CAD Manager: Prepare for Performance Evaluations

14 Sep, 2004 By: Robert Green

What do you need to do to prepare?

If you remain a cad manager long enough, you'll eventually have to perform employee performance evaluations. I've fielded many questions over the years about how to approach evaluations and would like to share some of the experience I've gained as a corporate manager and independent business owner.

You may not have direct hire/fire authority over employees, but most of you do have some sort of input into the evaluation of CAD workers. Even if you don't write the performance evaluations, the mental exercise of evaluating employees can help you recognize and develop good talent while culling the nonperformers, no matter what position you occupy in your organization.

What's the Point?

Always remember that a good performance evaluation serves two purposes. It's a service to employees to help them improve themselves. It's also a service to your company to help develop better, more productive employees.

The CAD manager who intertwines these two purposes to drive, motivate, and improve employee performance will be recognized as a star with a bright management future. And make no mistake—when you make your employees better, you make your own job that much easier.

Though motivating employees to reach new levels of productivity is satisfying, the reality of management is that not every employee you have will receive a glowing evaluation. The law of averages dictates that you will evaluate employees who are not performing well and who may require plans for corrective action. How you deal with problem employees says a lot about your management expertise simply because dealing with a problem is always less fun than dealing with success.

So as you embark on performance evaluations, you face the difficult balancing act of being tough on those who are underachieving while motivating your achievers to move on to greater levels of performance. Come to think of it, performance evaluations are a great metaphor for management in general.

What to Review?

When reviewing CAD personnel, you obviously need to evaluate technical proficiency and ability to complete work tasks as directed and in a timely manner. Beyond these basic metrics of performance, I'd like to include the following evaluation parameters for your consideration:

Attendance and on-time record. This is a big factor with me because it indicates the level of work ethic and commitment to the job. What good is it to have an employee who's technically superior if you can't count on him or her to be there?

Ability to learn independently. Employees who can learn and think on their own are ultimately your best performers and require the least supervision. If your goal is to build a staff that is efficient and lean, you need to find the independent learners and hang on to them.

Ability to lead. Can the employee take the initiative and pull people together when needed to complete a tough task? Even though an employee may have no managerial authority, the ability to bring people together is a great indicator of commitment and drive. I use this metric to identify young up-and-comers who I believe have a great future.

Written and verbal communication skills. Does the employee project a good image in written communication? Can the employee speak well on the phone and in presentations? By identifying your best communicators early, you find those who can assist with project management and technical support issues. My personal observation is that communication skills can be honed over time, but great communicators seem to have a natural gift.

Performance under pressure. Does the employee rise to the occasion under tight deadlines? Does the employee's temperament remain even under stress or is he or she prone to snapping when pushed? I've found that those who remain calm and unflappable under pressure are those with the brightest future, and you should strive to retain them.

As you prepare your evaluations, look for those who can perform work as directed, independently, and on time while remaining calm under pressure. Those who fit these criteria are the people you want to hang on to. Anyone who meets all these criteria while exhibiting leadership and communication skills will be a star performer. You'll want to groom such workers for greater things in the future.

It pays to think about your staff's performance in terms of these sorts of metrics periodically, even if you aren't writing their reviews. By focusing on what potential people have, rather than just day-to-day work output, you'll recognize the real potential each person has and how you can harness it to make your department that much better.

The Problem Employee

Let's say you've agonized over the evaluation of an employee who simply isn't getting the job done due to lack of effort, timeliness, or commitment. In such cases, I advise taking the following actions:

Document shortcomings. Write down your concerns in the employee's evaluation and make it a permanent part of the personnel record. Be factual and don't mince words. Remember that employees deserve to know exactly what you think their shortcomings are.

State your expectations. Write down what you expect the employee to do to fix the problems you've identified. Make it clear what must be achieved and how long the employee has to fix the problems. Again, don't mince words.

Follow up as required. If the employee doesn't meet your expectations for improvement, move to terminate him or her promptly. I know this sounds harsh, but you shouldn't have to put up with employees who don't perform. Every problem employee you manage makes your job harder and demoralizes those on your staff who do perform well.

Trust me when I say that your entire staff knows when you have a problem employee in your department. You are far better off dealing sternly with problem employees than continuing to bear the pain.

Many companies require that a written record of notification to the employee and a corrective action plan precede termination. Even if you are uncomfortable with the idea of disciplining employees, it's a part of the job you can't, and shouldn't, avoid.

Do the Paperwork

Most companies have a personnel department or HR (human relations) contact person who can help you complete the correct forms for performance evaluations. If you aren't familiar with your company's procedures, forms, and evaluation policies, the time to find out is before you perform the evaluations.

I've found it beneficial to augment standard evaluation forms with my own write-ups for additional CAD-specific parameters. In fact, you may find that your human resource department wants to have a good CAD evaluation form on file, so they'll value your input on the matter.

Building a Better Department

I realize that evaluating employees is a new and unfamiliar task for many CAD managers new to management. For your own sake, you must step outside your comfort zone and evaluate your staff objectively with an eye toward developing a better CAD department. The suggestions I've put forward here should make the job easier.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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