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Demystifying Performance Evaluations...

Demystifying Performance Evaluations...

I have been recently working on a project reviewing the Performance Assessment and Evaluation processes for an organisation. Having worked for numerous organisations and seen many incarnations of these systems, I thought others may find it useful to walk through the little reality checking session that I had to give myself when launching into this project.
I had to realise that within the Early Childhood Education field, the concept of Performance Evaluation is relatively new. Many Educators are aware of the "Performance Improvement" or "Performance Management" processes – all with a negative connotation as they are associated with someone being told that they are not doing their job (or at least something in the workplace) the right way, and that there are clear expectations of improvement... all those confronting closed door meetings and anxiety! That is NOT Performance Evaluation!

To my mind, here's the Top 5 reasons why we do Performance Evaluation (from least to most important):

Number 5 Because we have to! Yes- it is in the National Quality Standards. Element 7.2.2 reads:
"The performance of educators, co-ordinators and staff members is evaluated and individual development plans are in place to support performance improvement."

Number 4 Because it is important to get feedback about our performance. You need to know what your boss (or company) expects from you and how you are or aren't achieving those expectations. You could be focussing on the wrong thing to achieve the success that you are after! This process, again, allows you to develop a better understanding of how you are perceived and understood by others who can or do have an influence over your professional future.

Number 3 Because it is important to continually review our OWN performance. The Performance Evaluation process just 'forces' us to! It's critical for ongoing growth and development to look at where you have been, what you have learned, where you want to go, how you think you can get there, what help you need from others, what formal training do I need etc. Remember the importance of reflection in our professional practice? Performance Evaluation is just a different form of that.

Number 2 Because it is important to recognise achievements! It can be very easy when we are in the thick of the day to day, to forget to stop, breathe and realise what has actually been achieved. I think we all deserve the opportunity to pat ourselves on the back for what we've done.

Number 1 Because it is vital to continually DEVELOP. The concept of Performance Evaluation should be about DEVELOPMENT. It is ok for different team members to be at different places with their career.

We all know that team member who feels that they are happy where they are, who are performing well and don't want to see any changes in their work life... however, the only guarantee in this life (that I'm 100% confident of) is change. No-one can afford to NOT update their knowledge or skill sets even if they just want to continue to do what they enjoy doing. The industry changes, sometimes theories and models for Early Childhood Education change-be open to getting out there and seeing if it's true.

A major reality for me is why would we expect our children to learn from someone who isn't passionate about learning? For some people this may mean achieving their Bachelors or even their PhD... for others this will be a 2-hour on-line training course on time management! Everyone's needs and expectations for development will be different – but to have an expectation that you have no development needs is unrealistic – if not ridiculous!

Just to be clear – Professional Development (PD) can also be a whole lot of fun! I am always amazed at the reluctance of some of my colleagues to participate in training courses and conferences... It's an amazing way to get out and see different perspectives, to get new ideas or techniques, to talk to different people about what happens at their Centre and so much more. Sometimes it's even just an amazing feeling to know that what you have been doing is RIGHT or to understand how truly magical your workplace is (because now you've got an idea of where other people work)!

I think some Educators (and their Directors) can be overwhelmed with the amount of documentation associated with the Performance Evaluation process... do we have to go through every NQF Element? The entire QIP? Do we have to go through each and every part of the Job Description? I just want to know what I'm doing well or not doing well and how to get better... I don't have the time or the inclination to do all of this paperwork. I get it! There is lots to consider when reviewing and evaluating what has occurred over a 12-month period (the usual period that an evaluation document covers).

Breaking the process down further ie doing more frequent evaluations, can be a good starting point. In some professions, evaluation of performance is necessary very often, with ECE, we generally have some continuity - we are usually in the same role (ie room) for around a year, so this is why a yearly review is a good idea. Having a touch base/check-point at the 6-month mark is helpful.

If you read anything about Performance Evaluation, the constant is that 'nothing should be a surprise'. This means that we should all be giving and receiving

Deb Callahan

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