Employee appraisals

I’m a small business and I’d like to have a system which allows me to track the performance of my employees. A lightweight appraisal process. Can you recommend something?

Yes, we can. You can use an online contact management system not only to manage your customers, but you can manage notes about your employees too. You can make those notes private or you can share them with your employees. It should allow you to track any objectives you set for your employees. You should have a regular one-to-one to track progress and set quarterly or bi-annual performance reviews. In these reviews you can sit together and review the performance in the last period and also agree on objectives for the next period. You can also rate your employees in various areas: technical skills, business skills, customer facing skills and identify areas that need improvement. Set pragmatic, quantifiable and achievable objectives rather than generic ones. Think: in the next period, how will I measure my employees’ performance on this particular objective. If you can’t think of an easy way, it’s probably too generic.

You can also keep online notes about your employees when something happens, either good or bad. For example: Julie impressed me today with her ability to conduct a very pragmatic team meeting, focus on actionable items, etc.
You can also track things that do no impress you about your employees. You need to write everything down otherwise you might forget some of that come appraisal time. We’re all humans and we forget if we’re not organized enough and keep notes. Instead we tend to retain just an emotional baggage – I vaguely know that Julie didn’t perform this year, but I can’t remember exactly why, some specific incidents that I can raise with her. This is not a very healthy attitude as employees will have no chance to improve if your feedback is very generic.

Start using your contact management system today and your employees will thank you for it!

When do you need a contact management system?

You’re a small business owner. You have a set of customers for your products or services you offer. In addition you have a list of potential customers – prospects. You probably also maintain a list of suppliers, manufacturers, affiliates, resellers, distributors, wholesalers, leads, etc. Depending on your business profile, some of the above might not be required – for example if you produce a tangible product, you might have different requirements from someone offering consultancy services to small businesses.

You might also maintain a list of competitors and maybe event contractors or consultants that you occassionally hire or who hire you.

You’re a one man band and you’re tracking all these people in your email inbox or perhaps in some kind of spreadsheet. In can be a bit challenging to find a particular message from one of your contacts when you need it – but nothing you cannot solve.

Do you need a contact management system at this point? You will probably say No – you have your inbox, spreadsheets and a list of solvable problems. A contact management system will offer some benefits as it will simplify organizing and keeping track of everything in a more structure way but it’s nothing you cannot live without and you’re not prepared to pay for the service.

Fair enough.

But then your business is doing quite well and you’re thinking you need more help. You need to hire people to help you out. It’s not a decision taken lightly – it’s a big change, but the point has come where you cannot keep up on your own. It’s a good point to be at, it means your business is thriving.

All of the sudden you realize your methods do not work that well anymore. Using your email inbox for tracking contacts and keeping a history of the communication with them or keeping a list of your sales opportunities is no longer sufficient. You now have another person, an employee, who needs access to the same list. Will you give them access to your email inbox? Likely not.

So then you’re thinking spreadsheets. One problem with spreadsheets is that they can become really complicated really quickly. They also rely on you and your employees having the same methodology and discipline when it comes to using the spreadsheet in a certain way. Spreadsheets are great but they are general purpose tools. There are so many way you can use them to do things – and they’re intended to be generic. It’s so easy to end up with a big mess, where your data is spread all over the place – multiple sheets, multiple unrelated columns/rows, etc.
An additional problem is keeping track of long notes, it’s just not pleasant. The text is not formatted correctly, you need to expand the cell to see it all. Not easy!
Linking various text files, pdf files, images or other resources into the spreadsheet is also a big nightmare and a total recipe for disaster.

It’s time to consider a dedicated contact management system. A contact management system will give you the structure behind your data. You do not have to think how to link things together – other people have spent time thinking about this problem and solving it. Why re-invent the wheel? You should be focusing on your customers, rather than spend your precious time organizing your data, keeping track of what goes where.

A contact management system also allows you to share the data easily with your employees, making them more productive but at the same time, allowing you to have visibility of what they’re working on. When they talk to a customer, they add a note in the shared conctact manager and you see it next time you log in. You have the knowledge of how your business is closing or not, sales deals, how your business is serving your customers. You can be more productive because the system is in place to allow you to focus on the customer.

If you go for an online contact manager, you can also add more flexibility to the way you access data – from your desktop, laptop or on the go, on your mobile phone. You can access it from a customer site or from home. Same goes for your employees, which opens up so many possibilities. You can offer them flexible hours, allow them to work from home (when needed) and allow them to access data on the road, before/during/after customer presentations, etc.
When they’re on the road, the data they enter is accessible to everyone in your company as soon as it’s entered in the system.

Another benefit of a web based contact manager is that you don’t need expensive in-house IT systems and the people to keep them running without problems. For small companies paying for in-house IT (systems & people) can be prohibitive and it can stop you from taking advantage of advanced IT systems. Let’s face it, with 2-5 employees it’s hard to justify paying tens of thousands of dollars/pounds/euros a month to maintain the systems and hire the people to keep them running without problems.

That being said, why not start with a free evaluation of our online contact manager and see if it is something that can help your business grow and keep your customers happy.