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> FACTS

By Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.

Performance reviews desired by staffers

Efficient and high quality employee performance drives the service-oriented businesses of the structural engineering industry. The Engineering Business Institute (EBI) found that all firms participating in the Structural Engineer Best Structural Engineering Firm To Work For Contest in 2004 have a structured performance review process for employees. Most firms (80 percent) reported that they conduct reviews annually, while 16 percent do them semiannually; the other firms conduct reviews upon request or use an alternate schedule.

Interestingly, some firms have instituted annual “360-degree” assessments, during which every employee gives feedback on their individual performance, their supervisor’s, and their peers’—providing each individual, regardless of title, with views of their performance from every angle.

EBI found that throughout the industry, employees regard regular performance reviews as important. Results show that two other associated feedback mechanisms—informal feedback about performance and coaching to assist in improving performance—were equally as important to employees. Equally as encouraging, employees ranked their firms’ practices regarding these various feedback systems as above average.

> FIRMS

By Jennifer Goupil, P.E.

Performance evaluations improve business at Degenkolb

Degenkolb Engineers’ CEO and President Chris Poland, S.E., belives that regular performance reviews are essential to his firm’s success. “We use performance evaluations not just as a means for employee self-improvement, but also as a means to improve our company,” explained Poland. As part of the evaluation process, each employee within the 142-person, San Francisco-based structural engineering consulting firm completes a written self-evaluation describing constraints faced at work, pay and benefit issues, and any other matters. Important and recurring concerns are brought to the attention of senior management.

Supervisors discuss and review the self-evaluation with their employees to understand the employee’s near- and long-term objectives and career goals.An employee may express an interest in delivering a new service or area of expertise.

“We view performance evaluations as an opportunity to look into the future of each employee’s career and the future of our business As a service provider, we can only go where our employees take us,” said Poland, “and, therefore, it’s imperative that we understand where our employees wish to go and empower them so that they are able to do so.”



> FEEDBACK

By Saman Chaudry

Use performance reviews to plan and acknowledge

Employees can’t fix their mistakes if they don’t know what they’re doing wrong. On the flip side, they should know when they’re doing something right so that they will keep doing it! Proper feedback and positive reinforcement through regular performance appraisals will provide employees with direction and incentive. Here are some things to keep in mind as you give and receive performance appraisals: Be regular—According to ZweigWhite’s 2005 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey of A/E/P & Environmental Consulting Firms, only 34 percent of those surveyed said they received regular performance appraisals. Not receiving regular feedback on performance can make employees feel as though they are not a priority.

Be flexible—Supervisors need to be willing and able to step out of the typical format to make sure the reviewee gets the most out of the process.

Don’t be afraid—Provide and solicit constructive feedback.

Reviewers often omit feedback that may be perceived as negative. In fact, when presented correctly, this feedback is the most beneficial to the person being reviewed.

Follow up—While annual reviews are a good way to provide feedback, they only go so far. Regular feedback is critical to maintaining momentum throughout the year.

Reward difference makers—When employees achieve and surpass expectations, they need to know their efforts are recognized. A pat on the back is great, but promotions, financial rewards, and more responsibility are better incentives and forms of recognition.


Saman Chaudry is a principal with ZweigWhite in San Francisco. She can be contacted at info@zweiggroup.com.

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