Rating people is tough when you've got to put it on paper. It's one thing to talk about someone, especially when behind his/her back. So-and-so stinks at such-and-such a task. But if you're in charge of reviewing someone, those words matter as they translate onto a page. Ask yourself about context as much as content.
When Lucy and Ethel go to work in that classic chocolate-making production episode, their rating was pretty poor. They over-exaggerated their abilities, they could not keep up with the line, they ate product while working and they tried to cover up their errors. They were fired on their first day.
From a television rating perspective, this episode started Season 2 with a bang. It capitalized off of the ground-breaking work of the first season and set the tone for television sitcoms for decades to come, to this day. The ratings for their work was at the highest levels.
So how do you give thought around context in order to frame the content? A relevant evaluative process is more likely to give credibility to the results in the eyes of the employee, even when those results are less than excellent.
Tactical - What is the hands on level of engagement into the organization's health? Look at how the employee puts his/her time and talents into the company. And, then be able to point to the result of such tactics. Is there an organizational influence? And while business bottom-line is the easiest metric to use, it limits our view. For example, a survey might reveal that most employees feel comfortable in the workplace. Find out why. It may be because the front desk receptionist greets everyone warmly and genuinely. It might be that he/she acknowledges others specifically for achievements, birthdays, tough times, etc. That person contributes to organizational health, despite the lack of a straight line to net profits. That person has a line. Look harder.
Experiential - How has the employee involved himself/herself in the company? What have they experienced, either voluntarily or involuntarily? Consider both causes. Just because someone volunteers to do something, doesn't mean it was good for anyone involved (and yes, you can fire someone from a volunteer role...). Maybe there are new processes initiated by an employee's willingness to try. As such, they've been added to a workflow or perhaps replaced a previous workflow. But just as important, maybe an employee rallied his/her department to participate in a walk for a particular disease-fighting organization. Those experiences should not be lost if they don't fit into a clean bucket for the company's review pattern. Go back to considering what those experiences have done for the organization.
Emotional - Odd, right? We have so many emotionally-stunted people working in our industries that it's important to think through this. Listen, hugs and kisses aren't what's really meant by emotional (although, I have been a good receiver of that type of love for years...don't stop!). Emotion is tied to communication, critical thinking and behavior. Do they not matter in a consideration of performance? There is a great deal of teasing regarding millennials and their lack of consistent approach. "There's a stop sign ahead, but if you don't feel that the stop sign applies to you, then do what you think you should do. Don't stop if you don't feel you should. It's okay." That perspective is not exclusive to one generation. I still talk to some 60 year-old business executives who haven't figured out emotional health and they struggle to connect well with staff. That's not good for business.
Social - How has community been fostered by this employee? So many companies talk about how they're a family. That invokes an employee's context about family. What if my family is a bunch of narcissistic, inconsiderate, selfish jerks? (This is just an example, it's not a reflection on anyone in my family so please, Mom, don't text me and send me angry-faced emojis). The consideration should be about fostering supportive, interpersonal relationships for the movement of the organization and for the building up of others. Look at how an employee engages with his/her teammates. Speak to dynamism, collaboration and group ingenuity. That takes risk for each employee willing to be engaged at that level and we should be mindful of that healthy impact.
Of course, I know, that you have a performance review form that has many more areas to consider. But maybe, those other areas should be considered in this expanded context. Haven't you heard, "But you don't know" from employees defending themselves from a manager's perspective? Sure you have. So, why is it that we don't know? Looking holistically as well as specifically takes time, I get it, but it's the best way to consider talent.
Quite frankly, we don't have an never-ending supply of ready-to-wear talent. This type of consideration will enhance how we can better setup our staff for success through skill development, knowledge management and attitude improvement while reducing our turnover.
If your manager sat with you to review your performance and began to share a limited view of your impact, you would want to say, "But you don't know." Think about your staff saying that to you and be ready to offer the fuller context in light of the above areas. Let them know that you do know.