How should I keep track of employees’ performance? Should I keep a journal? And should I record day-to-day performance or just note the exceptional positive and negative events?
The method isn’t all that important. What is important is having complete records of exactly how the individual did when the time for performance assessment rolls around.
The best way to make sure that you do keep track of your people’s performance (once the initial energy resulting from the good intention wears off) is to use whatever record-keeping system you are using right now. How do you keep track of appointments and other important elements of the job? If you use a paper and pencil appointment calendar, start recording performance observations in it. If you routinely create and submit weekly reports, start writing a separate weekly report on your performance observations over the past five work days. It’s easier to adjust an existing procedure than to create an entirely new one.
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An approach that is often recommended (and one that works well if the manager has the discipline to make it an ongoing part of her routine) is to create an actual performance log. A performance log is any repository for your notes and observations on the performance of the people who work for you. It might be an inexpensive spiral-bound notebook that schoolchildren use to take their notes in class. It might be a hanging file into which you place manila folders with the name of each of your subordinates written at the top. Or it might simply be a pad that you keep in a desk drawer and use exclusively for recording performance observations.
What’s important is keeping written records of what people do. There are no such things as mental notes. Don’t trust your memory to keep track of every employee’s performance record. Use your performance log to simply jot down occasional reminders of the important activities you want to remember when it comes time for assessing the quality of that performance.
Concentrate on both positive and negative observations. The purpose of the performance log is to ensure a complete record. Besides, you’re likely to find far more positive examples of performance than negative.