CAD Manager-Technical Performance Reviews

31 Aug, 2005 By: Robert Green

You owe it to yourself, your employees and your company to make the best use of performance reviews

In the feedback I receive from CAD managers, I've noticed a couple of persistent questions pertaining to employee performance reviews:

  • 1. What are some tips for doing reviews?
  • 2. How do I assist other departments with reviewing CAD personnel who don't report to me?

I believe these questions are a consequence of more part-time CAD managers in the workforce. To deal with this situation, management teams must approach employee reviews in a collaborative fashion. CAD managers must provide quantitative technical feedback and leave the qualitative and financial issues to other management team members.

This month I'll guide you through some principles that I find effective when reviewing employees, with emphasis placed on the situation where you're responsible for a technical evaluation. And even if you don't do performance evaluations, I encourage you to think through the process.

Why Evaluate?

I'm a great fan of employee performance reviews. In fact, I think they should be conducted several times per year. The purpose of a performance review is to help employees improve their performance. The review also ensures an employer that it's getting better, more-motivated employees. Performance reviews are a great way to communicate with your staff in a serious and professional manner.

 Review Metrics
Review Metrics

Performance reviews also serve as legal documents. They form the basis for salary advances, disciplinary action or even termination.

Tag Team Evaluations

If you're asked to participate in a collaborative review, rejoice. At least you're becoming involved! After all, who better to review an employee's technical competency than the CAD manager? In this case, you'll most likely be asked for your opinion of the employee's technical skills and merits, so it's important that you base such evaluations strictly on competence.

To provide a good technical evaluation, you must start from a position of knowledge. Using a CAD-based test to evaluate an employee's current skill level serves as a good diagnostic. You may not want to call your test a test at all, but rather a skills diagnosis. Here's what you're trying to accomplish:

  • 1. Determine the employee's skills and weaknesses.
  • 2. Form a plan for employee improvement.
  • 3. Note trends to include in your CAD training programs.
  • 4. Gain feedback from users.

It's important that you communicate to your employees that the testing you conduct will be used strictly to evaluate their skills and craft a plan of action for their own improvement. This way, employees will see testing as a benefit to them rather than a high-pressure evaluation. To make employees feel more comfortable, it's best to evaluate employees on an ongoing basis rather than immediately before their performance reviews.

Review Metrics

To those conducting a performance review, I recommend the metrics listed in the box above. Some of these metrics are managerial, and some are technical. Those of you who do complete performance reviews should pay attention to the entire list. Those of you who perform technical reviews only should still read the entire list, but focus on the technical items. Note that the managerial items are more qualitative in nature and more subject to individual judgment. The technical items, however, are more concrete and less judgmental. The savvy CAD manager will back up these technical items with proof such as training attendance logs and testing results. If you have a formal measurement for work quality, include that information in your technical review. If you do not have documentation for work quality or standards adherence, you should save examples of particularly good or bad work to include in the employee's review.

Deliver the Review

After you've done your homework, it's time to sit down with the employee and deliver the review in person. I cannot stress enough that if you go into a performance review unprepared, you won't get much done. I find it helpful to give a copy of the performance review to the employee the day before the actual meeting. Giving the employee some time to think before the meeting reduces surprises and produces better results.

If you've never delivered a performance review before, the process can be nerve-wracking for both you and the employee, so don't worry about feeling a little uneasy. The key is to keep everything factual, conversational and focused on improving the employee through constructive feedback. And always remember the employee is more nervous than you are!

Finally, make sure you schedule adequate time for the review. Employees should feel that they've had quality time with you: I suggest one hour as a minimum.

And Do It in Writing

Always remember that performance reviews are legal documents that go in the employee's work history. Therefore, the burden is on you to provide an adequate written record of the review. At minimum, you should have the employees sign the final copy of the written review.

The good news is that most companies have a human relations department or contact person who can help you understand the requirements for writing your performance reviews. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Handling a Bad Review

Let's face it, not every employee is great, so there will be times when you must conduct a bad performance review. Conducting these negative reviews is going to test your management mettle, so let me give you a few hints on how to conduct them.

First, a negative review must be based in fact, not opinion. If you're going to say that an employee has insufficient CAD knowledge, you need data that backs up that fact, such as test results or samples of improperly done work.

Second, think about why the employee is having trouble. Is the person goofing off, in over his or her head, or unprepared to do the job? Adjust the tone of the review accordingly.

Third, any employee who is in danger of termination should be informed of that fact. Be clear about how long the employee has to correct the problem and what needs to be done to correct it.

When reviewing a poorly performing employee, always remember to be fair, direct and factual, and make sure your evaluation is well written. Only by directly confronting employees and making them aware of the problems can they know how to solve them. It's tough to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes it must be done.

Constantly Evaluate

Rather than waiting just prior to review time to write things down, why not take a more proactive approach? Create a folder for each employee you must evaluate and keep the folders handy at all times. Whenever an employee does something particularly good, or bad for that matter, note it in the folder. This way you'll build a database of performance review criteria all year and won't have to fumble for the details when review time comes. Simply put, you'll do a better job of evaluating people if you stay on top of it all year round.

Summing Up

I hope this updated guide on technical performance reviews will assist you. Rather than thinking of performance reviews as a chore, try to start thinking about them as a chance to improve the CAD knowledge and performance of your company's staff. When you think about it in those terms, it doesn't seem nearly so intimidating, does it? Until next time.

Robert Green performs CAD programming and consulting throughout the United States and Canada. Reach him at

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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