HR Solutions

By Saundra Jackson, Amy Maingault and Naomi Cossack Apr 1, 2006

HR Magazine, April 2006 Reviews, Children at Work, E-handbooks​

Q: How should I prepare for writing performance appraisals?

A: Many managers do not look forward to writing performance appraisals. However, it is the main time of year when managers and supervisors have an opportunity to give employees feedback on their performance and accomplishments for the previous year.

Consider the writing of performance appraisals an opportunity to increase efficiency and effectiveness among your staff members.

In preparing to write a performance review, first read the appraisal that was written in the previous year and the job description. How well did the employee do? What were the person’s strengths and weaknesses? What goals and projects were established for the coming year?

Next, consider what information to gather for the current review. What are the current responsibilities, goals and assigned projects? Did the employee receive any work-related compliments, awards, complaints or disciplinary notices? Did the employee meet all job responsibilities? Did the employee meet all goals and successfully complete all assigned projects? Did accomplished projects meet expectations?

In writing the performance review, score and comment on how well the employee met job responsibilities and goals. Consider each employee’s individual performance. Try not to compare staff members.

Describe the performance results, using factual information, data from measurements, examples and objective wording. Focus on behavior instead of personality or attitude. Write in terms of what will reinforce desired behavior and what will motivate the employee.

Point out areas for improvement and develop an action plan. Pay attention to word choice; consider the effects of negative comments or words. Be thorough and honest.

Address the year to come. What are the employee’s responsibilities, goals and projects for the coming year? Employees need to know. Should there be any changes in responsibilities or objectives?

Establish time frames in which goals and projects must be accomplished. Address expectations. What is acceptable and what is not? What professional development would you like the employee to have?

Finally, you’ll discover that writing an effective performance appraisal can be easier if you plan ahead.


Q: We have an employee who frequently brings a child to work when child care arrangements fall through. How should we handle this?

A: Employers have several options when employees have child care problems.

More often than not, employers find it disruptive for employees to bring a child or children to the workplace regularly; very few employers welcome children or provide on-site child care. Some, however, allow children at work when the employee is faced with unexpected child care problems.

Typically, this is done informally and is arranged by the employee with the agreement of his or her direct supervisor. To guard against misuse of such arrangements, an employer could set guidelines for occasional visits by children.

Employers may even establish a written policy that forbids children in the workplace except for brief visits, but companies that select this option should be consistent in its application.

To mitigate the effects that unexpected child care problems have on the employee, the employer may allow employees to use paid leave such as sick leave to care for sick children. And if an employee’s child has a serious health condition covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the employer would be required to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Some state laws also provide employees with a right to unpaid leave for school visits or to tend to children in day care. An employer who wishes to reduce the absenteeism that a worker’s child care problems can cause may offer an emergency dependent care referral service as an employee benefit.

Another option for employers wishing to reduce absenteeism would be to allow employees to work from home on occasions when child care becomes an issue. This option may need to be clarified in a written policy in order to establish productivity expectations and to prevent abuse.


Q: Our company wants to provide employee handbooks in an electronic format. What issues do we need to take into consideration before making this transition?

A: Considerable growth in high-tech information delivery systems has led to many employers using the Internet or company intranets for delivery of various employee communications, including employee handbooks.

Some employers view this as a simpler, more efficient and economical method of making handbooks available to employees. Regardless, it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of an employee handbook is to provide employees with essential information about an employer’s policies and procedures in an easily accessible and understandable format.

Electronic handbooks do, of course, have certain advantages, such as reducing printing costs and making it easier to revise or add to the handbook. But employers need to take practical issues into consideration before offering handbooks only via an electronic platform.

Questions employers should ask include:

  • Will the electronic handbook allow the employer to meet the objective of communicating company policies and procedures to all employees?
  • Do all employees have access to the required delivery system?
  • Have all employees been trained properly on the use of the electronic delivery system?
  • How will field or satellite employees access the information?
  • What accommodations will be needed for employees with mental or visual impairments that preclude them from accessing the information electronically?
  • How will policy changes or additions be communicated to employees?
  • What security measures will be needed?

Employers also need to consider whether they will require employees to sign an acknowledgment form stating that employees may access the contents of the electronic handbook at any time and that they are fully aware of the fact that they are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the handbook’s contents.

And employers should consider whether they will make acknowledgment forms available electronically or only in hard copy. Providing the handbook exclusively in electronic format may prevent some employees from accessing essential information, so it usually is wise to have a few hard copies available.


Saundra Jackson and Amy Maingault, SPHR, are information specialists in SHRMs Information Center. Naomi Cossack, SPHR, is manager of online content in the center.


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