Designing an Individualized Performance Evaluation System

By Kramer, Michael | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Designing an Individualized Performance Evaluation System


Kramer, Michael, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Many police agencies find effective employee performance evaluation an ongoing struggle. Some view employee performance evaluation .as one of the useless trappings of bureaucracy. Others see value in evaluation but provide little or no training for the participants. Some agencies perform evaluations but do not make the process meaningful or constructive. Still other agencies address the issue simply by adopting a canned system from some other source.(1)

Employee performance evaluation, though, plays a crucial role in providing superior service to the general public. Public service agencies have an obligation to the citizens they serve to continually evaluate and improve performance on both an organizational and an individual level. A formal performance evaluation system provides the means to accomplish these goals. In addition, performance evaluation gives employees feedback about their work and provides administrators with a credible, defensible instrument on which to base personnel decisions. Finally, performance evaluations are an ideal way to communicate and reinforce organizational values. By addressing all of these issues, a first-rate system helps to maximize employee performance and improve service delivery.

To achieve these objectives, however, the performance evaluation system must meet the specific needs of the individual organization. Police departments not only should use formal evaluation procedures but also should seriously consider developing their own, individualized evaluation systems. This article presents 10 steps for creating such a system. By following these steps, a department of any size or mission can tailor an evaluation process to meet its needs.

The Benefits of an Individualized System

Individualized performance evaluation systems are appropriate simply because each agency is unique. From small, rural police departments to federal agencies, law enforcement organizations differ by size, mission, geography, funding levels, community expectations, political environment, and other characteristics. Significant differences can exist even between agencies that, on the surface, appear very similar. Still, some police agencies adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to performance evaluation systems merely because it seems to be an easy way to address the issue. However, the easiest way to solve a problem is not necessarily the most effective.

Police agencies sometimes copy what other departments are doing, without first asking why. While an agency may not want to reinvent the wheel for every administrative issue, some concerns are critical to the operation of the agency and, as such, require individualized treatment. Effective personnel performance evaluation represents one such issue.

In general, individual attention is appropriate for an issue whenever the potential benefits substantially outweigh the required expenditures. For a minimal resource investment, any department can create its own evaluation system. Further, this design process allows effective evaluation that does not compete with the constant demands of a functioning department. After all, the primary job of a police department is performance, not performance evaluation.

No two departments are likely to produce exactly the same system when using this approach. It is meant to be flexible because no two departments have the same needs. The values one agency deems important will differ from those of another. In the final analysis, what matters most is that the system works for a particular agency.

Step 1: Administrative Direction and Support

The success of any project hinges on the support of agency administrators. In this case, agency administrators serve three vital functions. First, they must initiate the process. Someone at the top of the organization must commit to designing an effective performance evaluation process.

Second, agency administrators must provide the broad, overall objectives that the initiated change will accomplish. …

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