AJP requires regular performance reviews for employees, at least once a year.
3.1.7. Regular performance reviews
a. Farmers will provide regular performance reviews for all workers, once a year at a minimum.
b. Employees will also have the opportunity in the evaluation to provide feedback to the farmer and/or their supervisors, free from retaliation.
c. The person performing the review will write an evaluation that will be placed in the worker’s file, and workers will have access to their own files.
On the value of regular check-ins:
A passionate commitment to social justice is one of the core values that inspired Ben Shute of Hearty Roots Farm in Hudson, NY, to become a farmer in 2004. As Hearty Roots has grown, Ben became an employer and turned to AJP for technical assistance in creating employee policies for the farm. At the advice of AJP, Ben created a written set of labor policies for the farm, set up a file on each worker, and instituted regular check-ins that are now monthly. At these check-ins, he or his farm manager review the goals that the employee has set for learning and for improving performance and ask what they need to meet their goals. This process gives the managers the chance to provide regular feedback to the workers and for the workers to give the managers feedback on their management style. The check-in also allows some time to talk about the bigger picture of what is happening with the farm. Ben reports that one result of these regular conversations is that they have not had to use their conflict resolution process. They are able to address emerging problems before things get out of hand.
Many employers and supervisors struggle with providing feedback that is both helpful and well received, but these are skills that can and should be developed. Here are a few resources on evaluations, feedback, and communication in general:
Feedback Skills for Anti-Racist Managers (Dragonfly Partners): practicing how to give feedback in a way that is helpful and sensitive to how it might be received.
Real Talk Protocol (Soul Fire Farm): a one-to-one or group-based peer-review protocol for giving and receiving honest feedback.
Direct Communication in the Context of Conflict (Dragonfly Partners): advice for communicating clearly and effectively to resolve workplace friction.
7 Tips for Making the Most of Your Check-ins (The Management Center): advice for holding “check-ins” with staff. While geared towards office workplaces, features a number of handy tips for check-ins with any employee.
Conflict to Cooperation, Booklet 2: Communication skills (Cooperatives UK): outlines basic communication concepts and steps to improve communication and avoid misunderstandings arising from cultural or gender differences.
How to conduct a basic performance evaluation #
The resources above provide important tools and guidance for conducting check-ins and offering feedback. If a supervisor just needs a quick step-by-step introduction to conducting an evaluation, they can start with these basic steps:
- Prepare for the check-in. Reflect about what feedback you have to offer and what goals you have for the meeting. Recall specific examples to support your feedback. Confer with other supervisors to see if your feedback seems appropriate and helpful.
- Two-way feedback. Establish that this meeting is a two-way evaluation, and you welcome their feedback and suggestions, as well, to make the whole team more successful. The goal is to see how things are going and find ways to support everyone on the team to do their best work. Offer appreciations and positive feedback for the employee and the work they have done. If you have critical feedback to offer, clarify the goal of your feedback for yourself before you speak, and keep your feedback focused on a work- or task-related goal.
- State where performance could be improved, if necessary. Be specific and cite examples. Use language that does not blame or judge the employee, and stick to the facts. Be curious: avoid assumptions and welcome clarifications.
- Clear expectations. State the business’s expectations regarding work performance. Be clear about how the employee’s actions affects others and the business as a whole. Ask if the employee’s expectations are also being met, and be prepared to listen and incorporate their feedback. If you set expectations for improvement, state the ways that you will measure improvement. Refer to specific expectations outlined in the Employee Handbook and the employee’s job description.
- Provide support. Identify and specify the support and resources you will provide to assist the employee if or when they need support. Ask the employee how they would like to be supported.
- Clear consequences. State any possible consequences if performance standards are not met.
- Revisit. Make a plan for the next check-in. Put a date in the calendar. Make a plan for how you will measure progress.
- Document this meeting using a performance evaluation form and keep it in the employee’s file.