Firefighting, Fireground Safety, Leadership

Employee Performance

By: Donny Roberts

I often hear many company officers say, “I hate this time of year. I have to do employee evaluations.” As a supervisor or manager, you shouldn’t dread this time of year but rather you should use it as a tool to improve your company. How hard is it to accurately evaluate your employees’ performance? Some say it’s simple. Others say it’s difficult. To ensure personnel productivity, you must effectively manage your personnel. Employees need to know what is expected of them. You also must monitor these expectations throughout the evaluation period. Does this add to an already overwhelming tasks? Sure it does. However, these suggestions may increase your work in the beginning but should decrease the workload down the road.

Currently many (not all) organizations use systems that have common flaws. Oftentimes when evaluating an employee, the manager/supervisor focuses on the most recent activity. In teaching performance appraisals I have heard students say, “November is what they remember.” What is the evaluation period? In most cases, it is over an entire year–not the past couple of months. You must consider activities throughout the entire evaluation period.

Where to begin? First, you must make the employee understand what is expected of him. To begin the process, review his job description. If he doesn’t have one, make one. If the existing job description is vague, make it clear. If you are using the same job description for several employees, and their duties are similar but still have differences, customize them to fit the actual positions. Allow the employees to provide input on their job descriptions. They may feel management is concerned about them.

On completion of the job descriptions, develop an expectations form for each of your employees. The expectations form should parallel the job description. Review these expectations with the employees, and make sure they understand what is expected of them during this evaluation period. The expectations form should be a fluid document (one that can be revised throughout the year).

Your next step is to monitor the employees’ actions. Remember, you are evaluating them over an entire year. Therefore, you need a system to keep track of their performance throughout this period. I suggest using a performance log for each employee. This log is for your records and reference. In this log you should document activities good and bad throughout the year.

Sample entries may be:

5/19/02: He volunteered to inventory, test, and repair all breathing apparatus.
5/28/02: I had to remind him to clean his assigned area before sitting down in the kitchen to drink coffee.
6/12/02: A citizen complimented him on how helpful he was giving advice on smoke detector placement.
7/23/02: I had to talk to him about talking on the phone with his side business during the day while we were training in the classroom.
This log has a multitude of benefits. It can be used for reference with performance appraisals; identify patterns of behavior; and justify raises, promotions, demotions, and disciplinary actions.

Throughout the year (I recommend quarterly), inform the employee about how he stands in relation to his expectations. Sit down with the performance plan along with the performance log and review them with him. If he is doing a good job (as expected), let him know. If he is deficient in areas, let him know. You should provide guidance to correct the deficiencies. Don’t wait until the end of the evaluation period to inform him of a problem you identified in the 1st or 2nd quarter.

At the end of the evaluation period, there should be no surprises. If you have provided the proper guidance, he should have a pretty good idea of his evaluation.

Donny Roberts has been a firefighter in Athens, Georgia, and has been an instructor at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center since 1988.