This article is the third in a series of articles based on the Captain's College webcast presented on Firehouse TrainingLIVE.
As with many things in the fire service, the use or should I say lack of use of performance guides and personnel evaluations are another critical aspect of the company officers duties. In this article we will breakdown and differentiate these two important documents.
A performance guide is a tool used by the company officer to establish the foundation and expectations for the employee. As a supervisor, it is important that both parties, you (supervisor) and the employee (subordinate), are both operating on the same sheet of music. All too often the employee is left in the dark as to the expectations of the supervisor other than the proverbial, "Don't get in trouble". This shows both poor supervision and a lack of leadership and management, leaving too much open to speculation. When employees do not have clear expectations established by there supervisor, they are left to define the expectations by themselves. This leads to problems with employee performance and behavior.
A tool that the supervisor has at his disposal is the employee performance guide. Most organizations have these documents as part of the resources for supervisors to utilize in directing and managing personnel under their command. This document serves as somewhat of a contract between the employee and the supervisor which defines the expectations of the supervisor and establishes goals and objectives for the employee given a specified period of time. Not to be confused with a work improvement plan or the employee evaluation, the employee performance guide is not part of any disciplinary process or based upon negative work habits or behaviors, nor is it binding in any regard. It is simply a planning document used to assist in goal achievement and management of goals for both parties.
Supervisors are encouraged to use this tool to establish a positive foundation of expectations, habits, goals and objectives with their employees. From the employee standpoint, this document allows the them the first opportunity to sit down with their supervisor for a one-on-one and discuss their needs and the goals in which they wish to achieve over the given time period. This allows the employee the opportunity to hold the supervisor accountable to those items in which the supervisor has agreed upon to help the employee in the pursuit of individual performance.
Collectively this guiding document is a win-win for both parties. However, this planning document is a living document and is made to be adjusted and modified as needed throughout the evaluation period. It is a tool which the supervisor can use to keep abreast of the progress or lack of progress in which the employee is making based upon the discussions and goals set in the conception of the document. The best use of this tool is to sit down with it and the employee on a quarterly basis, reviewing the document and progress, thus making any minor or major modifications along the way. At the end of the evaluation period, it is best to summarize all the adjustments and supervisory notes to utilize together in creating an effective and legal Employee Evaluation.
In conjunction with the employee performance guide, the employee evaluation is the foundational document that is kept on permanent record for the employee. This document is a legal document that is not a living document - so there is ability to make changes. Once it has been written, reviewed and agreed upon by the parties involved, or at times even contested, this document will stay with the employee for the length of his or her service with the organization.
It is vital that all company officers understand the gravity which this document holds. Many times these documents are the basis of pay raises, promotions, or even employment. Failure to provide the necessary work to do the proper job of completing these document and failure to fully grasp the seriousness of these documents are often referred to as "administrative felonies."