The Magic of Regular Evaluations

A common question from CEO’s and managers that I coach is how they should confront an employee who is functioning at a sub-par level. The answer depends to a great deal on the employee and their history with the organization, but one common denominator that I suggest is to prepare for this eventuality from the beginning of the employee’s employment.

Approaching anyone with your negative feedback is easier if you have already established a structure and pattern for such conversations. You want to introduce topics and processes while cooperation is highest and negative feedback is least expected. During their initial employment period, employees are generally most ready to adapt and try to please and least likely to have established a pattern of missteps. This is the point to begin practicing the style of interactions you expect to have with the employee.

My suggestion is to establish the timing and agenda for regular evaluations that prepares them for discussing continual skill improvement, self-evaluation, goal setting and difficult issues. I introduce the rough outlines of this process during employment interviews to see if I can gauge a candidate’s openness and flexibility around change and professional growth.

In my experience a schedule of evaluations for a fulltime employee might look like this:

  • At the end of the new employee’s first day and each day thereafter for the first four days
    • 10 min meeting
    • “I’m pleased to have you with us.”
    • “How’s it going?”
    • “What are you learning?”
    • “What seems like it might be challenging?” or “Where are you initially going to need to focus your learning energies?”
    • “Is there a way I (we) might make this orientation process more effective or helpful?”
    • “Is there anything I need to know that we haven’t talked about?”


  • At the end of the first, second and third weeks
    • 15 min meeting
    • “I’ve seen you do ___ and I’m pleased.”
    • “Is there anything you’ve accomplished that I might not have noticed?”
    • “What challenges are you dealing with?”
    • (If necessary) “I’d like you to focus a bit more on learning/ doing ___. How might you go about doing that?”
    • “What are your learning goals for next week?”
    • “Is there something we should be talking about that we haven’t?”


  • At the end of each month for the first six months
    • 45 to 60 min meeting
    • “Please share your accomplishments that I might not have noticed.”
    • “Here are some of your strengths I’ve noticed.”
    • “What areas of your professional skills do you see as requiring additional focus or effort from you?”
    • “I want to develop strategies to help you address the areas that need progress.”
    • “What are your learning goals for the next month?”
    • “Is there something we should be talking about that we haven’t?”

A comprehensive review at the end of the first year is a future article.

By following this general process, you have experienced lots of opportunities to discuss ongoing issues, but more importantly you have instituted a style of interaction that welcomes frank talk about strengths and weaknesses, and continually practices those interactions well before there are serious problems.

In addition, your employee is unlikely to be surprised by future discussions about needing to address certain issues, setting goals and planning specific approaches to accomplish growth and learning. Even tough conversations are easier when they are contained within this now familiar process.