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9/19/2004

Experts: Keep bias out of evaluations

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Performance evaluations can sometimes be stressful for both an employee and the supervisor doing the evaluating.

Curbing your “P.E.T.” — performance evaluation trauma — was the theme of this month’s meeting of the Longmont Area Economic Council’s Human Resources Management Roundtable last Thursday.

The Denver-based, comedic, work force-training team of Allen & Nichols provided a few pointers to the group at the roundtable’s annual “Bosses Day” at the Raintree Conference Center.

Edd Nichols, performing as Dr. Vincent Marinara — “a world leader in human potential” — had the group of about 40 attendees cracking up while he made serious points, wrapped in humor, about how to give performance evaluations.

Dressed in a pale yellow polyester jacket, a wild-patterned green shirt opened to his navel revealing multiple gold chains, tan slacks and bright yellow patent-leather shoes, “Dr. Marinara” spoke of the reasons why performance evaluations are done and how they’ve progressed over time — all the way back to the Stone Age.

“If Og comes back riding the T-rex, we can say his performance was truly exceptional,” said Nichols.

Money isn’t the only motivator for employees, Nichols reminded the group. Bonuses — not necessarily monetary — are nice, he said, as is giving an outstanding employee some sort of public recognition.

“Put up a poster with that person’s face on it — that could be on park benches, at bus terminals or even some upscale restrooms,” he said.

Feedback to employees from supervisors should be ongoing, Nichols said, so that there are no surprises during performance reviews.

Language needs to be specific, too, so employees know exactly what supervisors expect of them.

And it’s important that when giving a review, supervisors avoid their own biases.

It’s too easy to fall into the trap of being biased against an entire person for one little habit or trait — such as a person who wears polyester, like Dr. Marinara does, or a person who “burns cats for warmth,” which he referred to as a “catalog.”

“If you’re going to take anything else away from this today, we’re going to suggest that the evaluation be sung,” Nichols said, breaking into the standard “Unforgettable.”

“Unacceptable, that’s what you are ...” Nichols sang.

Not all of the meetings of the HR Roundtable are quite like this one. Most of them are sober discussions of issues facing HR people all the time, like health care and benefits packages, problem employees and ways to compensate employees beyond just a paycheck.

The group, which has been around six years next month, started when local HR professional Bob Bowman approached the LAEC about getting a group started to replace the Longmont Area Personnel Association, which had died off due to lack of interest.

The LAEC’s group struggled at one time as well, dwindling down to just a handful of members in 2001. Then-Chairman Tim Strong of Sun Construction and Donna Miller of the LAEC revived the group, and today there are 43 active members.

Current Chairwoman Cheryl Sheldon said the group is actively seeking new members, especially those from larger companies.

“We’ve set forth to do a drive, a membership drive,” Sheldon said. “Come and be our guest for one meeting free of charge. Check us out; find out what we’re about.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.