Whether your are the CIO of an organization with a large internal IT department or the technical director of a small managed services provider, it is essential that you conduct ongoing and regular technical team evaluations. All too often the process of evaluating technicians is haphazard and informal. This is a disservice to your organization, and the technicians as well. If you aren’t evaluating your techs on a regular basis, how do you know that their skills are evolving in a way that insures they are not just adapting, but thriving in the fast paced and ever-changing technical sector? Your team deserves the tools and time to grow professionally. If you aren’t helping facilitate that growth with regular feedback, then your technicians may not be getting the most out of their skills and their careers.
Here are eight tips that can help you start an evaluation program that you can implement for years to come.
- Have a schedule and stick to it. Regular evaluations should happen no less then twice a year, and even that is probably not frequent enough. Quarterly or monthly reviews give both technicians and supervisors a chance to address progress and chart a path for the immediate and long term future. Furthermore, if there are any challenges or issues being addressed, meeting regularly gives both people a chance to correct things before they get out of hand.
- Have metrics that are understood by everyone. Setting appropriate expectations is one of the cornerstones of good management. Setting metrics for review and evaluations is no different. It is imperative that your technicians are aware of what is expected of them and know that their evaluations will be based on these expectations. The review or evaluation should cover only tasks and duties outlined clearly to the technician. For example, it isn’t fair to evaluate the technician’s Active Directory expertise if working on AD is not part of their job description.
- Get Up to Speed. The first part of the evaluation should be spent reviewing what has transpired since the previous evaluation. Have they made strides in the areas where you suggested improvement? Has the technician taken prior feedback in a constructive manner? Are the goals and planned activities that came from the last review being achieved? Every employee or technician evaluation needs a firm base upon which to start.
- Recognize exceptional performance. Evaluations can either be positive in nature or negative in nature. How do you want the technician to feel about the meeting? Once progress from the last evaluation has been established, take a few moments to praise the technician for all the things they are doing well. Most people respond well to simply being acknowledged for a job well done. “I notice and appreciate that you take the time to mentor younger team members…” or “I notice and appreciate that you took the lead on that server refresh this quarter.” Using examples is the best way to convey authentic and honest praise.
- Peer Review is a Powerful Tool. Company culture is a delicate and difficult thing. To make sure that a technician is “fitting in” you should solicit the opinion and input of the people with which they work most closely. While it is easy to think that honest feedback from peers would be hard to find, the opposite is usually true; employees tend to be effusive with praise for their colleagues who are doing a great job yet hesitant with criticism. If everyone is telling you that the new network engineer is doing a great job then he probably is. But if they have very little to say about his work, you might want to dig a little deeper to see if there is a problem.
- “Two to One” Feedback. Your feedback should include two positive points for each point of improvement. If you can not find two “good” things to say about or to a technician for every criticism you level, then perhaps this person is not going to work out long term. Observing a two-to-one positive-to-negative feedback ratio is also a good way to make sure that the the meeting is constructive rather than simply listing all of the things that need to be improved upon.
- Keep a shared file. The abundance of collaborative tools available (Sharepoint, Dropbox, networked drives) make it simple to share information among workgroups. Creating a private folder shared between you and each direct report is a great way to store progress reports and notes that can help you both. For example, after each review it might be a good idea for both you and the technician to write a short list or summary of the review itself. Keeping these notes – and sharing them between you both – is an excellent way to make sure progress and patterns are being archived.
- Leave with a plan. Every evaluation should end with a mutually agreed upon plan of action that you will review at the start of your next evaluation. Giving your technician feedback is only part of the equation; you need to construct an action plan that will lead to the results you are seeking. From increased training to a change in job responsibility, the review is not complete until you have put a plan in place for measurable achievements and milestones you can expect to see completed by the next review.
Regularly meeting with the members of your technical team to review their work and discuss the future can pay huge dividends for both your organization and the technician themselves. Far too many organizations leave their technical teams to carry on without regular and constructive feedback sessions or meetings. The talented technicians you have will be glad to know you are taking note of their work, just as they’ll be excited about your plan for the future. Treat evaluations as a chance to fix small problems and build on big goals. You’ll be pleased with how strong your team may become. Click here to learn more about the strong technical experts at Mosaic NetworX and how they can help your organization face its IT challenges!