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Web Software Can Simplify Job Performance Reviews

May 31, 2000|LAWRENCE J. MAGID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you have employees, it's important to provide them with feedback on how they're doing.

That can be an informal conversation, with employees and owners getting together to provide feedback to each other. But if you're looking for a more formal review mechanism, you might consider using software or a new Web site that provides an easy-to-use template for evaluating employees.

PerformanceReview.Com is designed to help managers or business owners write an employee review document that contains quantitative and qualitative information about how the employee is doing. The service is run by KnowledgePoint, which also offers Windows software called Performance Now that you can purchase on CD for $119 or download for $109.

While the software makes sense for companies that do a lot of employee evaluations, the Web-based service is more economical and easier for those who need to do a few or even one evaluation. Unlike some Web-based services, it's not free, but you can do a "test drive" review with sample "competencies" that you can't print or save. The real thing costs $9.95 per employee, or you can subscribe to use it an unlimited number of times for $49.50 for three months or $89.50 for a year.

Once you enter your credit card information to sign up, you're asked to specify the name, gender and type of employee you wish to evaluate. You can choose clerical, management, production, sales and service or "universal."

Each employee type offers different criteria. Clerical, for example, includes questions about dependability, cooperation and work quantity. Management evaluations include such issues as judgment, problem solving skills and adaptability. Universal competencies include a broad range of job-related criteria, while a "build your own" feature lets you customize your evaluation by selecting from among 32 job competencies.

Regardless of what competencies you decide to select for your evaluation criteria, you rate each one on a five-point scale ranging from 1 (Unsatisfactory) to 5 (Outstanding). You then go to a chart, which asks a number of questions regarding each competency.

For Job Knowledge, for example, you're asked to rate the person on a 1 to 5 basis on "Competent in required job skills and knowledge," "Exhibits ability to learn and apply new skills," "Keeps abreast of current developments," "Requires minimal supervision," "Displays understanding of how job relates to others," and "Uses resources effectively." You also have the option of checking "NA" if the category is not applicable.

I'm generally turned off by a numbered rating system when it comes to evaluating people, but the system also generates text that is based on your numeric response. The evaluator can delete, edit or add to the text that the Web site generates. If you select a "4" for the question "displays commitment to excellence," the Web site will type out "displays a strong dedication and commitment to excellence. The work she produces meets standards for accuracy and completeness."

The site used the word "she" because I had already told it that I was evaluating a female employee. If I had selected 5 instead of 4, it would have said that she's "a role model because of her dedication and commitment to excellence."

After you have finished the evaluation, you can then define a goal for the employee and fill out a work sheet that will develop suggestions for improvement. This is a check-the-box type of form rather than a place where you can just write your thoughts.

When you're finished, the Web site develops a complete report that can be exported as a Microsoft Word file or an HTML file for posting on a company intranet (be careful not to make it available to unauthorized eyes) or it can generate a text file or an e-mail. I saved mine as a Word file so I could modify it as needed.

Although the developers of the site did a good job creating categories for different types of jobs, it is a general assessment that's not customized for your business. Nevertheless, the site is likely to ask you questions that you may have never thought about and that could be useful if, like most small-business owners, you're not a human resources specialist. Also, because it can generate a Word or text file, you can customize the text.

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Technology reports by Lawrence J. Magid can be heard at 2:10 p.m. weekdays on the KNX (1070) Technology Hour. He can be reached at larry.magid@latimes.com. His Web site is at http://www.larrysworld.com.

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