Build great Teams – People management

The Benefit Of A Specific Evaluation – A Case Study

The Benefit Of A Specific Evaluation - A Case Study

How do you make an evaluation helpful to an employee? One way is to make sure it’s specific. A specific evaluation helps an employee see what they did well so they can repeat it. It also helps them see what they didn’t do well enough so they can take action to improve.

Here I share a case study that demonstrates how small changes to how an evaluation is written can make it more helpful. The employee can then pro-actively take action.

The Initial Situation – First Attempt At Writing An Evaluation

I worked with a client who believed his team of videographers and editors would benefit from more structure. He had implemented some goals which weren’t very specific. I later helped him improve those goals by making them SMART goals to make the following year easier. They had started to have regular feedback sessions, so had discussed progress since the goals were set. We had reached the first formal annual review since goals had been set. The business owner had written his first evaluation and delivered his first review. This was when I started working with him.

I asked him how he thought the review had gone. Feedback was that it wasn’t very specific to the goals and was a bit ‘wishy-washy’ and he and the employee weren’t quite on the same page. This business owner does not like conflict so he admitted he’d skirted round some of the negative aspects since he couldn’t back his view up with the goals. He had done the right thing and given the employee a written evaluation but he could see the employee had filed it away and barely read it. On reflection he had to agree there was nothing in it that would help the employee. The language was very generic.

What We Did – Wrote a Specific Evaluation

Before he wrote the next evaluation and delivered the next review, we looked at the goals and the assessment. Even with non-SMART goals I helped him take each goal and write an evaluation that referenced what he’d asked them to do as specifically as we could. For each goal we looked for what had been done well, and included that. We then looked at the areas that could be improved. We provided specific examples – which jobs the employee had not done what was expected, and what specifically had let them down.

The review for the second employee was more productive. They had specifics to discuss. It was also easier for the business owner to raise negatives because he could be specific. That gave him more confidence to stick to his guns. They were then able to discuss what could be done differently. This employee took their written evaluation having agreed that they would come up with some actions to work on going forward. The evaluation was the anchor for that; something both parties could refer to in their next conversation.

What We Did – Summary

We started with the goals. That’s what we asked the employees to do, so the evaluation had to relate to that, and only that. This made it even more clear how important the goals are. I helped him improve the goals for the following year and make sure they are all SMART. Next time it would be easier to write a helpful, specific evaluation.

Taking each part of each goal we evaluated the employee and noted down in clear language how well they done. Positive feedback was given where earned. Negative feedback was written constructively, and with examples so the employee could relate it to a specific occasion. That helped them think back and minimized arguments. With specific occasions to refer to they had to admit they could have done better. That resulted in an easier conversation that sweeping statements saying “you always to this and you never do that”.

My Question To You

Have you found it difficult to write an evaluation that helps an employee take action to improve? What’s your experience of writing a specific evaluation? If this is something you would like to discuss or would like some help with, contact me at You can also buy my book Accelerate to Team Success which is available as a paperback or on Kindle.


About the Author:

Nikki Faulkner photo Dr Nikki Faulkner founded Mulberry Bush Consulting to work with business leaders and their teams to make the 'People' side of their business as effective as possible. Mulberry Bush Consulting's specialty is helping small businesses who are new to having employees and helping businesses who are growing rapidly and increasing their employee-base at a rate that is creating a significant challenge.

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