/  Research

«Am I going to be laid off?»

Andrey Skvortsov, general director of Merkator

Ensuring employees good faith and cooperation in an upcoming assessment.

In order to ensure precision, accuracy and effectiveness of the assessment, staff participation must be maximized and the answers provided by employees must be sufficiently reliable.

Unfortunately, in practice, employee evaluations are often sabotaged (whether on purpose or not), which leads to distortion of results. The psychometrics system is quite successful at minimizing these problems: it is able to provide satisfactory results if at least half the staff answers the questions truthfully. However, it is always best to rely on data that has been uncontaminated from the beginning.

Two of the most frequently encountered problems are: unwillingness to participate in a project that appears to be a waste of time and fear that, by participating in the assessment, one may somehow do harm to himself or to his colleagues. The cause of these problems is simple: participants unawareness of the purpose of the assessment as well as of its usefulness to him/her.

In order to avoid these problems, it is advisable that management informs employees in advance of the purpose of assessment and conducts a «PR campaign» for the project.

We recommend the following actions be taken:

  1. Begin informing staff two weeks prior to the date of the assessment. Send out information letter (See Appendix 1).
  2. Put a respected employee in charge of the assessment (or at least in charge of sending out the information letter); if the company is small, this role is to be played by its director.
  3. Respond to all questions, especially those received via e-mail, in a timely fashion.
  4. Organize discussion of the assessment in a corporate forum in order to answer any remaining questions.
  5. Organize discussions in work groups. Group leaders must be well informed about the assessment and, should any questions arise, be able to address questions to the manager of the assessment project.
  6. Welcome employee input. Attention to their feedback will encourage staff involvement.
  7. Present the assessment as obligatory; however, do not punish those who refuse to participate. Instead, encourage participation via small perks in the employees overall evaluation.
  8. Get feedback from the staff upon completion of the assessment: how useful was the final report? What impressions, questions, and comments do employees have in view of the results? etc.

We do NOT recommend:

  1. Promising that the assessment will have no effect on promotions, demotions, salaries, etc. These types of announcements will lead to negative attitudes toward the project. Moreover, it is likely that the assessment will result (more often than not) in promotions, salary increases, bonuses, etc.
  2. Telling staff that participation in the assessment is optional or threatening to punish those who choose not to participate.

Appendix 1.
Sample of an Information Letter to staff regarding an upcoming first assessment

Topic: upcoming general staff assessment at «Chamomile»

Dear colleagues,

Best companies in the world conduct a variety of annual employee assessments.

One of the best assessment systems available is «360 degrees». In this system, members of staff are evaluated by those who know their work best: their colleagues, subordinates, supervisors, and even clients. This well rounded approach to assessment is valuable not only to the management but to employees interested in self-development. I am certain that assessments done with «360 degrees» are vital to anyone who wants to be successful both professionally and personally. Additionally, it is fascinating to know what others think of you. I personally am very curious to find out. And it is not mere curiosity. I believe this knowledge can be extremely useful.

For the reasons mentioned above, we have decided to conduct such an assessment in our company. The quality of the assessment depends on your active and eager participation in the project. I therefore would like to ask all of you to take the assessment seriously and to contribute to it to the best of your ability.

What will you get out of it? Each participant will receive a personal report with evaluations and recommendations. A sample of the report can be viewed here.

How will it benefit our organization? We will obtain employee ratings for important competences. Information about leaders in the ratings will be especially useful (though not decisive) in determining candidates for promotions, which is yet another good reason to participate in the assessment.

It is important that you know that everything you say will remain strictly confidential. The assessment will be conducted through Bss-around portal, and no one in our company, including its leadership, will have access to your answers. The reports will contain only averaged scores provided by various groups.

When we start the assessment, you will be e-mailed a link, which will take you to an online questionnaire. The assessment will have two stages. In the first stage (assessment via «Azimuth»), you will be asked to answer 16 simple questions regarding work interactions with your colleagues. On the basis of these answers the system will automatically compile lists of those you will be asked to evaluate in the second stage («360 Degrees»).

The first stage will take about 15 minutes, the second — no more than an hour.

You can take the assessment test during your work hours.

We are now in the process of selecting several competences for the evaluation. The full list of them can be found here. For each competence evaluated you will need to answer 8–9 questions about each person, so to make sure that the project is not too overwhelming, we will select no more than 5 competences. If you have ideas or suggestions as to which competences should be evaluated, please let us know. Your input will be much appreciated.

If you have any questions or concerns, do let me know. I will be happy to address them.

We are planning to conduct the assessment the week of October 1, 2009. I am confident that we will all benefit from this endeavor.

Ivan Romashkin,

Appendix 2.
Sample of a letter that will accompany individual staff reports (can be sent out from bss-around).

Dear Margaret Gray!

In a few seconds you will see your individual report created from the results of evaluations provided by your colleagues. The report is not 100% objective; it is just a summary of your colleagues opinions (you can request additional evaluation from your manager). In other words, take this report with a grain of salt: both compliments and criticism may be excessive.

Nevertheless, the report gives you a unique opportunity to see yourself through other peoples eyes, to reflect upon how you could improve your work and determine the effectiveness of your interactions with your colleagues. If your evaluations are either too high or too low — there usually is a reason for that.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate contacting me. I would especially appreciate your input regarding the usefulness of the assessment project. Let me know if you think we should conduct these assessments in the future.

Again, thank you for your participation.

Ivan Romashkin,

E-mail: hi@bss-around.com

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