In order to monitor employee progress and provide meaningful appraisal data, most company managers need open communication channels and accurate performance records. There are no surprises there. But within most companies in an information economy, real management challenges go a little bit deeper.  The hard part isn’t keeping the door open so employees can update you on their progress—it’s knowing when and how to track the kinds of progress employees can’t easily self-report, or sometimes even see.

Are all of your employee milestones crystal-clear and easy to recognize? Do your workers start each day and year knowing exactly what’s expected of them, exactly how to do it, and certain that their success and growth will be recognized, quantified, and appropriately rewarded? If so, consider yourself lucky. But for most companies, the path to success is not perfectly clear, the traits that strengthen productivity are not the same for every employee, and the mathematical-statistical difference between “success” and “growth” frequently complicates assessment models and frustrates employees and managers both.

To take some of the ambiguity out of the assessment process and make your appraisal model both fair and meaningful, start by straightening out your processes for establishing, tracking, recognizing, and rewarding employee milestones. No matter how well your managers know their employees, they aren’t watching them every minute, especially if they are busy and their teams are large.

Rapid growth in beneficial skill areas and key goal accomplishments may go unnoticed, especially in large teams, unless yearly performance milestones are established at the beginning of the review cycle and marked off as they’re reached throughout the year. But managers can’t be expected to remember every milestone across every skill set, and employees can’t always be expected to know when they’ve reached and exceeded specific goals. To cover the gap between the knowledge of one and the efforts of the other and to help eliminate human error, companies are turning to technology to automate and track employee goals, development, feedback, and performance status on an ongoing basis.  Giving managers a central, standardized system for establishing and maintaining a cycle’s worth of performance data is the key to ensuring that employee milestones aren’t being skipped.

So how does a company make it as easy as possible for managers to spot employee accomplishments and milestones?

Start With Crystal-Clear Goals: Employee goals setting should not be taken lightly and it should by no means be left solely to the employee or the manager. Goal setting is a strategic process that takes place at the beginning of the review cycle where managers and employees look at past performance and future aspirations and set out a set of specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic, and timely (SMART) goals that are to be achieved. An effective goals setting process should result in employees being 100% aware of what they are expected to achieve and what they are being evaluated on. It is during this goal-setting process where managers and employees can also determine what milestones should exist and what signals reaching them. This sounds a lot simpler than it can be but luckily, performance management software like emPerform makes it easy for managers and employees to set goals, monitor progress in real-time, and even set reminders and notifications for goal status changes – ensuring performance milestones are never missed.

Ditch the Post-Its: It is one thing to establish goals; it is a whole other thing to determine if they have been achieved. A perfect way to do this is to keep detailed records and notes outlining performance milestones achieved. They refresh a reviewer’s memory about performance levels attained before the evaluation process started. The notes kept on an employee’s performance and progress on their objectives can document significant events, remarks and supplementary data about the employee; in fact, they can provide factual illustrations to back-up assessments.

If you are using a software platform for performance management, ensure it contains functionality for year-round journaling and file attachments. Employees can use the system to provide feedback on their own performance, including descriptions of the challenges they face and the support resources their managers are and are not able to provide. These subjective records can be documented and cross-referenced against less subjective metrics like training schedules, sales data, first-call completion data, and accounts gained or lost. Finally, detailed records make it easy for managers to support ratings, competencies, and compensation adjustments.

By the time the year ends, both managers and employees can review the data to determine how far employees have come, and measure that progress across standards covering a wide range of metrics.

Solicit Third-Party Feedback: As I already mentioned, no matter how well your managers know their employees, they aren’t watching them every minute. Gathering performance feedback from multiple sources throughout the review cycle ensures that any and all performance milestones and accomplishments are recognized. Peers, direct reports and customers all possess a wealth of feedback about an employee and with technology, extracting that data and keeping it handy for managers has never been easier. See emPerform tag.

Take the guesswork out of performance milestone tracking. Each year when the review cycle rolls around, make sure your managers face the process with shared and accurate records of the year’s accomplishments. Even better, allow both parties to access records all year that show how far they’ve come and the distance they have yet to go.

Click here to learn how emPerform can help employees and managers easily set and track employees’ goals and performance milestones.

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