Real Talk: Contractors Discuss Employee Performance Reviews

An annual review is an opportunity to build relationships and motivate your staff.
Real Talk: Contractors Discuss Employee Performance Reviews
Robert Christman, owner of Roto-Rooter Plumbers based in Bloomington, Indiana, conducts performance reviews with new hires at 60 days, 90 days and nine months. After that, employee reviews are conducted annually.

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Although the process may differ, contractors agree that annual performance reviews can be the biggest key to unlocking an employee’s potential.

Since purchasing Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Bloomington, Indiana, in 2003, Robert Christman has made a habit of conducting performance reviews with his staff. He believes the people who work in the company want to know how they rate as an employee.

“With new hires we do a review at 60 days, at 90 days and at nine months, and then generally yearly,” Christman says. “Initially, an employee will be a little nervous, but then they realize it is a part of our training process.”

Since pay is not based on longevity, a performance review is helpful in determining when — and when not — to award pay raises.

“I’ve had reviews with an employee when no increase in pay was offered and other times when we have given a substantial raise,” he says.

Each employee and their supervisor complete a review for comparison.

“The truth is somewhere in between,” he says. “We can look at previous forms and see if we find improvement or if we find someone is lacking in certain areas.”

During a review, Christman will ask an employee where he or she would like to be next year as well as five years from now. He finds most people can see short-term goals more readily. An employee will sometimes express interest in other areas within the company. They have an opportunity to explore other options and interests during a review.

“Someone might express an interest in being a supervisor, but in discussion we might find that this individual does not have the temperament to fill the role of a supervisor,” he says. “With discussion we can make some of these course corrections, and help the individual feel more content in his or her position.

“Each person is unique and each brings their own strengths and weaknesses; we focus on the strengths. That’s the key.”

Christman wants employees to keep their perspective and focus on those strengths they bring to the table.

“I believe if you don’t have regular reviews, the employee will feel unappreciated,” he says. “We are a small company with nine employees. We want our people to have a sense of worth with the company.”

Jim Aanderud, owner of Interline Engineering based in Corona, California, initiated a program of regular performance reviews with his employees shortly after purchasing the company 11 years ago.

Aanderud’s practice is to schedule reviews at the end of each year. He likes to talk about the company in general as well as the employee’s strengths and weaknesses and areas for improvement. In many cases, it can be a delicate balance. He says the owner of the company can be seen as an intimidating figure.

“I believe in pointing out the good stuff, not beating up someone,” he says. “We set goals, and find areas of improvement, and how the individual can participate and be a key to the success of a company. A review is a chance to build relationships and to motivate people. To make them excited to be a part of the company, but also to leave with understanding there are some things they need to work on.”

Located in northern Texas, Nick Mathey, managing partner with Pipe View America, says since 2010 the company has been conducting regular employee reviews with its 27 employees.

“We like to review their performance for the past year, but take it a step further and look to the future – learn what they do best and what they enjoy doing,“ Mathey says. “It’s about setting expectations for the coming year, and it becomes the document that we will use for the next year’s performance review.”

Employees use a company-issued iPad or iPhone to complete a standardized review. Mathey has handled all employee reviews in the past, but as the company has grown and spread into other states, he is now sharing the duties.

Reviews typically take place at the end of the first quarter or on the anniversary the person was hired.

In some instances, there will be discussion about an increase in wages. Mathey says that since Pipe View America is a union shop for the field personnel, prevailing wage takes precedent when it comes to pay. Sometimes the company offers a higher rate than the union. This is where the review process comes in.

“In the sit-down with the teammate, we find out what they are most passionate about,” Mathey says. “Sometimes you just say, ‘Wow, this teammate really enjoys this particular task.’ Then we will set up some goals for the coming year to put that person closer toward their particular goals. Sometimes it might even be relocating to another part of the areas we serve.

“If we were not doing these performance reviews, there is so much we would not know about this individual. The employee review process is the perfect time for us to realize the direction the employee wants to go.”



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