Posted by Dave • July 8, 2019 (Last modified January 29, 2021) • 4 min read
There is more that goes into job success than carrying out role responsibilities and completing projects. Organizations are successful when employees work well together, support each other, and buy into the long-term mission. That is why it’s so important to ensure your team members embody your culture and values in everything they do.
However, many organizations struggle to effectively include culture in employee performance reviews. Evaluating general job performance is straightforward since managers establish objectives, processes, and metrics for their direct reports. But organizational culture is more of a philosophy. You often intuitively know if an employee follows it but may not feel comfortable assessing them on something so vague.
The key is to remove the subjectivity by establishing a clear culture and values and a process for successfully evaluating employees on those competencies.
You can’t integrate culture into performance reviews until every employee can articulate what it is. Many organizations have a loose mission statement they ask employees to keep in mind as they go about their jobs. But that leads to each person forming their own conclusion on what the culture means and integrating it into their work in their own ways.
It’s perfectly fine to have a high-level mission statement. Although, you should also have a series of values that give it context. These should be memorable words or short phrases that employees can apply whenever the opportunity presents itself. Provide examples of what each looks like in action and give recognition when an employee incorporates them into their work so everyone understands what the culture is in a practical sense.
Once you’ve defined your culture using specific values, you can include each in your employee performance reviews. You should naturally build evaluation forms that focus primarily on the employee’s role objectives. You can also include adherence to values as a secondary competency along with criteria like time management, initiative, and teamwork.
List all your values on the evaluation form with short descriptions to remind raters what they mean. Then include a five-point rating scale they use to evaluate the employee on each one. At Trakstar, we recommend using terms like “not effective,” “minimally effective,” “effective,” “highly effective,” and “exceptional” rather than a numerical scale. That way raters have a frame of reference for the scores they give.
An employee’s performance review is traditionally conducted by their manager. However, many organizations are bringing more voices to the process by including the employee’s team members, colleagues from other departments, their direct reports, and even people from outside the organization like customers or vendors.
360-degree feedback, as it’s called, is an excellent way to accurately assess an employee on every factor your organization cares about, especially culture and values. After all, managers don’t always see how an employee interacts with their peers or customers. By gathering ratings from multiple people, you’ll learn if the employee is truly embodying your values in everything they do.
The purpose of performance reviews isn’t just to tell an employee what they need to do better. It’s also an opportunity for them to set personal goals and plan for how they’ll accomplish them.
Goals most often focus on where an employee wants to improve at their job and the career strides they hope to make along the way. However, their development plan should cover how they’ll grow in all aspects of their job, including positively representing the organizational culture.
This is particularly important if the organization has recently defined the culture and is including it in evaluations for the first time. Many employees have the best intentions but may still be trying to grasp how they can apply the cultural philosophy to their work. The ratings they receive on each value, and the discussion they have with their manager regarding each one, will help them see where they can improve.
Cultural expectations are a two-way street. You of course want your employees to keep your values top of mind. And they expect the same from their manager, leadership, and the organization as a whole.
Performance reviews are a great opportunity to ask your employees how they feel about the culture they’re experiencing every day. Managers and direct reports should discuss how their team can better incorporate values into collaborative efforts.
It is also worthwhile to assess your culture from a macro perspective. Surveys and polls are an excellent way to learn if your workforce believes the organization is living by the same tenants it expects of them. We recommend making responses anonymous so your employees feel comfortable sharing their true feelings. The results you collect, combined with anecdotal feedback from individual employees, will show you exactly what needs to be done to make your organization an even better place to work.