensuring that employees fully understand them.

The most effective way to do this is to sit down with the employee and start a discussion about the organization’s goals and how the employee can contribute to these goals. From this, documenting his or her role and your expectations provides a foundation for a performance plan. This helps the employee draw on his or her experience and recognize what he or she can do to move toward the goals of the organization.

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Clear definition of goals can contribute to a more effective evaluation process. The performance plan creates the foundation for the employee evaluation process by establishing a mutually agreed upon set of expectations. The employee is then held accountable to and evaluated against these expectations at defined periods such as 90 days, six months, one year, etc.

A variety of tools and approaches can be used to complete evaluations.

The most common approach is the direct supervisor/employee review. The supervisor completes the evaluation, drawing primarily on his or her knowledge and observations of the employee over the course of a defined period of time, typically six months or a year.

Some employers may modify this approach and ask the employee to identify peers or co-workers to assist in the evaluation. In this case, the supervisor provides the peers with a form to gather input on the employee’s performance.

This is often done in environments where a supervisor oversees a large team or area of the farm and would not have first-hand knowledge of every person’s performance. This approach helps the supervisor see the whole picture.

This strategy may be further expanded to a 360 review. Most often, 360-degree feedback will include direct feedback from an employee’s subordinates, peers (colleagues) and supervisors, as well as a self-evaluation. It can also include, in some cases, feedback from external sources, such as customers, suppliers or other interested stakeholders.

Rewards
Most people are motivated by an inherent desire to do a good job. A good evaluation can validate work and provide a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. However, some situations call for recognition beyond normal feedback to both motivate and praise an employee’s performance that has gone beyond expectations.

Rewards can range from the very basic level of a compliment or saying “thank you” to giving something of more significant value, such as a cash bonus. The level of recognition should be commensurate with the level of accomplishment or contribution by the employee.

Rewards are typically most effective when delivered in a group setting. In addition, recognition must be timely to have the greatest impact. Catching and rewarding an employee for doing something right will almost always result in even greater employee motivation. This not only serves to reinforce the individual’s performance but also sends a message to other employees about what you, as an employer, value in your team.

Rounding
The concept of “rounding on employees” has been around for many years under various terms. “Management by walking around” can provide another opportunity for management to connect with employees outside of a formal evaluation setting.

At the most basic level, a manager or supervisor designates a block of time to simply stroll through the workplace with no set agenda other than to talk to employees.

This tool is actually very effective as it can also provide the employee an opportunity to share a concern, new idea or even personal matter with his or her supervisor. Basically, rounding shows that a manager cares about employees as individuals in addition to how they perform in their job roles.

As with any employee management tools, the employee performance evaluation process requires time, open discussion and much thought. It is an investment made by supervisors in their employees.

To be effective, the process requires a commitment to set expectations, document goals in a performance plan and ensure they are understood by the employee. The evaluation is simply the review of the employee’s performance in meeting those expectations. Meeting the expectations of the job is made more achievable if we at least start by clearly explaining the goals and how each individual employee affects them. PD

Andy Nytes is a sales manager with Vita Plus.

jim lewis

Jim Lewis
Dairy Field Service Specialist
Vita Plus

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