The Health of Your Preschool’s Staff Culture Depends on Employee Reviews

When was the last time your employees were evaluated? And I’m not just talking about your director or leadership team, I mean each and every one of your teachers and staff. Regardless of whether you call it an evaluation, review, or appraisal, they should be conducted on a smaller scale every quarter and a larger scale annually for everyone on your team.

Of course, as an owner, you don’t have to go around evaluating each employee yourself, but you should be delegating the other leaders on your team to make sure this happens, such as your director or your human resources lead. I know that doing this can seem time-consuming, but conducting performance evaluations is vital to your staff culture. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are three basic functions of conducting evaluations:

  1. To provide adequate feedback to each person on their performance
  2. To serve as a basis for modifying or changing behavior toward more effective working habits
  3. To provide data to managers with which they may judge future job assignments and compensation

But, to properly fulfill those three basic functions, you need to have a clearly defined performance review process before you begin conducting them.

The first thing that must be in place is your core values. Your core values should be the basis of any evaluations you conduct at all times so you can ensure that your employees are in line with them. Without having clearly defined core values when conducting reviews, it will be much more difficult for you to determine who your A-players are and who your D-players are, in turn fueling a fire within your staff culture.

You should be transparent with your entire team about what your review process is and train them in accordance with it so they know what they should be implementing and working out at all times. This will eliminate your staff using the excuse of, “Well, this isn’t fair because…” or “I didn’t know that was even a thing,” and you will save yourself a lot of headaches.

You need to make sure that during every review, you are prepared to walk into it with a comprehensive assessment of an employee’s overall performance so you can conduct a fair evaluation of them. This is achieved by making sure your smaller scale, informal reviews are held regularly so you can monitor their improvements and what they need to work on, and also so they can continuously have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

After you have set those things in place, you will lastly have to determine what review style you are going to use. Most commonly in our industry, four effective review styles are used…

General Appraisals – Brief, informal 1-1’s that will prepare for your quarterly 1-1’s. Consists of ongoing communication between the manager and the employee throughout the year that will allow you to determine if the pre-set goals and objectives were met at the end of the year and provide feedback and set new goals.

360-degree – This style allows other employees to provide feedback about their experience with specific employees. This feedback of peers can be reviewed by the manager and be considered for the appraisal process. This particular style is good to be used for discussion within your leadership team.

Employee Self Assessment – This style is beneficial for all different levels of employees, whether it’s your leadership team or your cook.

This style allows your employees to self reflect before you meet with them so they can come to their appraisal prepared to discuss their areas of improvement needed. The employee assesses themselves and then compares their assessment with their manager’s completed assessment of them. It is then followed by discussions and if there are differences found, the manager speaks to the employee about them.

Project Evaluation Review – This is one of the best ways to identify how good an employee is while they are working. Rather than waiting to review an employee at the end of a quarter or year, you evaluate an employee at the end of their completed project. An example of this would be to evaluate your summer camp leads who ran the program throughout the summer at the end of it.

Whichever review style you decide to use, just remember that your measurables need to be clear and be in alignment with the SMART acronym.

    • SPECIFIC – target a specific area for improvement
    • MEASURABLE – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress
    • ASSIGNABLE – specify who will do it
    • REALISTIC – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
    • TIME-RELATED specify when the result(s) can be achieved

Once you have all of these pieces in place, the last step is for you to decide what incentive you are going to offer to your employees who have awesome performance reviews. Typically, the incentive given will be either a pay increase or a bonus, depending on the structure and financial stability of your business. A pay increase will allow you to solidify your long term commitment to the employee, but you can only commit to a pay increase process if your business can sustain the increase in expense. On the other hand, a bonus is much easier to hand out and manage your bottom line, but this leaves your employees to receive their compensation in one large lump and can lose its luster faster.

Like I said, conducting regularly scheduled performance reviews with every staff member might seem daunting but once you have delegated your leadership to help you with them, put the right systems in place and get your plan of action organized, they will become a cakewalk. Conducting regular performance reviews will be one of the best things you can do in your business to maintain a healthy, happy staff culture.

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